Any Time Is a Great Time to Review…Complaints!

Posted by Quincy Johnston 

It’s that time of year again when the flowers start to bloom, the days get longer and warmer, and…oh yeah and I need to turn in my taxes! This got me thinking about a blog from a few years ago, highlighting the certainties in life Death, Taxes, and Spam Complaints, which, for better or worse, is still just as relevant today. So if you’re finding that you still can’t avoid spam complaints, it’s time to evaluate how you can best handle them and  look at the data you can leverage to help you.

Our recent report–The Hidden Metrics of Email Deliverability–is a fantastic resource for marketers to understand what causes complaints and to benchmark their program against the average in their industry. Guy Hanson, Return Path’s Senior Director of Professional Services, said it best, “Spam complaints are reflected in a program’s sender reputation metrics and impact negatively on inbox Placement rates as a result. They also provide an accurate inverse measurement of subscriber engagement levels. High complaints=low engagement and this manifests–on a straight line basis–in reduced deliverability to the inbox.”

What does all this mean, and what should you, the sender, focus on?

Contributing Factors
There are several variables that can cause spam complaints, but you have to listen to your subscribers, to identify the root cause. Why are subscribers complaining?

  • They don’t recognize or remember you

  • Too many emails

  • Content isn’t relevant

  • It is too hard to Unsubscribe

Spam complaints are a direct signal from your subscriber to the mailbox provider, to let them know your content is unwanted. Don’t be fooled—21% of deliverability issues were caused by high spam complaints. What should you be listening for?

  • Feedback loops—ensure these are set up for all available mailbox providers

  • Unsubscribes—review data to identify trends in spikes and the potential mail stream source

  • This is Not Spam (TINS)—Return Path’s Certification Program and Inbox Insight tools grant this additional layer of visibility, as to how many subscribers are attempting to rescue your campaign

Over the past year, particularly over the holidays, we see an increase in complaints. We were able to track complaint rates across different industries including banking, manufacturing, gifts, health and beauty, media, and sporting goods. The overarching theme is that subscribers are not always tolerant of increased volume.  


If you want a successful email campaign in 2016, you’ll have to evaluate more data behind the scenes. A driving force of successful email programs this year  will be leveraging the insight complaints can provide and overcoming the challenge through personalized frequency profiles.  

Author Image

About Quincy Johnston

Quincy Johnston is a Technical Account Manager at Return Path. She has a passion for getting into the weeds with clients, surfacing the most valuable data for that "ah-ha" moment. Helping her clients be the HERO is what drives her. When not working, Quincy can be found at your local park or swimming pool with her two young boys, running with her dog, or snowboarding. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Author Archive