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Disclaimers. Whether in email, print marketing, or contracts, who reads them?

I’ll tell you who reads them: spam filters.

How often do you think a user reads a message that starts with “You have received this message because you have opted in” or “You received this message due to your subscription” and thinks “Oh! That’s right, I did ask for this, so I won’t mark it as spam?”

Now, how often do you think that a spam filter (or, indeed, a user) sees that and thinks “This must be spam”?

Legitimate email doesn’t have to tell the user that it’s legitimate email. The user knows. And if the user doesn’t recognize it as mail they requested (particularly if it isn’t), then telling them that it’s legitimate won’t make it so. They’ll still hit “this is spam.”

And if you think that spam filters and users are lead to think “spam” when they see the above type of disclaimer, just imagine what they do with something like this:

“DISCLAIMER: Our Company is a social networking site allowing registered users to send mesages to their friends and family. Our Terms and Conditions are agreed to by every sender of a message. We are not responsible for any content or images sent, however, please contact us if you have any concerns. You can contact us via our websie, or at 325 W. 45th Street, New York, New York, 10036.”

Does that scream “it looks like spam” to you? It should. Yet, lots of legitimate senders continue to put language like this in their email every day. And, lots of those legitimate senders get their email blocked or junk foldered.

Again, people sending legitimate email do not need to put disclaimers like this in their email.

But, spammers put disclaimers like this in their email all the time. Which is why spam filters think that email containing disclaimers is likely to be spam. And which is why you shouldn’t include them in your email.

One of the best ways to remind people that they signed up is in the same place you let them know how to unsubscribe, with a simple line such as:

“You are subscribed to this list as user@example.com. To change your subscription options or to unsubscribe, click here.”

Short, to the point, and much less spammy looking.


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2 Responses

  1. I have to respectfully disagree with you on not including a “disclaimer” on legitimate email. I would consider a statement like “You subscribed to receive email from XYZ company through our website. You are subscribed as…” helpful to remind people why and where they signed up to receive email from you. I would, however, be interested to see the results of an A/B split test to see if including this language does in fact reduce complaints or unsubscribes.

  2. Hi Kelly!

    I don’t think that we really disagree. :-) What you are suggesting isn’t all that different from my suggested “You are subscribed to this list as user@example.com. To change your subscription options or to unsubscribe, click here.”

    I apologize if I wasn’t clear – it’s not telling them where they subscribed that’s the problem – it’s the defensive sounding disclaimer that tells them *why* they are receiving the email (which I suppose is a subtle difference from “you subscribed to receive email from XYZ company through our website”). It’s all about the wording, and the length of the disclaimer. And yes, testing is *always* a great idea!

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