Complaints are an important part of your reputation, so you should keep the number of complaints as low as possible.
Reasons that recipients report spam
Did you obtain the recipient's permission? Does the recipient expect the email? If you purchased the list, you did not obtain permission and the recipient is not expecting the email.
- Mail that is too frequent can annoy recipients.
- Mail that is too infrequent might be unfamiliar and unexpected.
For example, waiting for a week or more after a subscription might result in a complaint because the recipients might have forgotten that they signed up.
- Content that recipients don't like might annoy them into reporting the message as spam. Targeting the correct demographic and audience is crucial.
- If your branding is inconsistent, recipients might not recognize that you sent the email.
You should clearly set recipients' expectations about email frequency and content to avoid problems.
- Failure to adhere to expectations causes loss of trust and increased complaints.
- Do not send email after the recipient unsubscribed. While US law provides for 10 days to process an unsubscribe request, recipients have shorter expectations.
- Some recipients receive large amounts of email and report it all as spam.
How to reduce complaints
- Clearly set expectations when prospects opt in. Be clear about what they might receive and when.
- Do not pre-check subscription boxes on web forms.
- Optimize the subscription process:
- What data collection methods are used? Confirmed opt-in gives the best results.
- Clarify what might be received during the subscription process and how frequently, and keep that promise.
- Make subscription information visible in messages and in profile pages, if applicable.
- Use a preference center to offer contacts different subscription options for different content and mail streams.
- Get the frequency and tempo right. Offer different frequency options that can be managed in the preference center and during the subscription process. Finding the right frequency requires some experimentation and thoughtfulness.
- Send relevant messages. Use targeting, segmenting, and A/B testing to ensure that email campaigns are sent to the most relevant and engaged audience as possible.
- Make unsubscribing easy. "Ease of unsubscribe" is part of the US Federal CAN-SPAM law.
- On the unsubscribe landing page, offer subscription options. Do not require a login to unsubscribe, which is illegal in some places and can make subscribers angry.
- Place the unsubscribe link at the top of the email.
- Make the unsubscribe link noticeable. If a subscriber cannot easily find it, they might use the report spam button.
- Use a list unsubscribe header.
- Acoustic provides the List Unsubscribe header that's needed for the Gmail and Apple email client unsubscribe features to work. However, it's at the discretion of those ISPs to choose to display the Unsubscribe link within the email client. Gmail only displays the unsubscribe link for senders with positive reputations. To ensure your link is displayed, work toward improving your sender reputation.
Acoustic Campaign supports list-unsubscribe, which is enabled by default.
- Regularly remove addresses of recipients who are not responding to your messages. Recipients who do not open messages have lost interest and are more likely to complain if they continue getting mail. Subscriber engagement is part of the metrics that ISPs use for spam filtering.
Hotmail suggests regularly running a "re-opt-in" campaign, which is considered a best practice by all ISPs.
- Participate in feedback loops. Honor the complaints and remove those recipients immediately. Acoustic Campaign processes complaints, usually within an hour of receipt.
- Some ISPs offer more in-depth data about what happens to marketing mail after it is in their systems. Proof of ownership is required in some form by all ISPs.
A complaint (also known as an abuse report) is the result of the action that is taken by an email receiver when they indicate that a message is spam or junk. The complaint is then sent on as part of a feedback loop (FBL). A feedback loop (FBL) is provided by many ISPs as a forensic tool, and is typically sent in Abuse Reporting Format. Most major ISPs offer feedback loops as a free service, which sends a copy back to the originating network (sender) by using a predetermined email address (typically
email@example.com) so that complainants can be unsubscribed.
Complaints are usually sent in a machine-readable format that is called Abuse Reporting Format that redacts some personally identifiable information. You should process these reports promptly and remove the complainants immediately.
Processing feedback loop results is an important part of list hygiene. After a recipient complains, they have a reasonable and legal expectation to receive no further emails from the sender.
The length of time that is allowed by law for removal to occur varies by law and country, so 'immediately' is the best practice.
If you see a sudden change in FBL volume or type, you should investigate the cause.
- Was the wrong database used?
- Was a purchased list inserted?
The number of complaints that are generated by an IP address is given great weight by receivers. After a specific threshold is triggered, ISPs respond in any of the following ways:
- Hard blocking from that IP address
ISPs do review their complaint thresholds, which are part of their spam filtering metrics. Complaint thresholds vary from ISP to ISP and from sender to sender. A good reputation allows slightly more forgiveness than a poor reputation. However, keeping complaints as low as possible is the best practice.
Acoustic and FBLs
After a complaint (abuse report) is received, Campaign takes the following actions:
- Processes the complaint.
- Updates the product reports to show the incidence of the complaint for the appropriate email.
- Adds the complainant to the client's suppression list.
Campaign participates in FBLs with the following ISPs:
- BAE Systems
- Italia Online (Libero and Virgilio)
- Virgin Media
Keep your email lists clean and fresh by promptly removing complainants.