You’d think that by now people would understand that spam complaints impact your deliverability, both to the inbox and, ultimately, even to the inbox provider themselves. Yet we regularly get questions and comments, both in the course of our business day, and in casual conversation, which make clear that there is something that people just aren’t grokking, so here it is, put as plainly and clearly as we can put it: If you get too many spam complaints your email is going to start going to the junk folder and may eventually be blocked.


End of story.

Well, not really end of story, because it can go further than you being blocked: you may end up reported to and finding yourself listed on an anti-spam blocklist such as SORBS or SpamCop, or even Spamhaus. And you really don’t want that.

Why Do Spam Complaints Matter So Much?

Inbox providers pay pretty close attention to spam complaints, which include both people reporting you directly to the inbox providers, and people clicking “this is spam” on your email. Even people who request your email may end up clicking “this is spam on it” (read why here).

And the thing is, every time someone hits “this is spam” with your email, it increases your spam complaint level, and when you hit a certain number of complaints, it’s straight into the junk folder for you. And if you don’t address those spam complaints, and don’t keep them below a certain level, your email will eventually be blocked. It’s that simple.

How Many Spam Complaints is Too Many?

How many spam complaints is too many? Well a good rule of thumb is that inbox providers and other ISPs want to see fewer than 1 spam complaint per every 1000 pieces of email that you send. That’s a complaint rate of one-tenth of one percent. Or, put another way, that’s a complaint rate of 0.001.

This is just one of the many reasons that it’s so very important to pay attention to your spam complaints, and your spam complaint rate.

Now, the fact that people don’t get this, or don’t believe it, was brought home yet again during a recent conversation with someone about why we discourage our senders from doing co-registration, also known as “co-reg”.

It should be pretty obvious.

When you send email to someone who doesn’t have a direct, recognizable relationship with you, they are going to report it as spam.

Why is that so hard to understand?

It doesn’t matter that when they signed up at some other website they agreed to “receive email from partners”. And of course that “agreement” is usually not really an informed agreement, as they usually haven’t actually read those terms, and equally often that “share my address with your partners” box is pre-checked, and they haven’t even noticed the box, let alone that it’s checked.

But even if they do realize that they are agreeing to having third parties send them email, they probably have no idea that YOU are one of those third parties!

So of course they are going to report your email as spam!

But back to our original point. Let us repeat it:

Spam complaints = going to the junk folder.

And, if not attended to, eventually to being blocked.

It’s pretty simple. There’s not an ISP or inbox provider on the planet that does not monitor spam complaints. And if the email you send generates X% spam complaints (where X differs among ISPs but, again, a good rule of thumb is more than 1 per thousand pieces of email sent), they are going to put you in the junk folder.

So, it behooves you to do everything you can to reduce spam complaints. That includes optimizing your content, reducing your HTML, rectifying less-than-ideal sending practices, and a whole lot more.

Yes, it is a lot of work, and a lot to stay on top of. That’s why people pay us to do it for them! But that’s neither here nor there, nor the point of this article. The point of this article is to drill into your head, once and for all that..

Spam Complaints = Going to the Junk Folder

Print it out and tape it on your monitor.

The Bottom Line: Spam Complaints = Getting Junkfoldered and Maybe Even Blocked

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