Reducing complaints and increasing list responsiveness


Email marketers have a huge impact on whether their messages will be considered spam and may escalate into complaints and accusations.

With careful structuring of email marketing campaigns, marketers can significantly lower their unsubscribes, minimize their complaints and increase the responsiveness of their lists. Not to mention their email deliverability.

Below are several recommendations that I have found to be instrumental in achieving these goals.


1. Use the confirmed opt-in subscription model.

Confirmed opt-in requires your subscribers to confirm their intention to subscribe to your mailing list before you can deliver your information to them. Switching to the confirmed opt-in model is the single and most important step you can take to prevent email abuse complaints.

When you confirm your subscriptions, you are doing the best possible thing to shield yourself against spam accusations.

It is important that your email marketing provider stores the important logs that can “prove your innocence”, should you ever receive a complaint. Such proof may include:

  • subscription method (i.e. email subscription, web-form subscription, manual inclusion, list import)
  • IP and time stamp of the original subscription request (i.e. a person who initially requested to be subscribed)
  • IP and time stamp of the actual confirmation (i.e. a person who clicked on the confirmation link)

A reputable email marketing service provider will automatically archive the proof for you and take care of the complaints on your behalf.

It should be noted that with the unconfirmed opt-in model you leave yourself vulnerable to attacks, joe-jobs, and spam accusations.

By confirming your subscriptions you will have a cleaner, more responsive lists that are more targeted, generate significantly fewer complaints and unsubscribes, and contrary to what the urban myth is — do not negatively impact sales.


2. Identify yourself in your email messages.

Many of the complaints are caused by the fact that the subscriber doesn’t recognize the sender and automatically assume that the email is spam.

You can combat this by adding clear information that identifies you and your company in the beginning of your message, and reminds your subscribers of who you are and what they signed up for.

When you do this, make sure that you don’t say “This email is NOT spam” — people will assume it is.

Instead, you could try something like:

Hi Joe, You have signed up for my free email course
“How to make your parrots talk” a week ago
at my site:
I was wondering… have you had a chance to
review the first lesson and give it a shot?

By identifying yourself clearly to your subscribers you are significantly reducing the chance that they will unsubscribe, complain or click on “This is Spam” button.

Another important aspect is to include your company name and address towards the end of your message.

This is necessary to comply with the CAN SPAM legislation, but at the same time it provides an important information to your subscriber and may result in lower complaints.


3. Ensure that your emails don’t look like spam.

A lot of complaints and unsubscribes can be avoided if email marketers structure their messages appropriately.

Here are a few tips:

a) choose your Subject line carefully — it’s the first thing they will see! make sure that the Subject reflects the contents of your message and that it doesn’t remind your subscribers of spam.

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

c) 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;

d) write plain text messages instead of HTML enhanced messages;

e) do not use “hash-busters” – i.e. special characters or punctuation entered in the attempt to fool the anti-spam systems (i.e. F’REE instead of FREE or v111agr^a instead of viagra);

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


4. Provide an easy way to unsubscribe.

Every email that you send out must contain an unsubscribe link at the bottom of your message.

The unsubscription process must be easy to follow and effortless, and must actually work. This may sound funny, but some of the unsubscribe systems I have seen had issues and some didn’t unsubscribe at all. Test your system thoroughly to make sure that it works.

You may use an outsourced email marketing solution such as GetResponse to automate email hygine, handling unsubscribes, bounce-backs, complaints etc.


5. Be cautious of lead providers.

Purchasing leads is popular among many marketers who use them to increase the size of their lists.

Unfortunately, many of lead generation companies resort to dirty tactics to increase their profitability at the expense of customers and their subscribers.

These include:

a) sharing the same leads over and over again with multiple clients.

This not only significantly reduces the quality of the lead, but it also increases the chance that it will result in a spam complaint in the future. Quite simply, people who sign up for one publication, but start receiving emails from 15 similar campaigns are very likely to complain — and for a reason.

b) “bribing” people to subscribe

Another trick is “incentivizing” leads subscriptions, by offering the subscribers some form of compensation for filling out the form, such as a coupon, a chance to win something etc. This produces leads of inferior quality, because most of the subscribers are not genuinely interested in your publication, but are signing up solely for the incentive.

c) pre-selecting signup forms

Some lead generating companies use lead generation forms with checkboxes that are pre-selected. This dilutes the list quality and results in spam complaints.

Purchasing leads carries a substantial risk for email marketers.

If you decide to purchase leads, here are a few questions that you may want to ask the supplier:

a) Are the leads generated specifically for me?
b) How are your leads generated? (ask for an example)
c) Is your lead generation process incentivized?

Remember — when it comes to lists it is always the quality that is important and not the quantity. It is much better to have a small and responsive list than a large, diluted list that is much more likely to generate complaints, spam accusations, and customer
support issues.

By outsourcing your email marketing to a reputable provider you will have saved yourself the hassle of dealing with all the issues associated with email hygiene.

Email Deliverability From A To Z

Email Deliverability From A To Z

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