Today most blocking and filtering are reputation-based and your complaint rate is a critical measure of your overall reputation. Your high complaint rate is the most frequent cause of delivery problems and generally results in a poor reputation score. In other words, you cannot have a good reputation and strong delivery performance if your subscribers are complaining to ISPs about your mail. In general, if 0,1% (on each ISP, not your email in total) or more of your emails get complaints, you will start to get blocked.

Why do subscribers complain?

Legitimate marketers experience a rise in complaint rates when their email program fails to meet subscriber expectations. This could mean mailing too frequently, for example your subscriber signed up for the “Weekly Deals” newsletter but you decide to start mailing daily. This is a recipe for an increase in complaints. Or your subscriber signed up for the “Daily Deal” but you only mail a few times a month, causing your subscriber to forget about your newsletter. This results in complaints when it finally arrives.

How Subscribers Complain About Email

Complaints occur when subscribers complain about your email. There are several ways a subscriber can lodge a complaint about your email. These are:

  • the subscriber hits the “report spam” button (or equivalent) in their email application.
  • the subscriber sends a message complaining about a sender to the postmaster group at the ISP.
  • the subscriber sends a complaint to a filtering application (like Cloudmark’s Spam Net) or a complaint‐driven blacklist like Spam Cop.
  • the email was voted as “Junk” during a Windows Live Sender Reputation Data poll.


From which ISPs do Symplify get complaints from

Not all ISPs offer Feedback Loops. A Feedback Loop is where you can sign up to get information about who clicked the spam button. We have sign up Symplify and all of our IP addresses to the Feedback Loops that are available out there. So whenever someone hits the “spam button” on one of the following ISPs this will be presented as a complaint in your report:

  • Hotmail
  • Yahoo/AT&T/BT/Shaw (You must set up Authentication and make sure you have created abuse@ and postmaster@ email addresses to each domain and registered them with Yahoo to make it work. Please contact support for help. Read more about authentication)
  • Excite/BlueTie/MyWay/iWon
  • RoadRunner
  • COX
  • Comcast
  • OpenSRS
  • Mailtrust/Rackspace

How to Minimize Complaint Rates

  1. Find out if Subscribers Are Complaining
    More than likely, some subscribers are complaining about your mail. It happens to everyone. However, you need to know how serious the complaints are and if they are hurting your email reputation. Look in your statistics for how many complaints you get. Is it more than 0,1%?
  2. Find out why subscribers are complaining
    Does your email program meet subscriber expectations? Examine the subscriber experience. Look specifically for areas where the expectation you set for the subscriber is not played out in the on‐going communication with the subscriber. Where you find areas that do not live up to the expectation you’ve set or where expectations are not clearly set, change them. Pay special attention to the following:
  3. Do they know the email is coming from you?
    Make sure you set clear expectations by aligning your Consent and Disclosure statements with your privacy policy and permission practices at the point of sign up. For example, if you are sending third‐party offers or simply asking people to sign up for your email program, make sure your subscribers give their explicit consent, and make certain that all email is clearly labeled as coming from you. Sometimes it can be a simple case of mistaken identity.
    • Are you delivering something different than you promised?
      If subscribers aren’t interested in your email then they may complain about it. Make sure you are setting the right expectations when they sign up. And remember, subscriber interests can change over time. Offer a preference center. Providing subscribers with choices can help reduce your complaint rate. Make it easy for them to choose the email they want to receive and when. By doing so, you will have an active and engaged subscriber list that complains a lot less about your email.
    • Can subscribers easily remove themselves from your list?
      Make sure your unsubscribe process is clear, conspicuous, and functional. Don’t make it hard for them to unsubscribe because you want to prevent them from leaving. If you do, the only alternative is to lodge a complaint by reporting your email as spam. Combat this problem by placing unsubscribe instructions in an area where users are most likely to see it. Allow users to unsubscribe by offering a “oneclick” mechanism and provide multiple methods to unsubscribe (like a link to a simple web form or replying with “unsubscribe” in the subject line). Also make sure your email is CAN‐SPAM compliant.
    • Are you sending too much email?
      Changing your frequency can cause a spike in complaints. If you suddenly start to send more mail that you originally promised, alert your users so they can opt‐out or opt‐down from your email program instead of reporting your email as spam.
    • Is your list clean?
      Make sure your data sources are good and reliable. This can be bolstered by your permission practices. For example, validating data at sign up and using double‐opt coupled with a welcome message can go a long way to ensuring the data enters your system clean. If you obtain your data from a third party, make sure you vet the partner and perform regular audits. Once the data is in your system, perform regular maintenance on it. Sending to unknown users and bad email addresses can cause your reputation metrics to nose dive. Take a look at the age of your subscriber email addresses on your list and make sure you are only mailing to active users. By maintaining a clean list, you can also avoid spam traps. (More on spam traps later.)
  4. Analyze the data regularly
    Perform a detailed quantitative analysis of your mailing program to determine where there is a disproportionate amount of complaints generated. When analyzing the data, look for high rates associated with a data source, activity, response rates, customer segments, and content or campaigns. Where you find areas of high complaints, take the appropriate action to either remove the records permanently from your database or eliminate a poor data partner. Once corrected, complaint rates should decrease over time. Continue to monitor volume and rate of complaints.
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