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Disclaimers. Whether in email, print marketing, or contracts, who reads them? We’ll tell you who reads email disclaimer language: spam filters. Email senders often put disclaimer language at the bottom of an email saying something like “You are receiving this email because you opted in and requested to receive it.” Of course how often do you think a user sees a message that starts with “You have received this message because” and thinks “Oh! That’s right, I did ask for this, so I won’t mark it as spam!”? Less often than you might hope.

How often do you think that a user sees that and thinks “This must be spam”? More often that you would hope. Now, how often do you think that a spam filter sees that language and considers it a sign that the email in which it appears may be spam? More often than you would like.

The “good” news, if it can be called that, is that more than 90% of people don’t read even legally binding terms. The bad news is that the spam filters almost always do.

How Email Disclaimer Language Can Hurt Your Deliverability

There are two audiences who are taking note of your disclaimer language: humans (your subscribers or users) and machines (the spam filters).

First, 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.”

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Second, it’s really important to remember that many spam filtering algorithms are reading every bit of the email that you send in order to make a decision as to whether it should be delivered to the inbox or the spam folder. And if spam filters (and users!) are led to think “spam” when they see the above sort of disclaimer language, just imagine what they do with something like this:

“DISCLAIMER: Our Company is a social networking site allowing registered users to send messages 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.”

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

Again, people sending legitimate email do not need to put this sort of disclaimer language in their email.

Spammers, however, put disclaimers like this in their email all the time. Which is why spam filters think that email containing this sort of disclaimer language is more likely to be spam. And which is why you shouldn’t include this sort of disclaimer language in your email.

So what sort of language should you use? One of the best ways to remind people that they signed up for your email is in the same place you let them know how to unsubscribe (keeping in mind that Federal law requires a 1-step unsubscribe), with a simple line such as:

“You are subscribed to this list as user@example.com. To unsubscribe, click here.”

Short, to the point, and much less spammy.

2 Ways that Email Disclaimer Language Can Hurt Your Deliverability

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2 Responses

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

    So 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 we 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!

  2. 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.

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