AMA Webinar Follow-up: More Ideas on Reducing Subscriber Complaints

Posted by Tom Sather on

For the AMA virtual conference “The Evolution of Email: Essentials for Campaign Success”, our presentation, “Where did my Email Go? Your Guide to Reaching the Inbox”, explored one of the most fundamental topics on email:  how your sending reputation impacts your ability to reach the inbox and communicate with your subscribers.

In order to protect our inboxes from spam, inbox providers look at a variety of signals to determine whether or not an email should be delivered.  Those spam filtering decisions are all based around the reputation of that IP address sending email. These reputation spam filters look at how many of your subscribers are marking your email as spam, how many non-existent email addresses you’re mailing to (called unknown users), how many decoy accounts you’re mailing to (referred to as spam traps), how well configured your mail server is, and how long you’ve been mailing from that IP address.

At Return Path, we took the guesswork out of determining why your email program is having reputation problems by creating a reputation scoring model analogous to a credit score called Sender Score.  Anyone is free to check the reputation of their sending IP addresses by registering for free at http://www.senderscore.org.  By doing so, you’ll gain insights into where you’re doing well, and which reputation metrics you need improvement with.  If you’re like most marketers, complaints are the number one reason that emails are filtered or blocked, and in our AMA webinar, I discussed a variety of ways that marketers can help reduce and manage subscriber complaints.

One of those methods used to help reduce complaints was to make the unsubscribe process as easy as possible.  If people are having a hard time locating your unsubscribe link because it’s buried in the footer, your subscribers are more likely to click on the “report spam” button to remove themselves from your list.

Guy Hanson from our Professional Services group shared with me some results he witnessed after he advised a marketer struggling with high complaints to place their unsubscribe link at the top of their emails.  After implementing his suggestion, they saw their complaint rate on two IP addresses drop from .50% to .15% and .12% respectively.  Their Sender Scores went from 71 and 73 to 81 and 90 after just a few weeks.  You can view the trend in the charts below.


Bonnie Malone, also in Professional Services, had a similar issue with a client and recommends marketers leverage analytics more.  Her client also had very high complaints, and she could immediately see a correlation between complaints and last site login after some initial analysis.  Her client was opposed to removing any inactive subscribers in fear of it impacting their site traffic.  Bonnie further analyzed campaign performance metrics of subscriber groups based on recency of site login (0-6 mos, 6-12 mos, 12-18 mos, 18+ mos), and was able to show that the bulk of their activity (90%+) came from their most recent subscribers (0-6 mo group) and that by cutting their most aged subscriber groups (12+ mos), they could reduce not only complaints, but also Microsoft Sender Reputation spam votes and recycled spam traps while not only helping their sending reputation, but doing so without impacting their site traffic.

If you missed our AMA webcast, you can watch it on-demand and learn of other ways to manage your complaints.  We also created an email metrics troubleshooting guide to help you determine what may be the cause for your drop in response and deliverability metrics.  You can view the webinar here and download the guide here.


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About Tom Sather

Email data and deliverability expert Tom Sather has worked with top-tier brands to diagnose and solve inbox placement and sender reputation issues as a strategic consultant with Return Path. As the company’s senior director of research, Tom is a frequent speaker and writer on email marketing trends and technology. His most recent analysis of new inbox applications’ effects on consumer behavior was widely cited across leading business media outlets including the Financial Times, Ad Age, and Media Post.

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