Spam complaints are terrible, because they can cost you a lot of business in different ways. You can be penalized by Google, you can lose your reputation with your customers and it can be more difficult to attract new customers. There are techniques to avoid having your content (specifically your emails) marked as spam, but sometimes these don’t work. So what can you do to decrease spam complaints?
Know the Rules
There are various rules that you have to stick by in order to avoid being marked a spammer. It is believed that around 50% of all mail that gets sent is actually spam, which is why many now have very strict filters on their accounts that will easily send any suspicious message straight to the spam box.
Check your from line, subject line and email copy, and avoid using language and techniques that might look like spam to a content-based spam filter.
Avoid words like “guaranteed” and “free”, don’t place any text in red, don’t use capital letters unless needed, avoid too much punctuation, don’t use “click here” links or have a subject line that is misleading.
Dealing with Complaints
In the world of spamming, the common belief is that you are guilty until proven innocent. This can be quite annoying as errors can be based on a simple mistake (someone accidentally clicking “report as spam”), or because someone doesn’t want to unsubscribe and marks you as spam instead. This can have disastrous consequences, because certain servers (such as AOL) could then block all messages sent from your domain. Hence, you have to always make sure you can prove you have obtained all email addresses in a legitimate way.
But as long as you collected your email list legitimately, and you can prove without a doubt that any complaint you received is a simple mistake, you’re in the clear. But if there’s any question about your list collection practices, it’s likely your account will have to be shut down.
The Mailing List
All of this goes to show how important it is that you work very hard at having a legitimate and accountable mailing list. You have to make sure that you can audit each and every name on that list, making it clear that you know where it came from and that you have permission to use it.
The most important thing to remember about avoiding spam complaints is to make sure you have permission. If you do not have permission and you send someone a message, you have sent spam. The best way to get permission is to use confirmed opt-in. Via this method, a confirmation email is sent to your subscriber. Unless they confirm their desire to be added to your mailing list (usually by clicking on a confirmation link in the confirmation email) they are not added to your mailing list. This method prevents a third party from subscribing another person’s email address, and prevents the subscription of a misspelled email address in error.
Never purchase email lists, because the chance of those emails being collected improperly is very high. This means that you increase your chances of getting marked as spam. This is also why you should never sell your email list, at all times respecting the privacy of those who have opted in to your mailings. The best practice would be to send a message once every six months or so to all members on your list asking whether they wish to remain. Although your list may dwindle, at least you know that you will not be reported as spam and will be classified as a trusted sender.