How to Minimize Spam Complaints to Your E-Mail Marketing - dummies

How to Minimize Spam Complaints to Your E-Mail Marketing

By John Arnold

Spam, also known as unsolicited commercial e-mail, is the bane of legitimate e-mail marketers like you. If recipients perceive your mailings as annoying spam, they can easily report you to anti-spam agencies. If enough complaints come in, you may be added to a blacklist and have all your e-mails blocked.

Most ISPs (including AOL, Yahoo!, and Hotmail) give their customers Spam buttons to use to block suspected spammers. For Yahoo! Mail users need just to click a button to deem your e-mail as spam:


Because consumers have control over the Spam button and report e-mail as spam for a variety of reasons, no e-mail marketing strategy is immune to complaints. You can try to minimize the number of complaints, however and stay below the blacklist thresholds. Understanding how consumers evaluate e-mail as spam is a first step:

  • They don’t want it. Unwanted marketing e-mails are perceived as spam by most consumers, especially if they feel that they didn’t authorize you to send it. Sometimes, consumers even start to perceive e-mails as spam after they receive them for months just because they no longer want them.

  • They can’t verify it. If consumers can’t tell whether an e-mail came from a legitimate source, they perceive it as spam. Most consumers look at the From line in an e-mail header to determine whether an e-mail is familiar.

  • They think it’s too frequent. Consumers tend to perceive frequent e-mails as spam when they feel that the content is irrelevant, repetitive, or too long.

Even when consumers don’t perceive your e-mail as spam, they might be inclined to click the Spam button on your e-mail for one or more of the following reasons:

  • They can’t figure out how to unsubscribe from your e-mail.

  • They don’t trust the unsubscribe link in your e-mail.

  • They accidentally click the Spam button while sorting through their e-mail inbox.

  • They unintentionally include your e-mail while clicking the Spam button on a large group of other spam e-mails.

Minimize your spam complaints over time by doing the following:

  • Ask for explicit permission to send e-mail when you collect e-mail addresses from prospects and customers to make sure that your customers want your e-mails.

  • Make your e-mail content valuable so your e-mail list subscribers continue to want your e-mails.

  • Make your sign-up process memorable for your list subscribers and clearly identify your business in every e-mail’s From line so your audience can verify the source of your e-mails.

  • Use logos and colors in every e-mail that match your brand identity so that your audience recognizes your business.

  • Keep your e-mail frequency in line with your e-mail content and your e-mail list subscribers’ expectations.

  • Use an E-Mail Marketing Provider (EMP) that provides an unsubscribe link in every e-mail you send and allows your subscribers to access their profile to change their interests:

    [Credit: Courtesy of Wonderland Homes]
    Credit: Courtesy of Wonderland Homes
  • Ask all the people who unsubscribe from your e-mail list to tell you why they don’t want your e-mail. You can then adjust your strategy accordingly.

  • Use an EMP that authenticates your e-mails.