Email Marketing Engagement

         Dealing with Complaints

  How to deal with spam complaints and protect your email sender rating.

Email marketing spam reports - it's as about as serious as it sounds!

In email marketing, that little button marked “Report Spam” can mean the death to your marketing campaign! All it takes it a couple of annoying email recipients and your entire plan could be foiled.

So how do you stop annoying your recipients? How do your protect your sender score, and how do you make your email marketing campaign a success? These are questions email marketers have to ask themselves every time they hit the send button.

With this in mind, it’s important to understand why subscribers complain and how to avoid this altogether – which is why we’ll be covering this in our blog post.

Why email subscribers complain

The main reasons why subscribers complain about receiving emails:

  1. They never signed up or agreed to receive emails from the sender
  2. Sending frequency, sending too often
  3. They don’t like/want to receive the content of the emails sent to them

How they complain

When an email subscriber complains about an email, they normally don’t tell you, and instead inform their ISP. This makes it difficult for you to know that a recipient has complained about an email. There are different ways they complain about the unwanted emails.

  • They click on the spam button in their email application.
  • They forward it to the abuse department of your ESP or ISP.
  • They forward it to a spam filtering company like Spamhaus, etc.

Web based email service providing ISPs (Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, etc.) simply count the votes. For most ISPs a 0.05% complaint ratio is acceptable. So, if you send to 100,000 recipients and receive 49 complaints, you’re safe.

ISPs define SPAM more and more as anything their users have marked using the “Mark as SPAM” button.

Here’s some ideas on how to reduce the complaint rate:

How to reduce Spam Complaints about your Email Marketing


Double Opt-in

Only send to email addresses that have confirmed that they want to receive your emails – twice! This not only indicates their interest, but also gives you proof that they opted in, providing cover from spam laws such as CASSL and CAN-SPAM.

Segment your Subscribers

segment your list and send relevant content to your customers based on their interests.

Sending emails should be a service, not a nuisance. If you’re not sending relevant information, you’re not conducting an effective email marketing campaign!


Segmentation is everything these days!


Set expectations

Tell your customers what you will send them and at what frequency.

This can be done before the sign up so that subscribers know what they’re getting into.

Furthermore, it’s important to keep to your promise, as deceiving subscribers will not only put your email in the spam folder, but also into hot water with legislation!

Include a live link to unsubscribe

Or a return email address that enables the recipient to request that you do not send future email messages to them.
For Example: “Click on this link to unsubscribe to our mailing list [live link].” or “To no longer receive these emails, please reply to this email with UNSUBSCRIBE in the subject line.”

Just as important is to make this process as apparent and simple as possible for the subscriber. There’s nothing worse than jumping through hoops to unsubscribe or searching for a vague, tiny unsubscribe option in an email from years ago. These people do easier things – like report you to their ISP.


Many customers mark emails as spam because they feel they are getting too many.

On the other extreme, sending too few emails may let forget them who you are and why you are sending them emails. Find the right balance for the frequency, and check the results of your campaigns to see what works best.

Consistent design / layout

Make sure that your customers recognize your email very quickly and want to read it. Use a consistent design and message.

A “from address” that is recognizable very quickly as your company will also create trust in your communication with your customers.

Remove inactive subscribers

If all else fails and you cannot re-engage with inactive customers, remove them from your list.

Inactive subscribers are just dead weight and may even start to report your email as spam, hurting your delivery rating for those who do actually engage with your email.


Get to the Inbox!

Avoiding Spam complaints is how you keep your email marketing sends going, your campaign floating and your bank account growing!

It’s all about getting to the inbox. It’s what gets the word out about your product, breeds success and makes you money.