How to reduce spam e-mail complaints ~
Canning spam complaints

E-mail inboxes continue to be filled with unwanted e-mail messages despite the introduction of Australian anti-spam legislation.

The dilemma that businesses now face is that despite a businesses’ compliance with the anti-spam legislation, it is still possible for frustrated e-mail recipients to lodge spam complaints.

Such complaints may not attract the penalties imposed by legislation, though they may affect a businesses account status with their internet service provider.

The reasons behind a recipient lodging a complaint often vary. For example, the recipient may not remember having subscribed to your e-newsletter list; they may not remember your company name; they may no longer be interested in your products; or they may feel that you send too many messages and are simply annoyed with that volume of e-mails.

Many businesses have learnt that their list collection methods and list maintenance are the best way to reduce complaints and spam reports. The following tips will help you maintain a healthy subscriber list.

Confirmed opt-in – The best way to ensure that your subscribers want to receive mailings from you is by using a confirmed opt-in process. You may be familiar with this process. It requires your subscribers to confirm their subscription by replying to an e-mail before they can be added to your e-mail list.

Sometimes customers do not understand this process or do not bother responding, so your e-mail list may end up being shorter, though at least this way you know that the people who do respond want to hear from your business.

Your list only – It is no longer acceptable to purchase e-mail lists or use third-party lists. You should remove any e-mail addresses obtained from third party sources.

Aging your list – Many people forget over time that they have subscribed to lists. It is also possible for people's interest in products to be transitionary, for example for mailings relating to holiday travel or weddings.

To avoid these problems you can age your list by removing some of the older listings.

How old is too old? The answer will depend on your business, the nature of your products, how frequently and how recently the relevant subscribers have been e-mailed.

There are no specific rules as all businesses are different. Some businesses will know that some of their best customers are their oldest customers, so the culling of all e-mail addresses obtained before a specific date may not be suitable for those businesses.

One method that will be appropriate for most businesses is to remove e-mail addresses on your list that were collected over a year ago that you have not e-mailed at least a couple of times in the last 12 months.

Sign-up subscription terms – When a person subscribes to your e-mail list, it should be made clear to them the nature of your e-mails, the type of content they can expect to receive and the frequency of your mailings.

Although the anti-spam legislation may allow you to send e-mails to customers who have made recent purchases from you, it is best not to automatically add all of your customers to your e-mail list without getting their permission first.

You should ask your customers if they would like to receive future communications from you and let them know how often you anticipate sending e-mails to them.

It is also best to avoid using pre-checked check boxes in your online order forms.

Other techniques that you can use to reduce complaints relate to the content and frequency of your mail-outs.

Familiar layout – Using a consistent e-mail template with the same colours, fonts and layout will help your subscribers to recognise your e-mail campaigns. Over time your subscribers will recognise your layout and with that familiarity they will be reminded that they have subscribed to your list.

Familiar and consistent company name – Confusion and complaints can originate from subscribers being unfamiliar with your company or brand name.

If your subscribers joined your list when you used a different product brand or company name you will need to remind your customers several times as you phase in the new brand or name to avoid any confusion.

Consistent from address – Using a consistent ‘from’ e-mail address serves two purposes.

First, using the same ‘from’ address over time is another way to ensure that your subscribers recognise your e-mails. It is best to use a from e-mail address that includes your brand or the company name that they subscribed to.

Second, if different ‘from’ addresses are used it increases the chances that the subscriber’s local e-mail filter programs (spam filters) will block your e-mails.

It is a good idea to ask your subscribers to add your e-mail address to their address book to ensure that your messages will get past any local filters.

Frequency – A common complaint trigger is businesses sending too many e-mails to the same group of people.

While a subscriber may like your products and your business, there becomes a point when your mailings become annoying when sent too often, particularly if you are sending essentially the same message over and over again.

The frequency of mail-outs will depend on your business and the type of information you provide to your subscribers. By outlining the anticipated frequency in your sign-up subscription terms, your subscribers will know how often to expect your mailings.

By implementing some of the tips above you will minimise complaints and keep your subscribers happy.


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Sharon Wild writes ecommerce articles for Qld Business Review, she is also Strategy & Marketing Director of

Sharon Wild
Strategy & Marketing Director of e-JAZ, Sharon has been involved in the e-commerce community for several years. She successfully manages Australia's largest online jewellery store, Gillett's Jewellers.

Sharon can be contacted via email on