Simple Tips to Lower Spam Complaints
If customers are consistently marking your emails as spam, there are a few easy steps that you can take to rectify this. First, you need have a good understanding of what type of spam rate is realistic for your industry. If you’re a retailer there are times of the year you can expect to see spam rates spike, these times usually fall around major holidays. You can expect your spam complaint rate to go up in November and December.
Not sure why your spam rate is so high? Here are some things to consider.
Are your subject lines unappealing to your customers?
Subject lines can be tricky. And a lot of times, the subject line is what makes the customer believe the email is spam. Try making your subject lines more relevant, include information that will stand out to your customer. For some companies it’s as simple as adding the lead’s first name to the subject line. Other times, it’s including information about a previous purchase, or putting in a discount.
Whatever you do, stay away from sensational subject lines. Many companies try out subject lines such as ‘Alert: Low Balance’, ‘Alert: Account Closed’, etc. to try and get opens. While there may be a boost in opens, there will also be a boost in complaints, and angry customers. Keep the subject line relevant to the content, and relevant to your user.
Are the links/is the content in your email broken?
Sometimes out of frustration with a broken campaign customers will mark something as spam because the images don’t load, or the links don’t work. Test your campaign widely in multiple MSPs before sending. You should have test accounts in all the major MSPs for this purpose, gmail, yahoo, aol, hotmail, etc. If your email loads consistently and your links work across all those platforms, chances are your links/images are fine.
Is your unsubscribe link hidden/difficult to find/not working?
Move your unsubscribe link to the top of your email. Make the unsubscribe link bold. This WILL increase your amount of unsubscribes, but this will also lower your spam complaints. More importantly, test your unsubscribe link and make sure it’s working. I’ve gotten a lot of push back in the past about making unsubscribe links highly visible. If your user loves your emails, no matter how bold your unsubscribe link is, they’re not going to click on it.
Don’t hide your unsubscribe links in hopes that you won’t lose users from your list. Your goal should be to keep an engaged list, not the largest list you can manage. What good is a list of one million leads who never interact with your campaigns?
Are you sending the same email over and over?
Are you changing up your content? Or are you sending the same promotions over and over again? Try switching up your content. Try a different kind of promotion, try a good-will campaign — do something different.
Often times I see companies resend the same email over and over again. I’m not sure why exactly they do this, maybe laziness. If the email isn’t working on me the first time around, why would it work on the second, the third, or the tenth time?
If you typically stick to discounts and you’re not seeing the engagement you’d like, here’s something you might try to up your engagement: run a sweepstakes through a social media outlet for a $50 gift card. Send an email out to your list about the gift card and the promotion, give it a ten day window. The day before the sweepstakes is set to end, send out a reminder email.
Are you emailing your customers too often?
As a rule, unless you’re realtor.com or trulia.com, don’t email your customers every day. There is another exception to this rule, if you have a daily deal email, sending daily is fine as long as the customers know upfront they’re going to be emailed every day. I’m a huge fan of the woot.com emails, but I knew what I was getting into when I signed up for them.
If you don’t have daily deals, and you’re seeing your list die a slow death … Have you heard of list fatigue? This happens when a business sends to their list too often and their customers are sick of seeing the emails. Let’s face it, most of the time it’s way easier to click the spam button than it is to dig through content to find an unsubscribe link.
Are you sending on the wrong day of the week? At the wrong time of day?
If you’re getting a TON of spam complaints, try sending your campaigns at 11am on a Thursday, or 7pm on a Tuesday, etc. Pick a time that shouldn’t be high traffic for other retailers. You may be sending to your customers at the wrong time of day/week. As a rule, I recommend staying away from Monday’s for sending, unless it’s in the evening. Keep in mind that your customers are likely busy starting their week and aren’t super engaged in their emails.
I know that Monday’s I typically mass delete emails without giving them a second glance. If I got the same campaign on a Tuesday, or a Wednesday, there’s at least a chance that I would open it.
Are you emailing for the wrong reasons?
Are you sending emails because you have something important to communicate to your customers? Or are you sending an email because you feel like you have to? If you have to, do a small control group. Find employees in your business, or go to your friends — take the email you’re considering sending to your customers, but replace your company name with a competitor. This is how you’ll get honest feedback. Your employees/friends won’t want to hurt your feelings, but if they believe that the email is for a competitor they’re more likely to be honest.
As a rule, if you don’t have anything to say to your customers, you don’t have to say anything. I’ve seen many retailers get into a pattern where they feel like they MUST email their customers once a week. But, there’s no rhyme or reason for the mailings. When you look at these campaigns, they don’t feel like they’re part of a plan, there’s no trajectory, there’s no branding. If you don’t have anything to say this week, wait another week. Send when you have something relevant to say, or something relevant to offer.
Are you listening to your customers?
What do your customers have to say about your emails? Have you asked for their opinion? Sending out a survey to your list can be a good tool to get feedback on how your email program is going. However, reward the customers that do fill out the survey. Give them a coupon, or small gift card at the end of the survey for filling it out. (Don’t tell them about this before they fill it out)
Softening the blow of high spam complaint rates
There are some other factors to be aware of if your spam complaint rates are high. If you don’t already, monitor your sending IP for reputation (you can do this through return path).
Do you have a dedicated IP address for your emails?
If you send over 30,000 emails per month, you should have a dedicated IP address for your email campaigns. If you send under that amount, you don’t necessarily need one — BUT if you’re sharing an IP address with retailers with a horrible sending reputation that will cascade onto your reputation.
I’ve had campaigns blocked for this reason before. A mistake was made by an ESP and the account I managed was never given its own IP address. While doing my daily evaluation of campaigns I’d sent out, I noticed one was completely blocked by one email provider. When I checked in with my whitelisting team, we’d been blocked for hitting too many spam traps. It took a few days to get the block lifted, and we found out we weren’t guilty of hitting any spam traps, but a retailer sharing our IP was.
Are you sending transactional messages?
If you send transactional emails you’ll be able to balance out a high spam complaint rate. Transactional emails are benign, and more likely to have positive interaction. If you’re able to send transactional emails, SEND THEM. Order confirmation, receipts, invoices, shipping confirmation, reminders, etc.
Have you looked at your competition?
If all else fails, look at who is doing email right. That might be your competition, that might be Best Buy. To be an expert in email for your business you need to know who has figured it out. Sign up for the email lists of competitors, retailers, and major brands. Get on every list that you feel might have valuable campaigns that you can learn from.
I hope you’ve found this helpful. One of the most important things about email marketing is the ability to evolve, especially in the ecommerce space. Your customers needs, their wants, those are not static things. No industry is static either. Do not let your email program stagnate. If you have a this is good enough attitude you will never truly exceed in your marketing efforts. The most important thing is to look at your campaigns, your marketing and say what can I do better? How can I be more relevant?
Note: some pictures used on this page are from FreePik.com