You should reduce your SPAM complaints for at least these three reasons:
- Your email sending platform (MailChimp, Constant Contact, HubSpot, etc.) will suspend you if you have continued and excessive SPAM complaints.
- You are assigned a sender score by the internet service providers (Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Comcast, etc.). When your sender score is low, they automatically deliver your emails to the SPAM folder.
- You want to bond with your customers and prospects. You know you’re not bonding when you have high SPAM complaints.
Would you do it in real life?
If you won’t do it in real life, then don’t do it in your digital marketing. That simple axiom is your best compass to reducing SPAM complaints. Most people know there are right and wrong ways to behave. But for some reason they abandon their manners when it comes to their digital marketing. Show the same respect online that you show offline and you are well on your way to reducing SPAM complaints.
Your marketing should always be respectful and considerate. You should work diligently to add more value than you take. Take deep breaths of bold confidence when your email campaigns are adding value. Unsubscribes are not a consideration when your emails are enriching your prospect’s lives. Yes, sometimes life changes and their interests may no longer intersect with yours. But in those cases, you should expect a simple unsubscribe as opposed to a SPAM report. Still, your best strategy to keep people subscribed is to diligently add value to their life.
We are rewarded with high email engagement because we embrace the concepts above. But we’ve gone a couple steps further to virtually eliminate our SPAM complaints. Only 0.05% of our emails are flagged as SPAM and we’ll show you how to achieve that for yourself. But first, you need to understand a couple of concepts about how you are graded.
Your account will be suspended if you have high SPAM complaints
You are probably sending email from a platform like MailChimp, Constant Contact, HubSpot, Marketo, etc. These platforms will aggressively respond to high SPAM complaints. Their motivation is simple. The more reliably they can deliver your emails, the more likely you’ll use their platform (and that’s how they make money). When you send SPAMY emails, their ability to reliably send emails to other patrons is compromised, so they will address it with you.
These platforms have a bank of IP addresses used for sending your emails. But those IP addresses are shared across many customers. If you cause the IP address to get a bad reputation, it hurts the other companies using the same IP address. When an IP address lands on a SPAM list, everyone is affected – not just you.
Read our recent blog to learn more about IP reputation and how it impacts email delivery.
You’re being graded and probably don’t know it
You are being graded and you probably don’t realize it. You have an email sender’s score. It’s a rating of the quality and engagement of your email campaigns.
You’re probably asking who’s grading you? It’s the Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Time Warner, Comcast and more. Yes, the internet overlords are watching – and grading – and changing your future based on your current behavior. They are the ones assigning your email sender score.
A higher email sender score means more of your emails get delivered to the inbox. The lower your email sender score, the more likely you land in the SPAM folder or some other obscure place to never be seen by your contacts.
SharpSpring studied the effect of purging email sending lists. They quit sending emails to unengaged people. Then they measured the effect across 5000 companies sending millions of emails. With a 33% reduction in total emails sent, they saw a net increase in opens and clicks. Just to be clear, not only did the open rate increase, but the total number of opens increased 12% by sending 33% fewer emails. Not only did the click rate increase, but the total number of clicks increased 6% by sending 33% fewer emails.
The SharpSpring example shows that improving your email sender score is important for email delivery.
Yes, the ISPs really are monitoring you – and there’s more to come
You may be surprised to discover that the ISPs have been monitoring you and assigning a score. You may even find it difficult to believe. But Google has already started testing a new feature to automatically unsubscribe users from marketing emails they aren’t reading.
Android Police reported that they are seeing prompts from Gmail that read: “You haven’t opened any emails from this sender in the last month.” It then gives you the option to immediately unsubscribe.
Yes, the ISPs are monitoring email engagement. You can count on them continuing to diligently fight for the best experience for their users. You will see more of this and it will impact you.
Your best antidote is to provide awesome content. Your subscribers will stay engaged and never want to unsubscribe from your content.
