When sending emails to contacts, you may receive some spam complaints. If you receive more than a few, these complaints can harm your sender reputation, deliverability rates, or even get you blocked by ISPs.

How spam complaints work?

When an email is marked as spam or junk mail, a spam complaint is logged. The report is automatically sent to the recipient's ISP, and a warning is sent to the sender's ESP. If you're sending your email through Gist, our Email Deliverability & Abuse Management staff receives the warning message.

Usually, the warning hides the identity of the person who is complaining and includes a copy of the email you sent along with a brief message stating that their customers are complaining about your emails and that action must be taken to address the issue or our server will be blocked

How to calculate your spam complaint rate?

It’s a pretty simple calculation. Your spam complaint rate is how many recipients out of all those that receive your email mark it as spam.

Spam complaint rate = Number of recipients who mark it your message as spam / Total number of message recipients

For example, if you send 5,000 messages and 5 people mark it as spam, your spam rate is 0.1% (5/5,000). 

How we handle abuse reports

To protect your sending reputation and our own, we carefully monitor abuse reports so that we can immediately pinpoint any problems as they arise. If we detect a problem, we can re-distribute email delivery to different servers and IP addresses while we investigate the workspace in question.

If you are investigated for an abuse report, you need to show that you've collected your contact list legitimately and that the complaint against you was made in error. If we can't be sure that the complaint was a mistake, we will likely have to shut down your workspace until you've taken steps to improve your list.

We recommend that you take the time to be sure your account is in compliance with our Terms of Use, which prohibit purchased and rented lists or opt-out lists.

Common reasons for abuse reports

Some abuse reports are the result of a subscribed contact marking mail as spam either by mistake or because they don't realize that marking mail as spam actually generates an abuse report.

Here are some common mistakes even legitimate marketers make that may cause recipients to report abuse.

Stale Lists

The marketer collected emails legitimately through an opt-in form on their site, but didn't contact them soon after. A subscribed contact could receive a newsletter they don't remember signing up for two years ago.

Lists From Online Purchases

The marketer has a list of email addresses from customers who have purchased products from them in the past. They want to email them but instead of asking purchasers to join their email subscriptions, they just add them and send.

Trade Show or Third Party Lists

When a marketer exhibits at a trade show or sponsored event, they receive a list of attendee email addresses. Rather than ask the attendees to join their email subscriptions, they assume they have permission and send.

Fish Bowls and Business Cards

People drop their business cards in a bowl to enter a drawing for a prize. This can seem like a common sense list building technique, but entering a drawing doesn't qualify as giving permission to receive emails.

Purchased or Rented Lists

The marketer purchased or rented members' email addresses from an organization, then added them to their lists without getting permission first.

In order to stay compliant with our Terms of Use and avoid abuse reports as much as possible, always get permission to send to the contacts in your contacts.

Ways to prevent spam reports

Some key strategies to decrease spam complaint rates include:

  • Make your unsubscribe link easily accessible
  • Enable double opt-in
  • Enable global unsubscribes
  • Avoid spammy subject lines
  • Ensure that your emails render for all users