Are spam complaints voting you out of Hollywood?


Spam complaints are every marketer’s worst nightmare. Especially if they want to build strong email deliverability and land in their subscribers’ inboxes. If you want to know who’s responsible for routing your messages to junk folders and what Hollywood has to do with spam filters, today’s blog post was crafted just for you!

You can’t control your subscribers’ actions in all aspects. But you can certainly try and understand the possible reasons behind the junk folder dilemma and the various types of „reviews” your email marketing campaign can get from these “movie critics”.

Directing email marketing campaigns

Every marketer is the producer of his email marketing campaign. If the content they produce and deliver to audiences is outstanding and engaging, it’s bound to be „well attended” in user inboxes. Yet, if one attempts to blast low-quality, repetitive messages, the audience and critics – i.e. their subscribers – will use the spam button to vote it off their screens (inboxes) and into those B-rated, shabby movie theaters (junk folders) no one intentionally visits.


Before they do that, there is a whole range of ways in which they can rate the movie and give it a place in the box office. Low open rate means the audience doesn’t even bother to visit the cinema. If they do watch the movie but their emotions just don’t click – well, this is called low CTR. When they choose to forget about the movie along with the popcorn they ate in the theater the minute they walk out, they simply unsubscribe. A really bad movie that will make the audience claim the two hours of their life back from the producer and warn everyone around not to ever watch it might result in a spam complaint.


Worst case scenario, when every aspect of a campaign is poorly planned (think of purchased lists, lack of CAN SPAM compliance, etc.), the volume of complaints can trigger a nomination for the Golden Raspberry Award. The outcome? Banning of any further showings (delivery attempts) by all reputable theaters (ISPs).



The audience rules

The complaint ratio is still the crucial factor when it comes to email inbox placement. Are you a successful director that can drive audiences to the cinema and keep them entertained? If so, they’ll award you by opening your messages and clicking the links within to get the whole story. If your mailing is wrongly classified and routed to a junk folder, your loyal subscribers will hit the „This-is-not-spam” button and move it into the limelight once again.


All of these actions contribute to positive long-term engagement. Many ISPs are claimed to be measuring these „engagement” metrics to build a picture of a sender’s reputation. If people like what you offer them, they’ll keep coming back. If not – they’ll leave the cinema before the movie actually finishes to show their dissatisfaction. It’s as simple as that.



Is your campaign worthwhile?

An ISP is like a movie theater and deciding which email is allowed to the subscriber’s inbox is like choosing which movie is worth screening. Every ISP scrutinizes the content and material in which he is asked to place his trust. They do not want to invest their time and money into something that’s not worth it… or could damage their reputation.


ISPs also have their sixth sense – and it’s called spam filters. They use extremely complex algorithms that analyze the messages against each ISP’s criteria to determine whether they can vouch for the sender and deliver the content to user inboxes.

Here’s what is typically analyzed:


  • “Spammy” keywords in the subject and body (e.g.”FREE!”, “$$$”, etc.);
  • Domain names in the FROM field, message content, etc. that have poor reputations and a history of spam abuse pretty much ensure delivery to junk folders;
  • Reputation of IP addresses used to deliver your messages: If your ESP is spammer-friendly, the majority of its customers will feel the repercussions of sharing IP space with them.


How many malcontents does it take to ruin the show?


Now „Avatar”, with its international success and estimated $4 billion return on investment, could not be touched by five or even ten negative reviews. Similarly, the popularity of „Star Wars”, „Matrix” or „Pulp Fiction” was certainly not diminished by a few folks leaving the cinema because they were offended or thought they were watching the dullest film of their entire life.




The same rules apply in the email marketing world. There’ll always be some malcontents on every list and a percentage of mail senders will eventually make a slip in their mailing that will cost them subscribers. A 100% retention rate is simply not possible in this industry and it’s natural that lists shrink over time.


The key to success is to maintain the complaint ratio below 0.1% level. It’s the industry standard recommended by most of the major ISPs and it should be observed by all senders that would like to have their messages delivered to the subscribers’ inboxes. After all, we’re about becoming a part of the Walk of Fame, not the list of this year’s falling stars. So put your best cinematic foot forward, know what your audience wants, and you’ll be walking down the red carpet for real.