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Benchmark Team

How to Reduce Spam Complaints?

Jun 16 2009, 03:04 AM by

How to Reduce Spam Complaints?One of the keys to success in e-mail marketing is to reduce the number of spam complaints that you receive. Spam complaints can hurt your standing with your ISP or hosting provider, and even prevent your messages from being delivered to millions of users of popular web e-mail providers such as Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo mail.

In spite of these potentially very significant consequences, many businesses that rely on e-mail marketing as a major part of their advertising efforts fail to understand the steps that you can take to prevent spam complaints from being submitted.

The following tips will help you reduce your spam complaints:

Confirmed opt-in: The best way to ensure that your subscribers want to receive mailings from you is by using a confirmed opt-in process. It requires your subscribers to confirm their subscription by replying to an e-mail before they can be added to your e-mail list.

Your list only: It is no longer acceptable to purchase e-mail lists or use third-party lists. You should remove any e-mail addresses obtained from third party sources.

Practice good list hygiene: Don’t get in love with your list. The quantity of email addresses in your list means little; it is the quality that counts.
As a general rule, the older your list (or addresses in your list) the greater the chance that they may not be any longer interested in receiving mails from you. That said, there are no specific rules as all businesses are different. Some businesses will know that some of their best customers are their oldest customers, so the culling of all e-mail addresses obtained before a specific date may not be suitable for those businesses.

Include the Unsubscribe Link: The first and most important step you can take is to include an unsubscribe link in every message. Beyond this, the unsubscribe link should be two things: obvious and painless. Customers who want your emails will ignore the link, and those who don't will find it easy to unsubscribe from your list, rather than hastily clicking the email as spam.

Evaluate your Subject Line: Ensure that - especially when starting out - your company name is included in the subject line. You may be thinking that is not necessary, since your company name will more than likely show in the "from" field, however, this helps to convey professionalism. Be sure that the message in your subject line is actually conveyed in the email. No one likes to be duped, and doing so raises the chances of your e-mail being marked as spam.

Familiar layout: Using a consistent e-mail template with the same colors, fonts and layout will help your subscribers to recognize your e-mail campaigns. Over time your subscribers will recognize your layout and with that familiarity they will be reminded that they have subscribed to your list.

Familiar and consistent company name: Confusion and complaints can originate from subscribers being unfamiliar with your company or brand name.

Consistent from address: Using a consistent ‘from’ e-mail address serves two purposes.

First, using the same ‘from’ address over time is another way to ensure that your subscribers recognise your e-mails. It is best to use a from e-mail address that includes your brand or the company name that they subscribed to.

Second, if different ‘from’ addresses are used it increases the chances that the subscriber’s local e-mail filter programs (spam filters) will block your e-mails. It is a good idea to ask your subscribers to add your e-mail address to their address book to ensure that your messages will get past any local filters.

Frequency: A common complaint trigger is businesses sending too many e-mails to the same group of people.

While a subscriber may like your products and your business, there becomes a point when your mailings become annoying when sent too often, particularly if you are sending essentially the same message over and over again. The frequency of mail-outs will depend on your business and the type of information you provide to your subscribers. By outlining the anticipated frequency in your sign-up subscription terms, your subscribers will know how often to expect your mailings.

Few other tips:

- do not write long email copy - go for “short and crisp”, then point to your website for more information;

- don’t repeat your website URL over and over again — you are more likely to get more complaints than more sales; once or twice is usually enough;

- run a spam-check on your messages before you send them out and fix any problems that it detects.

Posted in Tips & Resources, Deliverability

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Randy Byers

Jul 17 2009, 06:16 AM

I am new to this stuff and this was very helpful. Thanks Randy

Sinead Imbaro

Jul 21 2009, 03:00 PM

how do you investigate a spam complaint?


Jul 21 2009, 03:30 PM

We review the spam complaint history as well as the current campaign statistics of the client. These statistics help us to determine the health of the list. We would expect your complaint rate to be consistently below 0.5, this mean no more than one complaint per 2,000 emails sent.

Please also visit this url to know more What should you do if you get an Abuse Alert

Judy Schwager

Jul 22 2009, 11:17 AM

Good time, quality vs quantity. I have some OLD timers on there that just may not be in the market any longer - been doing this for many years now and the list keeps growing! I may start saving the list of who opens for the next few months and just use that to clean it up...is that a good idea? Hopefully your reports stay on the site so I can review them. Judy judynyll@aol.com

Faith Sloan

Jul 26 2009, 08:28 PM

What is wrong with AOL users? They double opt-in but still they account for 99.3% of my abuse complaints. i don't use AOL but do they have a special 'abuse' button or link which is easily accessible where they use it just because ...? i may start pruning my list to delete AOL'ers and add code to make sure than no one can sign up with an AOL email address. Sheesh! God Bless Faith

Michael Tipton

Aug 07 2009, 02:55 AM

Yes, I will try, thanks.

