I received my first spam complaint!
I’ve been publishing my newsletter, Conversation2Sales, since October of 2009, a full 20 months of newsletters, and this is the first time I’ve gotten a spam complaint.
For those who don’t know, a spam complaint happens when someone marks an email you sent as spam.
My first reaction was, “What! How could they?! All of my subscribers asked to be on my list.”
Once my emotions had settled down, I set about doing some research. I discovered that the subscriber who submitted the spam complaint subscribed in December of 2009. He opened one email from me in early 2010, then no activity from him until the spam complaint.
So, it wasn’t that I had added him without his permission – and I didn’t remember it – it was that he had forgotten he had himself subscribed!
If you do any kind of email marketing, one of your messages will be marked as spam. It’s not a question of “if” but “when” this happens. It’s important to monitor your spam complaints since too many in a short time can get your account suspended. No access to your list means that you can’t communicate with them in a timely manner, which, of course, means that you lose out on possible sales. Plus, it just makes you feel bad 🙁
While you cannot prevent spam complaints completely, you can do something to reduce the number that you receive.
First, you need to understand more about what a spam complaint is: When you view your email inside your email viewer, Outlook for instance, there is always a button that says something along the lines of “This is spam.” Clicking that button moves the email from your ‘inbox’ to your spam folder and any further email from that sender will automatically get placed in your spam folder.
But there is another step that happens that most people are unaware of: that sender gets reported as a spammer to their Email Service Provider (ESP).
ESP’s understand that when you are engaged in email marketing, spam complaints happen. Your recipients don’t understand the consequences to you when they click the “spam” button so some use it instead of delete to remove emails from their inbox. Some people simply push the button accidentally. For these reasons, ESP’s don’t take one or two spam complaints as an indication of any wrong doing on your part. However, when you have a large number of complaints in a short time, or have a long history of getting complaints, they will take action and block your account.
Create an environment where spam complaints are a rarity by following these guidelines:
1. Use a Double Opt In.
After clicking the Subscribe button, your potential subscriber must click a link sent to them in an email in order to be confirmed to your list. This process ensures that those who end up on your list really want to be there. It also prevents people from signing up their friends and acts as a double check that the email address was entered correctly.
2. Contact them immediately.
People have amazingly short memories and will actually forget signing up with you if you delay too long before you contact them. Prevent this by sending valuable content immediately after someone signs up on your list.
3. Stay in touch.
When you publish infrequently, or take a long break from publishing, you risk people forgetting who you are in the interim. Any delay of 2 months or more will increase your chance of getting a spam complaint. Publish at least once a month and be consistent! If you have to miss an issue, send a quick email letting your subscribers know. This is better than hoping that they simply won’t notice you skipped an issue since they are more likely to forget who you are instead!
4. Send them only what they subscribed to.
Once you have someone’s email address, it can be tempting to send them an announcement about every little thing you do. Don’t. In fact the CAN-Spam Act (see sidebar for more information) sets limits on what type of email you can send to the different types of people you have on your list — buyers vs. subscribers, for instance. Instead of one list you put everyone on, create multiple lists (or segments) so that you can easily keep track of what each individual has signed up for. Then, customize what you send out so that each message only goes to those who want to receive it.
5. Remove bounces.
When email is undeliverable, your email service provider will mark it as bounced. Soft bounces indicate a temporary problem with the email account (for instance, the account is full or the recipient set up a vacation auto response). Hard bounces indicate the email address is no longer valid. Soft bounces become hard bounces after 3 unsuccessful attempts at delivery. Spammers don’t care about the quality of their lists so they will repeatedly send to bounced addresses. When you do the same, your behavior makes you look like a spammer, even when you are not. If your email service provider doesn’t automatically remove all bounced emails from your account, go in and do it yourself manually.
6. Clean your list of non-responders.
If you email service provider gives you access to behavior statistics of your subscribers (one of the features that I LOVE about MailChimp), use it to check to see who is opening (and clicking) on your emails. People who have been receiving your emails but not responding to them have not experienced the value that you provide and are more likely to not even remember signing up with you.
Email marketing can help you grow your business, but only when your subscribers are actively interested in what you offer. Quantity is not nearly as important as quality, so learn to freely cut the emails of those no longer interested from your list. Do your part to keep your subscribers engaged in your content and you will experience more success in your marketing efforts as well as limit your inevitable spam complaints.