The goal of every email marketer (well, we would like to think so) after creating amazing content and presenting it in a visually appealing format is to ensure said content makes it into their target recipient’s inbox. This is known as email deliverability and a good deliverability rate is essential for a viable email marketing strategy.

Email deliverability is affected by various factors, such as clean lists, relevant content, sending reputation and the engagement rate. One of the ways in which recipient engagement can negatively impact your deliverability is when subscribers make complaints about your email. This is usually done by marking or reporting your email as spam within the email reader of their respective ISPs. When a considerable number of subscribers make these complaints, you may have a serious problem on your hands.

Don’t worry, even the most ethical businesses or marketers with best intentions still receive some complaints and it is near impossible to be completely complaints-free. To calculate your complaint rate, simply divide the number of complaints by the total number of emails sent. You can also break down the complaint rate per ISP for more accurate results by dividing the number of complaints from a particular ISP by the total number of emails sent to that ISP.

The industry accepted complaint rate is 0.1%, which is 1 in every 1,000 emails sent. A complaint rate over the maximum threshold of 0.5% is considered too high and can lead to your ESP suspending your account, or shutting it down.

The major reasons why people send spam complaints revolve around a disconnect with your identity, or the message. The scenarios below explore why you may be getting spam complaints and how to reduce, or overcome them.

Your subscribers do not know who you are
If your subscribers send spam complaints at the very beginning of your relationship with them, this is an indication that something is wrong with your ‘recruiting’ process. Some common loopholes to consider are:

  • Purchased lists, where recipients have not opted-in to hear from you.
  • A passive subscription processes, where a pre-checked consent box is included. This is not explicit consent and results in unintentional subscription.
  • Incorrect or inactive subscribers.
  • Your sending profile lacks clarity. This is common where you share mailing lists with sister organizations. Another example is when the domain in the ‘from’ field is different from that of the website the recipient subscribed to.

What you should do:

  • Use organic lists made up of voluntary subscribers.
  • Exclude pre-checked boxes and use a double opt-in process, so that subscribers can confirm their subscription and ensure they are clear on what they are subscribing to.
  • Maintain a consistent domain name in your ‘from’ line same as your subscription page.
  • Check your mailing list regularly for incorrect domains, or disposable addresses.
  • Launch campaigns to reengage inactive subscribers and remove those who do not wish to reengage with you.

Your subscribers cannot identify with the message
A key to a successful marketing campaign is establishing a connection with your subscribers by sending the right message to the right person, at the right time. A recipient might have issues with:

  • The type of content they are getting. Just because they signed up from your newsletter or blog update doesn’t mean they want to receive all your promotional messages, or ads.
  • A change in the brand of your message. The look, style and tone of the message are all part of the reader experience and a sudden change can create a disconnect.
  • The frequency of the messages. Abruptly increasing your sending pace from what they are used to can leave some subscribers annoyed. Similarly, sending mails so far apart can make them forget about you or why they subscribed in the first place.
  • A difficult unsubscribe process. Like it or not, some people will not want to hear what you have to say and want out. It is toxic to hold on to such relationships and making the subscription process complicated will prompt a frustrated subscriber to rather hit the spam button.

What you should do:

  • Set expectations on what sort of content to expect, or let subscribers choose what sort of content they want to  receive.
  • Be consistent with your brand identity, the value and frequency of your messages. Inform subscribers of changes before they are implemented and allow for a gradual transition.
  • Make the unsubscribe button or link easy to find, using a one-click process and make sure to honor unsubscribe requests.

One of the benefits of using an ESP like Cloudy.Email is that we have a feedback loop with major ISPs, which notifies us of spam complaints against your emails, then we can in turn keep you informed. The complaint rate is included in your email report and the recipients who send complaints can be unsubscribed from your list. You also have access to our full range of email and content strategy services which will help you effortlessly achieve and maintain a healthy deliverability rate and avoid Spamland. 

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