SInead Imbaro

Aug 18 2009, 08:11 PM

Does your system automatically take out all the unsubscribers from my lists?

NW Region

Aug 29 2009, 08:21 AM

The turn over rate in our line of business is extremely high as evidence by a 28% bounce rate. In doing follow-up on some "abuse" complaints in the past some people wanted back into the receiving our resources. Once they are marked out...how do we get them back into the mix?

NW Region

Aug 29 2009, 08:22 AM

The turn over rate in our line of business is extremely high as evidence by a 28% bounce rate. In doing follow-up on some "abuse" complaints in the past some people wanted back into receiving our resources. Once they are marked out...how do we get them back into the mix?

Arman Barbuco

Sep 21 2009, 11:34 PM

I got the spam alert, does this mean my account will be suspended? please email me at arman@showcasemodels.com. thanks.


Oct 09 2009, 02:47 PM

Many thanks for these tips.

Dale Farkas

Oct 18 2009, 04:38 PM

We included a Reconfirm in our introductory welcome copy using your Benchmark system. I'm not sure how the reconfirms are shown in our list. (I can't see how the Reconfirms attached to our list members in previous emails.) Can you explain how, if at all, Rconfirms work? My email: dalefarkas@comcast.net. One other point is that your standard of one complaint per 2000 receipients may be unrealistic. The fact is that a lot of people, particularly unsophisticated AOL subscribers, use the Spam filter as a quick way of editing their emails...often without ever opening or reading the email's content. So, your specified complaint level may actually be the real-life "background noise" level for commercial emails in general. What's sad about this is that emails that benefit thousands of happy receipients can be totally sabotaged by an extremely small minority. It would be just as easy for these people to click Unsubscribe, but based upon AOL's placing the Spam button up top and not placing an Unsubscribe button first your entire industry has the many being ruled by the few. Can you use your influence is ISPs to try to get an Unsubscribe button up top, right before the Spam button, to try to alleviate this problem?

Daniel Dobski

Dec 04 2009, 12:48 PM

Any suggestions regarding an individual who signs up (permission based) to receive your newsletter, then when he receives it he unsubscribes and then generates an abuse complaint?


Dec 18 2009, 06:23 AM

Unfortunately there is nothing that can be done in this case. We would however review the abuse complaint instances and verify if they had previously opted in to your contact list, before taking any action.


Dec 29 2009, 04:07 PM

It interesting ad we are using our client list from their website where the users opt in and our raylte is above .5. In fact we used the same list twice removing optouts and complaints via benchmark and the second time we still sre above this rate. These are transactional customers so we are at a lost on what to do next. I wonder if their email tools are auto responding and tracking a complaint?? Any thoughts.

Sandra K

Jan 06 2010, 09:51 PM

Are the abuse complaints generated by the servers (AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc) or by the individual?


Jan 12 2010, 07:18 AM

The complaints are either marked by individual by clicking on the "Spam" button in the email client OR by the feedback loops of the email servers (which would reject all emails from unknown sources based on the clients settings)

Sandra K

Jan 16 2010, 09:08 PM

Okay, I'm getting complaints every time I send out my newsletter. How do I actually reduce or get rid of the complaints? Everyone on my list are people who have given me their emails with the knowledge that they would receive newsletters from me. My rate is really high. I don't want to get in trouble or anything!! How do I fix it? I read through the stuff on here and I feel like I'm complying with the recommendations. IDK?!!


Jan 25 2010, 03:31 PM

How do I determine who sent the spam complaint to make sure I don't send them something else


Apr 20 2010, 02:17 PM

I have a more descriptive phrase for the item "unsubscribe" instead of only the word "unsubscribe". You can customize this message?

Andy from Benchmark Email

Apr 20 2010, 05:33 PM

Jefferson, You can customize the text in the Permission Reminder on the Describe Email page. You can customize this part in any way you see fit. Our default message discusses Unsubscribe here, and you can as well! Hope that helps, Andy


Jun 05 2010, 01:34 PM

My leads are coming from the the Chamber of Commerce, these folks are requesting information on moving to the area, so I don't get why they complain.

Sandra K

Jul 08 2010, 04:09 PM

I never got a response to my concerns I posted in January. I am still getting a high number of complaints. Some of them lists friends of mine. I know that they didn't complain themselves, because they are my customers and personal friends. So, what additional steps can I take to stop Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, and the others from complaining about the newsletters?

