Eek…I received spam complaints on my email newsletter!

by on February 1, 2013

Eek! I received email subscriber complaintsYou’ve settled into your desk, got your e-newsletter content a’ ready to go, and have just logged into your email provider. But instead of being greeted with your usual click stats and opens, a glaring warning lets you know that your last email was… gasp… marked as SPAM! The horror!

Your first inclination might be to panic. OMG, people don’t like what I’m doing. But before you get yourself into a tizzy, take this as a learning opportunity. The first step is making sure that you didn’t indeed commit an email marketing faux-pas.

Are you following the rules of good email marketing?

Did they say yes?

As in did your website visitor, business contact, Facebook friend (the list goes on) actually AGREE to receive your email newsletter?

Example of a positive yes:  a website visitor enters their information on your email sign-up form.  Any good email provider gives you a legitimate opt-in form option so that you are clearly getting consent from subscribers.

Example of a dodgy you’re kidding yourself if you think it’s a yes: You meet a contact at a business luncheon who hands you a business card to keep in touch.  You then assume this means they would of course like to be on your email newsletter list and add them without having received consent. Bad!

Another example of a dodgy yes that many small businesses get wrong: A customer provides you their email address when they fill out a registration form or other type of documentation at your business. This is not permission – double bad!!

Power tip: Add in a “sign up for my email newsletter” check box on your forms (whether online or offline). If it gets checked, then you’re good to add them to your list.

This idea of getting permission for your emails can’t be stressed enough!! At least in the world of ethical, legitimate internet marketing, which is the name of the game here folks.

Did they say yes twice?

This is also known as confirmed opt-in or double opt-in. This is when someone asks to receive emails, and then has to confirm this by clicking on a link that gets sent in an email. Seems like a bit of a tedious process, but this really is the best way to go about things. Yes, some people might fall out during the process and never bother with confirming. But if they are really and truly interested, they will get on your email list. And they won’t mind the confirmation step. This helps to ensure that you have the cleanest, most interested list possible.

Honesty & consistency

Let your subscriber know exactly what they’ll get right off the bat – what kind of content they can expect from your emails. If they think they are going to get a bunch of educational resources and instead you send a bunch of self-promotional sales emails, there is a disconnect there and a problem that needs addressing.

If you go the route of telling people how often they will get a newsletter, eg. monthly, stick with that as much as you can. Yes, things get busy and hectic sometimes. The world isn’t going to end if you miss your email newsletter deadline. But if you sit on your list for months (or even years) and then send out an email, you can expect the complaints and unsubscribes to proliferate. They may not remember who you even are or that they signed up to your list in the first place.

Furthermore, keep your emails looking the same and from the same person/or biz name so people can recognize who they’re coming from.

Make it easy to unsubscribe

Isn’t it better for someone to unsubscribe from your list then mark you as spam?  On each and every email newsletter have a clearly visible unsubscribe option. Any email marketing provider worth its weight will have this built into their system. Giving your subscribers an easy, preferably one-click way out of your newsletter is just plain good email marketing.

So now that we’ve made sure that you’re not being a greedy email collector, let’s look at some other reasons you could be getting unsubscribes… because chances are you are doing everything right, but still getting complaints from time to time.

Other reasons for subscriber email complaints

  • They honestly don’t remember your company name or you and think it’s junk email.
  • They are no longer interested in your products or services.
  • They feel you send too many messages and have become annoyed.
  • They don’t like what you are sending in your messages and don’t see the value in it.
  • They had a bad experience with your small business and don’t want to be contacted by you anymore.
  • They clicked the mark as spam button by accident.
  • They think that marking an email as SPAM is better/safer than unsubscribing

Sure, you would much rather someone unsubscribe than mark you as spam, but the reality is that many email clients have the “mark as spam or junk” button really prominent at the top of a message. Some people might just click that cause it’s easier.

What are the repercussions?

That all depends on the email provider you use and how you’ve set things up. It’s not the same across the board.

I use Aweber (affiliate link) and one of their fortes is the fact that their emails get where they are supposed to (ie. inboxes). They get this leading deliverability because of how strict and stringent they are in their processes. When it comes to adding emails to a list, they will not allow you to add in people manually without doing the whole confirmation link thingy. No buts. While this might seem like a pain or too strict, when it comes to subscriber complaint time, you are in the clear. Aweber knows that you went about things in an ethical way and that you are following good email marketing practices (yes, even if they had to force you kicking and screaming :))

It might not be so rosy with other email providers. Mailchimp, for example, will allow you to add in subscribers without a confirmation. Awesome right? The catch? If you do get marked as spam, they can shut down your account and it’s up to you to prove that you are following correct email marketing principles. This happened to a client of mine that insisted on powering ahead without getting confirmed opt-ins (despite my advice) and yup, account suspended for months.

What is common across email providers is that anyone that marks you as spam gets automatically removed from your email list.

Don’t despair…

Yes, it can be a little disheartening to get spam complaints when you’re trying your best to do everything right with your email marketing, but try not to take things personally. If someone marks you as spam, you don’t want them on your email list anyways. Think of it as a little list cleaning. Or a learning opportunity and a chance to make your email marketing even better.

Have you personally had experiences with being marked as SPAM? Other ideas for why email complaints happen? Let us know in the comments.

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