Spam Complaints and How to Prevent Them

What is a spam complaint?

A spam complaint (also known as an abuse report) is defined as “the result of the action taken by an email subscriber when they click the ' this is spam' button in their inbox, which is then directed back to the originating sender service. If you're sending with us, these reports will be sent to us, and our system will prevent that subscriber from receiving emails from your website ever again. 

Why do subscribers mark emails as Spam?

Although in some cases it could be a simple mistake or someone thinking it's easier to flag an email as spam instead of unsubscribing from the mailing list, it could also be a sign of a bigger problem in how you're communicating with your subscribers. There are several reasons a subscriber might no longer want to receive your emails or be interested in your business at all, even if they have voluntarily signed up to be on your mailing list in the past. Some of them might be:

  • The subscriber did not give you express consent to receive emails from you.
  • Emails are too rare to be recognized or sent too often, provoking the recipient to take action and mark your email as Spam.
  • The subscriber signed up to your mailing list to take advantage of an offer (e.g receiving a discounted coupon) or a temporary event.
  • Your email content has too many spammy terms and offers and may be associated with similar emails flagged previously as Spam.
  • Your email content is different from what subscribers thought they were signing up for.
  • Your unsubscribe link is too hard to find, is not working as expected, or is completely non-existent.

How much is too much?

The industry standard for an acceptable complaint rate is 0.1%. That’s around 5 spam complaints out of emails sent to 5,000 unique subscribers. Anything over that 0.1% is considered high. 

If your rate is above 0.1%, it's time to investigate what's happening and how can you reduce this rate in order to keep sending your emails.

What can be done to prevent spam complaints?

If your email is being perceived as spam by your subscribers, it's time to think about why this may be happening. Unless you're indeed sending spammy content, it could be that your marketing strategies are affecting your business negatively and might be making you look like a spammer, generating spam complaints. So here are the things you should double-check before sending your emails with the MailPoet Sending Service:

General domain reputation considerations

  • Use properly registered domains with working mail and websites. 
  • Appropriate identification: anonymized Whois records should be avoided.
  • Reputation takes time to create; newly registered domains have no reputation.
  • Reputation may be affected by the DNS server used, the hosting service, the IP, or some combination of these and other factors.
  • Use clear and consistent naming schemes in DNS. DNS and HELO values should match wherever possible.
  • Proper email authentication via the use of SPF records & DKIM signatures should always be used. 

Check if the emails are landing on the Spam folder, inducing your subscribers to flag them as Spam.

Identify yourself

The key to sending bulk emails successfully is to consistently send correctly authenticated emails. 

  • Confirmed Opt-In is considered to be the gold standard for building and maintaining a clean, high-quality contacts database. This helps build a reputation and avoid spam traps. Never buy or rent email addresses from anyone - permission is not transferable!
  • Unsubscribe requests must be honoured promptly and in accordance with local and international laws.
  • Ensure that your branding is visible in the email. Your company name should be visible so the recipients can see who the email is from. Your “from” address should be from a name they recognize. 
  • If you haven’t sent an email to your subscribers in a long time, send an introductory email first. Explain who your brand is once again, why you took a break and always let them know they can unsubscribe from your mailing list at any time. This can also help improve open rates. If you don’t refresh their memory and start sending emails right away, subscribers might report your emails as spam. 
  • It could also be that you were sending emails often to your list, but you were previously using a service with a bad deliverability rate and now you've switched to another sending service (including the MailPoet Sending Service) with a better deliverability rate. In this case, it's possible that some subscribers are receiving your email for the first time after a long break, and it's strongly recommended that you make your brand recognizable and are clear about having switched to another email solution.

Set clear expectations on your subscription page

Make it clear what your subscribers are subscribing to as well as how often you will be emailing them. In your welcome email, you can let them know what kind of content you are going to be sending them, and ensure they can always opt-out from your mailing list.

  • Let readers choose the frequency of emails they receive. If you’re sending high-frequency emails, include options such as daily, weekly, and monthly.
  • Let them choose topics they receive.
  • Create multiple, targeted subscriptions and let subscribers choose from them.
  • Describe each targeted subscription to remind readers of the value and frequency.

We have some good tips on how to do that here.

Segment your subscribers according to their engagement

If your website has a wide range of content or a high sending frequency, you should consider segmenting your subscribers according to the topics and frequency they prefer.

  • Send targeted content based on people’s interests, preferred frequency and recent engagement by following the suggestions in this article: Using Segments to Improve Engagement. This should increase overall engagement and creates better value for your subscribers.
  • Filter less engaged subscribers who may have lost interest in your normal campaigns by creating a segment for them. Remove them from your main list, and then send a dedicated campaign to re-engage these subscribers and win them back – or let them go permanently.

Be careful with your content and subject

  • Don’t be overly promotional or overbearing.
  • Spam terms in the subject line or body of your email: There are several phrases that make your messages look just like spam content. Spam trigger words like Click Here, Giveaway, Free, As Seen On, Bargain, Buy Now, Deal, Free Gift, Risk-Free, Act Now, etc.
  • Don’t utilize too many images: Maintaining a text-to-image ratio of 80/20 in email content is a popular rule of thumb. Of course, senders with a strong reputation and a large number of engaged subscribers may afford to utilize more images. An email with only images, on the other hand, is never tolerated by spam filters.
  • Caps lock should not be used excessively: For spam filters, utilizing all caps in the subject line is a no-no. 
  • No shortened URLs or link redirections: Spammers frequently use these strategies to mask actual links, so mailbox providers keep an eye out for them.
  • Ensure that your email looks good and still works without images (for text versions).
  • Consider segmenting your list so that you send targeted content to your subscribers. 
  • Monitor your engagement rates and test out different types of content.

Make sure your Unsubscribe link is visible and easy to access

Ensure that you offer your subscribers a way to opt-out of receiving more emails from you if they wish to. Having this option removed or not having it easily accessible may result in the recipients who want to unsubscribe reporting you as a spammer. MailPoet’s templates all include unsubscribe links at the footer by default so make sure to utilize them well.

In addition to your footer, we recommend adding an Unsubscribe link in the header of the newsletter by following the guide here: Adding an Unsubscribe Link to the Newsletter Header This placement could make it easier for people to click “unsubscribe” over “this is spam.”
While it can feel counterintuitive to make it easy for subscribers to stop receiving your emails, unsubscribes are actually a good thing when they serve as an alternative to a spam complaint. Our research has shown that 50% of consumers have marked an email as spam because they couldn’t easily figure out how to unsubscribe.
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