Whenever you send marketing emails in bulk, even small, you may receive spam complaints from your recipients. These complaints will eventually harm your sender's reputation if they become regular. Email services keep track of how many complaints an IP address or domain name has received. If the complaint rate is high, you’ll observe an increasing number of your messages landing in spam folders.
This article will show you how to reduce spam complaints and ensure your messages reach the intended recipients’ inboxes.
What is a complaint rate?
It is the percentage of recipients that tagged your email as spam. For example, if you send 10,000 messages and 100 people mark it as spam, your complaint rate is 100/10,000 = 0.1%.
Reasons why your emails get marked as spam
Emails can get marked as spam for many reasons. The most common is sending messages too frequently. Customers that receive multiple emails from you might feel disturbed and report the sender for spam.
Another common reason is when messages look dodgy, i.e., promisу outrageous offers, request sensitive information like phone numbers, or haму excessive exclamation marks.
Sometimes, people subscribe to email lists and forget about them. When later they receive an email from the platform they’ve subscribed to, they mark it as spam.
Let’s dive deeper into the reasons why emails get marked as spam.
Too many messages
Sending messages too frequently is a sure path to being regarded as a spammer, so avoid it. How often should you send emails? There’s no perfect answer to this question. It depends on the type of business, target audience, seasons of the year, and the type of relationship you have built with your customers.
You should send emails two to three times per week to be on the safe side. The exception is if you run a newsletter or any online service where the customer expects you to message them daily.
Sending emails once per week might be too little to capture the user’s attention. Sending over seven messages veers into spam territory. The ideal balance is two to three emails weekly, or 10 to 19 monthly.
People can subscribe to your newsletter and forget they have done so. When they receive your consented messages, they assume it’s spam and mark it as such.
The simplest way to avoid this issue is by sending welcome emails to new subscribers. This welcome email registers in the recipient’s mind that they opted to receive messages. You can also use the opportunity to tell subscribers what to expect from you.
Sending emails regularly reduces the chances of a subscriber forgetting about your brand. People won’t mark your messages as spam if they expect to hear from you on a schedule.
You should also clean your email lists periodically and delete subscribers that have not opened your messages in a long time. This action reduces the probability of an inactive subscriber marking your messages as spam.
You’ll get more complaints if your email employs tactics often used by spammers. These include overzealous selling, typos, poorly placed visuals, requesting sensitive information, etc.
If your email promises customers something that’s too good to be true, they’ll suspect it is spam. Likewise, typographical errors are the hallmark of spammers, often used to weed out more sophisticated people.
Emails that request sensitive information like street addresses, phone numbers, and usernames will likely be reported as spam. Avoid employing these tactics, even if unknowingly, or risk increasing your spam rate.
Unforeseen email content
Unexpected changes to your message content can cause recipients to mark it as spam. For example, people get suspicious if the "From" name in your emails changes. The same occurs if you suddenly change your sender address.
People also get suspicious if they start receiving different types of content, e.g., a fashion blog starts talking about electronics suddenly. Stick to a regular sending pattern to avoid this issue.
Tricky subscription tactics
Questionable subscribing tactics can cause upticks in spam complaints, as people don’t realize they subscribed to receive emails from you. For example, if buying a product from your store automatically activates the email subscription, the buyer might be surprised when they get your promotion emails.
Avoid using pre-checked subscription boxes. It doesn’t just cause spam complaints but also runs afoul of data protection regulations like the European GDPR.
Similarly, if you collect email addresses via hardcopy forms, the customer might not connect the dots to when they subscribed to receive emails from you. The solution is to use double opt-in, which we’ll explain in the next section.
Tips to avoid spam complaints
Regardless of the reason, keeping your spam complaint rate as low as possible is vital. It’s better to avoid spam complaints first than look for ways to rehabilitate your sender's reputation after a deluge of complaints. Fortunately, there are measures that help you reduce spam complaints. Examples include cleaning your email lists occasionally, placing clearly visible unsubscribe links for dissatisfied customers, and always asking for consent before sending emails.
Let’s dive deeper into these options.
1. Don’t Purchase Email Lists
Many businesses try to hack email marketing by purchasing contact lists, but this action sets them up for failure. Consent is critical in email marketing; never send messages to people who haven’t consented to receive them from you, lest they unleash their spam filters.
Build an email list from scratch. Buying lists is a shortcut that’s doomed to fail.
2. Always seek permission
As we’ve mentioned, you should seek explicit permission before sending marketing emails to a customer. It’s advisable to use double opt-in: when someone signs up for your mailing list, you send them a link to click and verify their subscription. This way, you’re sure it’s the actual owner of the email that added it to your list.
It’s acceptable to send emails only when the recipient has provided consent to receive your messages. They must have provided you with their email address and consented to receive marketing emails. You can gather the emails online or in person. Either way, explicit permission is mandatory.
Sending emails without permission will always increase your spam complaints and possibly put you into legal trouble.
Do not send emails:
- If you purchased or rented your mailing list.
- If the email addresses came from attendees to exhibits, conferences, or other in-person events. Regardless of what the sponsors say, you shouldn’t send emails to people that specifically didn’t request them from you.
- You’ve gathered the list from a forum or social media group. It doesn’t matter if people openly display their email addresses; you should not send messages without their explicit consent.
- Even if people provided emails to register on your website or application, you should not send them messages unless you obtain initial permission for that.
