Deliverability: Watch those complaints!

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no-spamThose of us charged with helping marketers optimize email deliverability would much rather see a sender with an elevated unsubscribe rate, as opposed to high spam complaint rates. High spam complaints have a direct impact on your delivery rates, and should be a warning bell that something is not right with your email practices.

Here’s how that plays out in Act-On. (Other systems have a similar  process.) The spam complaint numbers tracked in your “sent email” report come into our system through an inbox providers feedback loop (FBL). When a contact marks an email as spam in their email client, the inbox provider sends a notification to our system with information on the sender, the email received, and the contact. We then suppress the email address within the sender’s account, to prevent further email from being received by the contact who marked the message as spam. Most of the major inbox providers such as Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL and Comcast provide a feedback loop. The one major exception is Gmail, who currently still does not provide this service.

Ideally, we like to see a sender’s spam complaint rates at less than 0.1%, which is equivalent to less than one spam complaint for every thousand emails sent. When complaint levels exceed that number, you can start to notice delivery issues, including high bounce rates and blocks.

The good news is that there are steps you can take in order to reduce your spam complaints and improve your delivery.

  • Send only to those who signed up for your email.
  • Set clear expectations. State unambiguously how often your contacts will be receiving email; do your best to stick to your published frequency. If you notice that an increase in frequency leads to an increase in complaints, you may well need to dial frequency back down.
  • Make it easy for the contact to unsubscribe. Don’t hide the unsubscribe link by using small text or hard-to-read colors.
  • Move the unsubscribe link to the top of the email. Some companies have had great success reducing their spam complaint levels by making this small change. When the contact doesn’t have to scroll through the email to find the link, they are less likely to mark the message as spam.

You may have to test one or more of the suggestions listed to improve results in spam complaint reduction, but the payoff will be well worth it. You may see an increase in your delivery rates as well, as more of your email messages make it to the inbox.

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