Top 10 Reasons for SPAM Complaints


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When recipients report your email as spam – it impacts your email delivery rates pure and simple, so as a responsible email marketer, taking steps to lower your SPAM complaints will improve your email campaign results.  

What exactly is a SPAM Complaint?

When one of your email recipients marks a message as spam, their email client uses a feedback loop  to tell Pinpointe that  a complaint was made. Here’s how the “mark as spam” button looks  in yahoo for example:

Yahoo's 'Report SPAM' button

The spam complaint button in yahoo mail.

Your recipients can also contact Pinpointe directly and complain (usually by sending your email to 'abuse -at- directly.  Recipients usually only do this when they're really mad at you!)  At Pinpointe, any subcriber who reports your well-crafted email as spam – either via the feedback loop or directly to us, is automatically removed from your lists.  ISPs (Google, yahoo, Hotmail, etc) require us to do this to ensure that your subscribers don't continue to get email they don't want.

With that background… why do your recipients report your email as spam?

Top Reasons for SPAM Complaints


1. Unrequested Content / Unsolicited Email

This is the #1 reason why people complain and report email as spam.  If subscribers get information they didn't request, they're much more likely to report your email as spam.  For example if   someone signs up to your site to get computer tips/tricks, then sending special offers for phones probably isn't a good idea.

More importantly – sending to contacts that didn't optin at all is a major issue – that's blatant spamming (and against our terms of service).  If you send to purchased, augmented or traded / borrowed lists – you're guaranteed to see a major increase in spam complaints and your delivery rates tank.

Solution: Only send to confirmed subscribers, and send what they asked to receive.

8. Hiding the Unsubscribe Link

Recipients hate it when they can't find your unsubscribe link!  If your unsubscribe link is hidden or if it's in a tiny font, people will simply hit the 'Report SPAM' button because it’s harder to unsubscribe for subscribers that want to leave. Hiding the unsuscribe button also reduces trust.

Solution: Make your unsubscribe link plain and visible and for even better results – include an extra unsubscribe link at the top of your email.   We have some customers that make their unsubscribe link bold and bright red so there's no way a user can miss it.  The result: SPAM complaints were cut in half.

2. Not Setting Proper Content Expectations when People Sign Up

This happens when your subscribers aren’t clear on what they signed up for and when they’ll be getting emails.

Solution: On your subscription form and landing page, make sure to provide subscribers with background on what they'll be receiving. Will you be sending monthly newsletters?  Weekly updates? Special offers?  Including a link to a few examples is also a great idea.  If you use Pinpointe's web based forms, we'll automatically send a confirmation email to your subscribers when they sign up; you can re-confirm expectations here.

3. Not sending a Confirmation Email on Sign-up

It's always best to use double opt-in by sending a confirmation message when recipients sign up.  

Solution: Enable  double opt-in for your Pinpointe forms and a customizable email will be sent with a confirmation link that the recipient clicks to confim receipt. This also eliminates the risk of someone signing up for content using an invalid or bogus email address.   Don’t forget to customize the confirmation message so it sets expectations for your email campaign.

4. Using an Invalid Send-From Email Address

Subscribers won’t be able to reply with any questions or concerns they have if you are using an invalid or fake send-from / reply-to email address.   This can be frustrating, and lead to complaints.

Solution: Use a valid, monitored send-from email address for your campaigns and Invite communication. You can also invite subscribers to give you feedback and contact you on social media. People like talking to people, not businesses. 

5. Using an Unknown / Unrecognized Send-from Email Address 

Do you have multiple websites where your fans and subscribers can sign up for your product / content?  If so – make sure that the send-form email and domain you use are recognizable.  If they can’t recognize it, they may think it’s spam.

Solution: Stay consistent with your branding. Make sure the name on your website matches the name in the from line, include the same logo in all of your messages and use the same signature.  Make sure the send-from is someone your recipients will recognize.

6. Poor Traffic Quality

Purchased traffic can produce bogus results. These visitors aren’t necessarily arriving at your site because they’re interested in you. These subscribers can forget who you are or what they signed up for by the time they get an email from you in their inbox.

Solution: Bring in your own traffic. Use social media to spread the word about your business, write guest posts and talk in forums on other sites in your industry and practice good search optimization.

7. Misleading Email Campaign Subject Lines

It’s good to have a catchy email subject line , but don't be misleading. This means don’t put “Re:” in front of the subject to trick subscribers, don’t reference anything irrelevant and don’t talk about enclosed account information if there’s really no account involved.

Solution: There are plenty of ways to present the topic of an email in an interesting way:

  • Offer to teach something
  • Ask a question
  • Announce something new
  • Offer a solution to a problem

9. Sending Too Much / Too Frequently

Even if the emails are what subscribers requested, sending too many emails will result in spam complaints. On the flip side, sending too infrequently may cause your subscribers to forget why they’re getting your emails.

Solution: This goes back to setting expectations. Somewhere in the expectations, mention how often they should expect to get emails. Stay consistent with send times. 

10. Poor Email List Maintenance

Sending emails to subscribers who have been inactive on the list for a long time is risky and not cost effective. If the subscriber hasn’t opened an email in months, they’re probably not interested anymore and more likely to complain.

Solution: There are a couple solutions for this. Subscribers that haven’t opened in a couple months (or whatever length of time you feel is appropriate) can be deleted from your list If you don’t want to delete any subscribers right off the bat, try sending a reengagement series to get their attention.


Why Do You Hit the Spam Complaint Button?  Tell us – what bothers you enough to mark a message as spam?


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