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What is the acceptable spam complaint rate?

Growing a business with an email marketing strategy means reaching the right audience with key messages to establish and nurture mutually-beneficial relationships. 

To do that, marketers need to ensure that they create high-quality campaigns that perform well in key metrics, such as open rate and click-through rate, to name just two.

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By the same token, it is equally important to email marketing success that senders keep a close eye on negative metrics and prevent them from reaching a level that could pose a threat to email deliverability. 

The spam complaint rate is one such metric that email marketers are well-advised to keep track of.

Want to jump ahead?

What does “acceptable spam complaint rate” mean? Why do spam complaints occur? Poor email design
Messages are too frequent
Irrelevant content
How to avoid wrongful spam complaints Maintain good list hygiene
Segment and test
Offer a clear opt-out
Conclusion

What does “acceptable spam complaint rate” mean?

Your spam complaint rate is a number that denotes the percentage of email recipients who have complained about a particular message.

However, the acceptable spam complaint rate refers to a threshold that major mailbox providers and ISPs use to gauge the reputation of a particular sender and determine the relevant course of action when receiving their emails.

The industry standard acceptable spam complaint rate is 0.1%. As a rule of thumb, you should receive no more than 1 spam complaint for every 1,000 emails you send out.

Having a rate above the standard threshold can result in emails being sent to junk folders. In more extreme cases, senders may even be blacklisted entirely. As such, marketers must keep a close eye on their spam complaint rate and act appropriately in order to keep it to a minimum.

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Why do spam complaints occur?

Even if your marketing emails are not spam, they may still be reported as such. The following are reasons why a user may report a legitimate marketing email as spam:

Poor email design

In the overwhelming majority of cases, email users will elect to utilize the unsubscribe option when they have decided that they no longer wish to receive commercial emails. However, if your email is poorly laid-out and makes it difficult for users to use this option, they may resort to using the spam complaint button as an alternative.

Messages are too frequent

If you send marketing emails to your subscribers with extreme regularity, they can quickly grow frustrated with your methods. As a consequence, they may choose to report your emails as spam because they feel that your behavior warrants it.

Irrelevant content

The expectations of email users have changed with time, and most have come to expect personalized experiences from email marketers. That means that emails that come off as generic or irrelevant are increasingly likely to be viewed as spam by users, and they are more likely to attract spam complaints as a result.

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How to avoid wrongful spam complaints

Generally speaking, the best way to keep your spam complaint rate below the standard threshold is to adhere to email marketing best practices across the board.

The following are some tips for keeping a low spam complaint rate: 

Maintain good list hygiene

First and foremost, it is advisable to use a permission-based system, ideally a double opt-in, to acquire your mailing lists. This way, you can ensure that all of the subscribers on your lists are engaged and interested in what you have to say, reducing the likelihood of complaints.

However, this is not enough alone, as regular email list cleaning is also a necessity. Purging inactive and disengaged subscribers from your email list helps prevent your messages from frustrating users, and ensures that you don’t attract unwarranted complaints.

Segment and test

Before sending out emails, you should first segment subscribers so that you can accurately gauge their engagement level. 

By doing this, you can create a tier-based, personalized system through which less-interested subscribers receive messages from you less frequently. This helps you avoid frustrating your subscribers, thereby improving your spam complaint rate.

Similarly, it is advisable to test your emails before they go out. Doing so can ensure that your subscribers will receive your messages at a time when they are receptive to them.

Offer a clear opt-out

At first, it may sound counterintuitive to present your subscribers with an easy way to cease communications, but it is much better for the success of your campaign. 

By incorporating a clear, intuitive opt-out mechanism into your marketing emails, you demonstrate that you respect your subscriber’s choices and, as a consequence, you will be less likely to receive spam complaints.

Conclusion

When it comes to spam complaint rates, marketers are entirely at the mercy of their subscribers. 

Spam complaints can quickly add up and put a major dent in the potential success of an email marketing campaign. As such, it is important  that you stay in your recipients’ good graces to maintain an acceptable spam complaint rate.

By following best practices and engaging in permission-based marketing, you can help keep your spam complaint rate low, your reputation intact, and your deliverability high.

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