Andy from Benchmark Email

Jul 08 2010, 10:07 PM

Sandra, Sadly, some recipients often use spam complaints as a way of unsubscribing from a list. The best way to combat this is by having a clear and predominant unsubscribe link at the top of your email, and probably one at the bottom as well. Also make sure your unsubscribe process is as quick, easy and streamlined as possible. It is way easier for a person to click once to make a spam complaint than it is for them to have several steps to unsubscribe. This may seem like you are giving people an easy way out or advertising that they should unsubscribe. In fact, it's quite the contrary. People will feel comfortable with you. It will look professional and people will know they can opt out easily if they ever want to. I hope this helps. If it does not. Feel free to contact me directly: andy.shore@benchmarkemail.com. I'd gladly review your emails and see if there is anything else I can do to better your email marketing experience!


Jul 15 2010, 09:20 AM

How do I remove contacts in bulk who reported me for abuse? If they can't read the unsubscribe link then I will do it for them automatically. Thanks.

Andy from Benchmark Email

Jul 15 2010, 03:37 PM

Edward- If one of your subscribers clicks the abuse link, they are automatically removed from your email list. Not sure I understand why they would not be able to read the unsubscribe link. Read my above comment to Sandra about the importance of a clearly visible unsubscribe link. If it's a language barrier, perhaps you can segment your list and be sure the unsubscribe link is in a language that each recipient can understand.


Aug 31 2010, 03:39 PM

How do you run a Spam check?

Andy from Bechmark Email

Aug 31 2010, 07:57 PM

The spam check button is located on the left, in the email editor. It is below the text version option and next to the spell check. Spam Check will rate your email on a scale of 1 to 5. Our Spam Check will look at the highlighted words in your email and come up with less "spammy" alternatives.


Nov 19 2010, 05:15 PM

I am doing my best to 'comply' - but I keep getting abuse alerts.I am frustrated. All my complaints were coming from yahoo, so I sent a 'permission reminder' newsletter with a big blue unsubsribe button on the top. And I have STILL received complaints from THAT. It was only an email to let them know that it was important to me to only be sending to those who still wanted to receive the info... why would they still hit the spam instead of the unsubscribe?

RJ from Benchmark Email

Dec 09 2010, 06:13 PM

Elizabeth, unfortunately there are some sadistic individuals out there and you are not alone, https://bit.ly/cO6UX9.


Apr 11 2011, 01:17 PM

This was our first actual newsletter. We had sent a opt in/out email a when we first signed up (quite awhile ago). However I changed the email to our info@freedomautofinders instead of a personal name account and wonder if that caused the bounces.

Anita Burns

Aug 01 2011, 04:11 AM

I don't understand it. Everyone on my list has signed up to be there. They could just hit the unsubscribe, but they prefer to be rude I guess and click spam instead.

Andy from Bechmark Email

Aug 01 2011, 04:46 PM

You're right Anita. It is frustrating. Sometimes people are just lazy. That's why it's best to make it as easy as possible to unsubscribe. Put unsubscribe links at the top and bottom and make sure it's not a difficult process. The easier it is for them to opt out, the fewer spam complaints you should incur.

annette russ

May 13 2012, 07:35 PM

i think this has been asked above, but can you clarify? is there any way to find out who filed the spam complaint and can we assume they are on the unsubscribe list too?

Andy from Bechmark Email

May 14 2012, 05:10 PM

Annette- You can see who filed the spam complain in reports. You are correct in your assumption that a person is automatically unsubscribed if they file a spam complaint.

Cesar Garcilazo

Jun 11 2012, 06:45 PM

The list was checked as it was requested before sending the campaing. One problem could be that the unsubscribe link was not clear... and they decided to hit the other option...


Jul 11 2012, 11:02 PM

I only have under 150 people on my list and have only sent one email out, so with one complaint (& I believe they didn't open the email, just "spammed" it) my rating is very high. The basis of 2000 is just so far beyond me .......

RJ from Benchmark Email

Jul 20 2012, 03:47 PM

Chris - Since marketers/clients are sending out multiple quantities of emails, from 1 to millions, the industry as a whole had to set a metric to properly gauge the legitimacy of email campaigns. One of our favorite clients, who markets who the education industry, will reach out to each spam complaint, to find out the reason of the complaint and to see if there is anyway the message can be improved. In your case, since your footprint and demographic is relatively small, I would reach out to the recipient to see if they were an actual complaint or just someone who is unsubscribing via the spam button.