Articles on: Email Marketing

Email Spam Complaint Rate and Why It Matters

Email Spam Complaint Rates and Why They Matter


Understanding spam complaints is important for an email marketer, because it can determine the long term success of your campaigns. Spam complaints occur when email recipients complain that the emails that they're receiving are unwanted. Inbox providers keep track of senders who are receiving high spam complaint rates, and senders with high complaint rates may get sent directly to spam folders for all your content. This has a direct negative consequence on your email marketing campaigns, because your deliverability and click-through-rates will plummet if your customers aren't getting your emails in their inbox. Therefore, it's important for every email marketing to understand the importance of spam complaints, how they can affect your deliverability, and how to minimize them.

What is a Spam Complaint?

Almost all inbox providers have a mechanism that allows their users to mark emails as "spam" or "junk". This mechanism exists so that mailbox providers can create filters for their users, and automatically block certain types of email content or senders from reaching their customer's inboxes. This is usually done to ensure that only the relevant or wanted content is getting to the user. See below for an example of how Gmail users can report emails as spam

Gmail Spam Button

Why would people mark emails as spam?

There are several reasons why someone might report your email as spam, including by not limited to:
They are confused about who is sending them content
They can't find an unsubscribe button
They might have forgotten they signed up for emails from you (or worse, they never signed up at all)

In all of these scenarios, the recipient is indicating that they do not want to receive emails from the sender!

Pro Tip: Making the Unsubscribe button easier to find can help reduce your spam complaint rate.

What counts as a high spam complaint rate?

There is no centrally defined complaint rate of what is considered high, but a generally good standard is keeping your complaint rate below 0.05% or 1 complaint per 2,000 emails sent. Anything above this level is considered "high" and may cause email sending from your account to be automatically stopped until our team has a chance to manually review your account. We know that sometimes even if you follow all of the best practices and send to the right segment of email subscribers, you may still occasionally get a high spam complaint rate.

How does a high spam complaint rate affect my email sending?

Having a high spam complaint rate for a sustained period of time adversely affects your email deliverability. Unfortunately inbox providers track sender reputation on their own which they also use to train their spam filters. So if certain senders are getting high spam complaint rates, then the inbox providers may just automatically take all emails from that sender and send it directly to the spam folder.

Additionally, since they also use spam complaints to train their spam filter based on the content of your email, it really is worth it to be careful with spam complaints so that you don't ruin your brand name in the eyes of the inbox providers.

Unfortunately, once the inbox providers determine that you have a high spam complaint rate and have marked you as a low reputation sender, it's very difficult to return to good standing. Even more complex is the fact that each inbox provider has different methods that they use to track email reputation and different periods of time for tracking spam complaint rates. Needless to say, it's much better for your long term deliverability to try your best to avoid spam complaints in the first place!

Best Practices for avoiding Spam Complaints

Avoid sending to email subscribers that you have not interacted with in over a year. They may have forgotten that they signed up for your emails and are more likely to report your emails as spam if you email them after a long period of time
Enable "Double Opt-in" on your Pop ups, or wherever you're collecting emails from. The additional opt-in layer has the benefit of ensuring that people who sign up for your emails are very explicitly agreeing to receive emails from you and it has the added benefit of ensuring that you're collecting real email addresses instead of fake emails or even emails that don't belong to the person filling out the pop up
Do NOT send to emails that you have purchased, email lists that you have found online, or even emails that you may have collected from one of your other ventures. This goes against our Terms of Service, and sending to emails who have not signed up for marketing emails from your store warrants an extremely high chance that you will have a high spam complaint rate. Additionally, sometimes these email lists also include spam traps
Send emails from a custom domain. This helps customers know that the emails are coming from your store and also gives your business more unified branding.
Do not send emails to your subscribers too often. Sending them too many emails within a short period of time may annoy them and nudge them into marking your emails as spam.
On the flip side, do not send emails too sparsely. Your recipients may forget that they signed up for your emails if you don't send them engaging content frequently enough
Make it really easy to find the Unsubscribe button on your emails. Sometimes all customers want to do is just not receive emails from you anymore, and if they can't find the unsubscribe button, then they're more likely to report the email as spam, just to make sure that it doesn't enter their inbox. By default, ONE makes sure that all emails have an unsubscribe link included, but this can be customized.
Segment your email list and personalize and customize the content for them. The more specific your emails can get to your users, the less likely they are to report it as spam
Avoid "Spammy" headlines or words. These can include phrases such as "ACT IMMEDIATELY" or "FREE MONEY IN YOUR POCKET". Inbox providers monitor for key words and phrases that are used commonly by spammers to filter out messages. They also monitor for subjects in all caps or subject lines that include a lot of symbols.

Updated on: 01/12/2022

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