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5 Ways To Lower Spam Complain Rates (Why This Is Vital)

A broken vendor machine can never give you your quarterback. That’s a fact. Likewise, a broken brush can never paint a perfect picture. In the same case, High Spam complaint rates can never deliver results despite your email marketing efforts.

Email marketing is art and art is painfully beautiful. It is pleasing to the eyes but heavy to the heart. We may not always paint that perfect picture hence we may not always pass out the message well. From an email marketing perspective, this causes some people to complain instantly, or others to complain after the painting becomes meaningless to them.

What is a Spam Complaint Rate?

Spam complaint rate is the percentage of your clients who choose to mark your email messages as spam. They choose to get you out of their inbox and to the spam folder where they don’t have to see you.

According to most ESPs, your spam complaint rate should stay below 0.1%. This means that for every 1000 email messages you send, you should get 1 or fewer persons sending you to their spam folder.

Once, a subscriber marks your emails as spam, they are no longer delivered to their inbox. Instead, they go straight to the user’s spam folder that is less likely to be opened. In addition, your sender score begins to drop, this will hurt your sending reputation and overall your email deliverability will be affected.

How Spam Complaints Occur

Spam complaints can occur out of anything.

Let us take a simple scenario.

You just moved into your new office space which you don’t pay for. Out of your curiosity, you met with this aggressive sales representative from a digital company in Los Angeles. He launched his first online store on Shopify. You are tech-savvy of course. You chat for a while, luckily get his contact and you keep it. Surprisingly, and out of the blue, he tells you how Shopify business is good. You are eager to find out more since rent is beating your pants down and again, you are trying to find an additional source of income to supplement your day job.

Sales Are Not That Good

So you launch a store with Shopify. Unexpectedly, sales are not as good with around 1-2 customes per month. However, you observe that customers are adding items to cart, but leaving them unattended. So you engage in some intensive research on why and learn something about a business growth strategy. Additionally, your research advises you to retarget using ESP’s marketing platforms. You even come across an email marketing platform and go for it. Obviously, you have a rich contact form, so you don’t have to hustle to get customer emails. On the worst, and in the effort to get some purchases, you buy some contacts and start sending out emails to your customers aggressively. In the morning, late mornings, afternoons and evenings.

You did your research, didn’t you?

The Impact

Honestly speaking, this is the worst you can do. The effect is that most of those customers will mark your emails as spam. They will delete them without opening and in worst case, mark them as spam and delete. Or they will not open your emails at all. Your “delete rate” will be more than your open rate.

Actually, your click-through rate will most likely be zero. Let’s not talk about your complain rate!

Every time, a customer marks your email as spam, that’s a complain rate registered. Remember that we are aiming at only 1 or fewer complains out of every 1000 emails sent. What are your chances of getting a positive sending reputation if this is how you do it?

Here are some different scenarios in which spam complain
rates occur.

How Spam Complains Can Occur

I did not subscribe to your mailing list

Typos, incorrect domains can cause wrong email addresses which are valid and owned by people. If the real owners of these email addresses start receiving unsolicited emails, they will complain. Alternatively,
some of the misspelled addresses can turn to be spam traps, and you’ll be known
as a bad sender if you deliver mail to these addresses.

I only subscribed to your mailing list

If a subscriber-only subscribed to receive emails from a company Z, but later receive emails from company M and C, they will complain. This can happen when: several brands operate within a parent company, or the opt-in process implicated the permission of the subscriber to share their personal details with “trusted partners.” On the worst, this will also happen when you sell or buy customer emails. DO NOT BUY CONTACTS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE.

I only created an account with you

You have to appreciate the fact that some customers are not as tech-savvy as you are. As such, when they create an account with a company, they don’t know that you remain with their emails and as such, you may send them emails from time to time depending on your growth strategy.

Some will create an account with you to test your service or download a trial. In such a case, you will ask them to provide an email address. However, they don’t actually expect to receive marketing from you. When they do, they will most likely mark your emails as spam. This will increase your spam complaint rate.

I don’t recognize you anymore

As part of your strategy. You may merge with another company. Alternatively, you may decide to change your brand name for branding reasons or whatever reason. Unless you communicated this with your earlier business name, customers will not recognize who you are.

Basically, this is because the change will likewise come with a change in your branding, new colors, images, copy. Customers may mark your emails as spam in such scenarios hence a hike in your spam complaint rate.

You are not delivering what you promised

You promised to send emails only once in a week but I seeing your emails on a daily basis. Wassup with you? I hit the spam button ASAP.

Basically, complaints can occur at any stage of the customer lifecycle for different reasons. One of them is mismatched expectations. If you promised to send weekly emails, the stick to that. Don’t crowd your subscriber inbox. Do you want your inbox crowded? What do you do when it is crowded? Hit the spam button, right? I will do the same.

How to Lower The Spam Complains?

Based on our scenarios above, let us take a look at how you can reduce spam complaints emanating from those scenarios.

I did not subscribe to your mailing list

To avoid worst-case scenarios, use a confirmed opt-in process. Make sure to regularly check your list for malformed domains and don’t forget to check your mailing list for disposable email addresses and if necessary, dispose of them.

I only subscribed to your mailing list

I will insist, DO NOT BUY EMAIL CONTACTS. Segment your customers and list all the brands that the customers will receive emails from on the opt-in page. This will make them know what they are getting themselves into. If you will be sending emails from third parties, then provide a separate opt-in form and allow people to subscribe to emails from third parties as well. Don’t send third-party emails, if customers did not check into this checkbox.

I only created an account with you

Simply put, do not automatically add new members to your mailing list. If you have to, then let them know, send an opt-in link in the welcome email and clearly tell them about the benefits of being on your list. Otherwise, the spam complaints will definitely spike.

I don’t recognize you anymore

Communicate with your customers about your change of name. Let them decide whether they want to continue receiving an email from you with your new brand name. Brand your form section to match the domain on your subscription page and use it consistently in every email you send out. Use a pre-header to increase visibility, and if it is not necessary, don’t change your writing style.

You are not delivering what you promised

If you say emails received weekly, then stick to that. If you say you will only send emails on how to, stick to that. The reason for this is that the customer only wants to learn how to from you. Not anything else. Don’t disappoint them otherwise you will get that complain.

Why It’s Important

It’s important to keep in mind that, Spam complaints are reports made by email recipients against emails they don’t want in their inbox. Remember that, if it doesn’t make it to the inbox, then it doesn’t matter. Your research on best practices will be worthless and so will be your email marketing efforts unless you aim at reducing those complaints. You will likewise find it hard to supplement your day income leave alone pay rent.

Success in email marketing is hugely influenced by your email deliverability rate. Spam complaints are bad for this. If you want to find it easy to pay rent, then keep note on these best practices.


Email Marketing is an art. It starts out with a vision, collecting the necessary materials, painting a pretty picture to draw people to you, and then expressing yourself in the emails.

With time, this becomes habitual, with a few mistakes here and there of course, but in the end, crafting emails will become natural to you.


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Eric Mumo

Eric is a Content Creator at Relevon. You'll find him researching, documenting and writing marketing and technical content for Relevon's Blog.