3. Place a visible unsubscribe button in your emails
You should make it simple for people to unsubscribe from your emails by placing a clearly visible “unsubscribe” button at the footer. This action may sound counterintuitive, but it’s better for people to unsubscribe from your emails than report your messages for spam. Unsubscriptions don’t affect your sending reputation, but spam complaints do.
A visible button makes it easy for dissatisfied recipients to remove themselves from your mailing list. Otherwise, they may report your address for spam to avoid receiving further messages.
4. Send trustworthy emails
Your emails should appear legitimate and trustworthy to recipients. Always use a sender address attached to your domain name. Businesses that use generic emails arouse suspicions.
Your message content should be clear and precise. Its visual style should align with your brand image. Use colors and fonts similar to what customers see on your website. Include your logos so that recipients can easily recognize a message that comes from you.
5. Keep your mailing lists clean
Clean your email lists frequently to maintain engagement with your subscribers and reduce spam complaints. A smaller list of active subscribers is better than an extensive mailing list with many inactive ones.
You should regularly remove addresses that are inactive or invalid. Non-engaged subscribers are more likely to report your message as spam, as they may have forgotten the time they’ve joined your mailing list.
Look for the addresses that have not opened your emails for a few months and remove them from your lists. Email clients perceive low-engagement mailings as coming from low-quality senders.
6. Verify the emails on your mailing list
Having mailing lists with many invalid addresses affects your sender's reputation. A significant percentage of your messages will get bounced, a hallmark of spammers. You should always check that addresses on your email list are not misspelled and ensure they belong to real people.
Watch the number of emails you send
Email regularity is important for your marketing, but you should avoid sending too many emails. Excessive messages irritate customers, and they’ll likely report your address for spam.
Sending too few messages isn’t good either. Customers can easily forget about you if they don’t receive anything from you for a few weeks. Some might forget about you to the point of thinking your messages are unsolicited, causing them to file reports.
The widely accepted frequency for sending marketing emails is two to three times weekly. You can rise above that in some cases, e.g., with daily newsletters. Sending more than two emails per day definitely veers into spam territory, so avoid it.
Business-to-consumer (B2C) companies can send messages at higher frequencies than business-to-business (B2B) companies. B2C customers are more willing to receive emails, while B2B customers usually tolerate just one or two emails weekly.
You need to consider many factors when choosing your email sending rate, including target audience, type of business, seasons of the year (e.g., Easter and Christmas), etc. You can even allow customers to dictate how often they’ll receive messages from your business.
8. Mind your email content
You need to double-check your email content before sending it en masse. Check the text, images, links, logos, etc. Everything should be well arranged and error-free.
The necessary things to check to avoid triggering spam filters include:
- Avoid shortened URLs or redirections:Spammers often use link shorteners to mask the original websites their links lead to. Mailbox services often downgrade emails with shortened URLs.
- Caps lock:Don’t use upper case letters excessively because that’s typical for pushy and spammy emails. In particular, never use all caps for a title or subject line.
- Too many images:Avoid using too many images because they can distract readers and cause them to report your message as spam. 80/20 is a healthy text-to-image ratio. An email that contains only images is usually headed to spam folders.
- Exclamation marks:Avoid using too many exclamation points in your messages as that is another typical spammy behavior.
- Scripts and styles:Avoid including scripts and complex markup because they can prevent messages from loading well or distort the arrangement of text and images.
- Spam terms:Certain wordings are more popular with spammers, e.g., sale, free, urgent, blockchain, hurray, etc. Avoid using these terms as much as possible, especially in the subject line.
9. Send valuable and relevant content
You should provide relevant and valuable information that your subscribers want to read. Ensure your emails pass across important details that the recipients would find useful. Stick to your niche and avoid veering into unrelated areas. For instance, a clothing store should only send messages related to fashion and avoid writing about games, music, or other random topics.
Sending valuable content keeps recipients engaged with your content and anticipating more emails. Higher engagement reduces the chances of getting spam email complaints.
10. Run spam tests
Spam tests predict how likely a message will be designated as spam. You can run your messages through online spam tests before deploying them. If the software predicts a high likelihood of being marked as spam, be sure to review the message and change things.
Testing before sending bulk messages helps you avoid a spike in user-reported spam.
11. Use a reputable service
Another important factor in reducing spam complaints is choosing a reliable and trustworthy email service provider (ESP) like UniOne. If mailbox services observe a high rate of spam complaints associated with a particular ESP’s mail servers, they’ll likely blacklist that ESP. Avoid using an ESP that hosts spammers, or their malicious activities will affect your sender's reputation. You can also request a dedicated IP address to exert more control over your reputation, and UniOne offers this service.
High spam complaint rate: FAQ
What is a high spam complaint rate?
The acceptable spam complaint rate across many industries is 0.1%. For each 1,000 emails, you ideally shouldn’t have more than 10 spam complaints. Anything above 0.1% is high, and a spam complaint rate above 1% is catastrophic and requires immediate action to lower it.
What is the easiest way to reduce a spam complaint rate?
The easiest way to reduce spam complaints is to use double opt-in for subscribers. This action involves sending unique links to new subscribers to verify email ownership. It ensures that the recipient of your email actually subscribed for it and that their email wasn’t just provided by someone else.
What is worse, an unsubscribe or a spam complaint?
A spam complaint is worse by any margin. Unsubscriptions do not affect your sending reputation; they only mean that the recipient no longer wants to receive your emails for whatever reason. In contrast, spam complaints decrease your reputation with email services, and too many complaints can cause them to block your emails en masse.