How to reduce a high spam complaint rate

When sending emails to contacts, you may receive some spam complaints. These complaints can harm your sender reputation, deliverability rates, or even get you blocked by ISPs.

In this article:

What is a spam complaint rate?

A spam rate is the number of people who reported email as spam out of the total number of messages you have sent. For example, if you send 5,000 messages and 5 people mark it as spam, your spam rate is 0.1% (5/5,000).

What is considered a high spam complaint rate?

A normal spam complaint rate is anything less than 0.1%, or 1 complaint for every 1,000 sent messages. Anything above this level is considered high. This is the industry standard set by major inbox providers like Gmail.

How is spam reported?

The two most common ways contacts can report email as spam are:

  1. They click the “this is spam” or “report spam” link or button in their inbox.
    As soon as this button is clicked, it’s reported directly to us via feedback loops that we have established with all major inbox providers. In general, contacts that report spam this way will be unsubscribed from your list. It is not possible to see which contacts used this method.
  2. They click the native unsubscribe link and then mark the reason for unsubscribing as “Spam.”
    You can view your unsubscribe report on a per campaign/automation email basis to see which contacts reported your email as spam using this method.

Note that emails unintentionally marked as spam count toward your spam rate.

How a high spam complaint rate affects the sender

A high spam complaint rate results in long-term deliverability issues that can take months to correct. Email providers, such as Gmail, will pay close attention to your spam complaint rate over the past 30-60 days. Once you have a high complaint rate, it can take at least 30-60 days to repair it.

If your account has a high spam complaint rate, our deliverability team will place your account under review and will send you a notification via email. This email will be sent to the email address listed in the "Notification email" field on the Account > My Settings > Account information page. In the notification will, there will be a series of questions for you to answer that will help us understand why the spam complaint rate is high. In addition, we'll provide actions for you to take to correct the issue. You will not be able to send emails during this time. Once we receive your response and see that you have taken the actions requested of you, you will be able to use your account to send emails again.

By having a high spam rate, you risk having your account suspended, as our terms of use forbid sending emails to recipients that haven’t requested it. You may also want to review our sending policy before using our service to send emails.

Best practices for avoiding a high spam complaint rate

If you follow the best practices below, you should be able to obtain an spam complaint rate near 0%:

  • Only send to contacts who have explicitly opted in within the past 12 months. Clean contacts off your list who have not recently opted in. These older contacts account for most spam complaints. Ideally, you should not be sending to anyone who has not opted in or opened in the past 6 months. You can use our Engagement Management tool or our engagement tagging automations to do this.
  • Enable the confirmation email (double opt-in) on your forms and/or add captcha. This makes sure only valid addresses are added to your lists, not any bot traffic.
  • Do not use co-registration, 3rd party, or traded lists of any kind. These will result in many contacts marking as spam because they did not directly opt into the content being sent. Only use lists of contacts who directly opted in at your site.
  • Show an additional unsubscribe link in a prominent position, somewhere close to the top of the email. This helps push your contacts toward unsubscribing from your list instead of marking your message as spam. An unsubscribe will not hurt your deliverability, but a spam complaint will. It is much better to have someone unsubscribe instead of marking as spam.
  • Add a note on top of the message indicating how they were added to your list, there is always a chance that your contacts may forget that they subscribed to your list. If this happens, they may just simply mark you as spam. A note on top of your email will help remind your contacts how they got into your list and why they are getting your emails.
  • Send a welcome message or a sequence of onboarding messages after contacts sign up so they are familiar with your brand's look and feel, and are aware of what you will be sending them. This way they won't be surprised when they get future messages from you and will be less likely to mark your emails as spam. If you wait days, weeks, or months before sending a message to a contact after they sign up, the chance that they will mark as spam goes up.
  • Make sure your emails come from the same domain where contacts signed up and make sure the email has the same exact branding. Also be sure the "From" name for your campaign aligns closely with the branding of the page where contacts signed up.
  • Send relevant, personalized automation messages, not batch and blast campaigns to large lists.
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