Abuse Reports: What are they and how to avoid them.
Abuse Reports occur when someone marks your email as junk or spam.
Does this mean that you are a spammer? Not always. Valid email from time to time will get marked as spam by users. Some users are simply too lazy to unsubscribe properly when they no longer wish to receive emails from you and will simply mark the email as junk. This is a reality and it has big implications.
A small number of complaints about your email from a large provider such as Gmail can get all email blocked from the server. When using an ESP such as Elastic Email, this can be really bad news as a block like this can affect the delivery of thousands of other users that are sending email from that particular server/IP Address.
The amount of work it requires to deal with these complaints is enormous. We have dedicated thousand’s of man-hours to develop systems to help with this and auto-manage delivery so we can investigate the problems and fix them without it affecting the delivery of our other great customers. It seems easy – just don’t allow “spam” on your network, right! Well, identifying spam (Unsolicited Bulk Email) is pretty easy for what most people consider spam:
“You have just inherited $12,000,000 dollars from a long-lost uncle…”
“I’m a student in Bangladesh who recently has run into a situation where I need funds transferred to my account…”
“YOU ARE A WINNER!!!!! DON’T WAIT TO RESPOND OR IT WILL BE TOO LATE…”
We’ve all seen these type’s of emails and here at Elastic Email there is virtually no spam like this on our network. We have software and human intervention that picks up this type of email rather quickly and terminates it. The real fight though is dealing with people who don’t even realize they are sending spam and they are doing it all the time with their campaigns. When you receive an abuse report it is sort of like the laws in some countries where you are guilty until proven innocent. The ISP’s are simply trying to stop the unwanted email on their network and so there is no time for discussion on why this email is valid or not. It makes sense really if you think about it. Whether you are sending the legitimate email or not, Abuse Reports are a major factor in delivery.
False Abuse Reports
So how to deal with people marking your mail as spam when it was legitimate, legal email that you had permission to send them? This is the first thing we want to help with. Some common reasons that this can occur are:
Fish Bowls of Business cards. To you, this is a valid technique to acquire a list, but to MANY people that dropped their business card in the bowl, they were just trying to win something. These type of contacts will often lead to Abuse Reports.
Trade-Shows. When you get a list of contacts at a trade-show this doesn’t mean you have permission to blast them an email. Your best bet is to first email them letting them know how you acquired their email address and ask them to join your list. Doing this soon after the tradeshow is going to help.
Online store of users. Just because they have purchased products from you in the past doesn’t mean they want to hear from you in the future. Again, first ask for permission to send them information. It is in your best interest to lose a few addresses on your list this way then receive an Abuse Report.
Timing. Opting in 2 years ago and finally sending them an email is going to cause a problem. People forget they signed up and will often complain. Make sure you send out timely marketing information. If a significant amount of time has elapsed since you contacted them, start with a campaign that re-engages the contact for permission. What is the common theme above? Permission! Don’t get all caught up in the legal definitions and rules around SPAM, simply send only to contacts who have given you permission.
Preventing Abuse Reports
Permission, permission, permission. Without it, you will be reported for abuse whether the email is technically legal or not. Here are some tips to avoid Abuse Reports:
Double Opt-in only. With this method, you have proof that each and every contact gave you permission – end of story.
Reputable looking email. Make sure your email looks like it is coming from who it is coming from. Make sure your emails have the same themes/styles/logos as your website. If you are not a designer, hire one – it will help.
Adhere to your sign-up benefits/terms. If you are asking for sign-ups for a monthly newsletter. Don’t send them weekly one’s. Certainly don’t also start sending them promotional emails that they are not expecting. Set up different lists for these purposes and you will limit complaints. Just because they are your customers doesn’t mean they want to hear about everything you want to send. Set up separate lists and give them a reason to join (free prizes or benefits of joining) – don’t just send them promotions out of the blue.
UNSUBSCRIBING SHOULD BE EASY – don’t obscure our opt-out link. Make it very easy to see and use to unsubscribe from your emails. Getting unsubscribed is FAR better than getting marked as spam.