Four steps to virtually eliminate SPAM complaints
We’ve reduced our SPAM complaints to 0.05% of all emails sent. Here’s our formula.
- Start every email campaign with the goal to serve your subscribers more than you serve yourself. Use our email QA checklist to start the journey in the right direction.
- Proactively prune your email list at least twice a year.
- Openly and boldly encourage your subscribers to unsubscribe if your emails aren’t serving them.
- Study your email engagement to see what’s resonating with your audience and what’s not. Refine future email campaigns with this knowledge.
Step 1: Start every email campaign with the goal to serve your subscribers more than you serve yourself.
You will find this extremely hard to do. Businesses are hard-wired to sell. But your stronger position is when your prospective customer comes to you asking if you can fix their problems. Your best path to them requesting you solve big problems is to solve small problems for them first. You build credibility and they will see you as the trusted advisor. Use our email QA checklist to refine the content of your email.
Step 2: Proactively prune your email list at least twice a year
Dead and disengaged contacts in your email database are not an asset. There are cognitive biases that make you value your contact list more than it’s worth. But disengaged contacts only drag your campaigns down. You learn more by reading Why You Should Prune Your Email List – And Why You Won’t Do It.
We prune twice a year. As a part of the process, we send out an email announcing they’ve been unsubscribed and give them the option to opt back in. The last time we did this, our open rate was 18% (just shy of the industry average) and our click rate was 5.6% (about double the industry average). Those numbers are considerable when you realize we only sent that to a list of people who hadn’t opened a single email in over 6 months.
You are welcome to use our break-up email template. It works!
Step 3: Openly and boldly encourage your subscribers to unsubscribe if your emails aren’t serving them
Yes, this is another one of those white-knuckled moments that feels unnatural. But a few key elements will make this go well for you. We place the copy below at the bottom of every email we send. It isn’t in a tiny font with low contrast so only a fruit fly can read it. No, we put a box around it and make it full size so everyone can read it.
Are you delighted? You are in control and you can opt-out right now.
We are committed to delightful email campaigns that educate and add value to your life.
If you’re not delighted, then click here and this is the last email you’ll receive from us.
First, we state our desired outcome for our subscriber. This lets them know delighting them is a priority for us.
Second, we clearly state they are in control. Many people unsubscribe – and mark as SPAM – emails where they feel out of control. We want our subscribers to know they’re in control. By giving them that control, they are less likely to be reactionary.
Lastly, we give them a link to unsubscribe and promise we’ll never email them again if they click that link. This also invokes loss-minimizing behavior. If they ever got value from your emails, or if they reasonably believe they will get value, then they won’t click that link.
Even if they do click that link – and some do – their options will be a simple unsubscribe with no option to mark as SPAM. Since you’ve put them in control and treated them with respect, they don’t have a high need to mark you as SPAM. Try to do the right thing by your subscribers and they’ll try to do the right thing by you.
A powerful aspect of this step is it forces you to double-check the content you’re sending. You are actively encouraging your subscribers to unsubscribe, so you are motivated to meet their needs. If your marketing isn’t adding value to their lives, then you’ve got bigger issues than the size of your email list.
Step 4: Study your email engagement to see what’s resonating with your audience and what’s not
Use your engagement data to gain insights. Did you just get a high number of unsubscribes? Review the campaign and make a list of likely reasons and rank them. Then make an action plan to make changes in the future.
Study scroll maps and engagement statistics on emails. If they aren’t reading the email, you’re not captivating them. You’re not giving them what they want – or your writing is poor. Change that to increase their engagement.
Study your prospects like you would study a prospective mate. Figure out what delights them and do more of that. Figure out what turns them off and don’t do that. Yes, you are courting your prospects, and the better you do that, the more money you will make.
Put it to work
Now it’s your turn. Put these principles to work and virtually eliminate your SPAM complaints. But the greater reward is you’ll be serving your prospects and customers better. You will be adding value to their life. As long as you can maintain an imbalance – you give more value than you take – you will be on strong footing with your customer.