Often referred to as junk mail or spam, email abuse is the use of email to send unsolicited messages to advertise, harass, annoy or cause harm to the email recipient. In the email marketing world, it’s an inevitable fact that despite best intentions, occasional email abuse complaints will arise. It’s just the nature of the beast when it comes to managing countless personalized email sends every month, and it’s important to remember that your brand’s reputation and deliverability are impacted by complaints, regardless of how many are actually filed.

To best cut down on complaints, it’s important to remember a couple of things. First, if a person is taking the time to submit a manual complaint, as opposed to an automated feedback loop complaint, he or she must be VERY annoyed, and that’s not something that should be taken lightly. Second, the best way to try and minimize the frequency of complaints is through permission-based content.

To help your brand cut down on email abuse case reports, let’s discuss three of the best ways to keep your contacts happy and prevent email marketing abuse complaints.

1. Require Explicit Opt-In

If there’s one takeaway to remember from this blog, it’s this simple line: “Abuse case prevention starts with explicit opt-in.”

Unfortunately, this is a concept that can easily be forgotten, but explicit opt-ins help set the expectations of your email subscribers. The concept is simple; people CANNOT receive emails unless they check the box on your website to opt in to email sends. This sets the expectation of receiving the emails because they willingly did the work it requires to sign up for them.

Explicit opt-in is not the only opt-in route, however. When it comes to requiring an opt-in feature for your emails, make note that whilst explicit opt-in and double opt-in both have their benefits, they are very different concepts.

Explicit Opt-In vs Double Opt-In

Explicit opt-in requires that someone consciously and explicitly subscribes to a newsletter. The chances that such a subscriber is going to complain are close to zero, as he or she made the conscious choice to opt-in to your emails. Respecting subscribers’ freedom of choice is the single most effective measurement against complaints.

Double opt-in verifies if an email address exists and is owned by the actual subscriber by sending a confirmation email that must be acted on by the recipient to confirm subscription. Verifying the existence and ownership of an address helps against complaints, but more than that, it proofs against spam traps.

Therefore, explicit opt-in is the better protection against complaints, but it is still optimal, and strongly recommended, to combine explicit opt-in with double opt-in. That way, complaints and spam traps are prevented right from the beginning.

2. Make Unsubscribing Easy

It seems so simple it almost seems unnecessary to mention, but unfortunately, it is necessary: do not trap your contacts. They were nice enough to decide they wanted to sign up for your emails, either reward them with superlative content to keep them around (see #3, below), or allow them to say “That’s enough”.

If your contacts want to unsubscribe, let them, and please do not make them struggle to do so. If your email recipients are ready to say, “See ya” to your emails, all you will accomplish by making the unsubscription process tedious or difficult is an influx of abuse case reports. So, once more: make sure your emails provide an easy, blatantly obvious way to unsubscribe from your emails, preferably by putting an unsubscribe link at the bottom AND top of every email.

3. Personalization

Now, back to that superlative content we mentioned earlier. Imagine a couple of scenarios for me:

First, you receive an email for a brand you like that’s located hours and hours away from you and sends a summary of offers or sale announcements for stores that are physically located nowhere near you. Would you open the email? Would you care about what it says? Would you become annoyed because it doesn’t pertain to you at all?

Okay, now keeping that scenario in mind, think an alternative. How would you feel if you received an email that mentions you by name and refers to your most recent purchase by suggesting a product that would pair well with it? Would you feel more intrigued and likely to open this email than that first one mentioned above? I thought so.

Remember, your consumers want to feel a personal engagement from the brands with whom they do business with. If you keep them engaged and personalize your emails to them as individuals, you are likely to have happy email contacts with a potential next purchase in mind. On the other hand, if you send them the generic emails mentioned in the first scenario, you could annoy your consumers. And don’t forget what was said in the beginning: annoyed customers are the ones most likely to file an abuse case.

If You Receive an Abuse Case Complaint…

If you receive complaints from recipients despite your best efforts, make sure you are able to promptly provide IP, URL, and time and date of the original registration, information vital if you are to defend yourself if the situation ever escalates into a legal dispute. Even when everything is done right, some recipients (a very few) are notorious complainers. Those people aim to harm your business, so it’s necessary to have a defense prepared against such notorious complainers.

Final Thoughts

Email abuse happens. Regardless of which side you’re on, it’s annoying and not something you want to be a part of. Don’t tarnish your brand’s image and legacy through easily avoidable mistakes. Adhere to the tips listed above and you’ll be more likely to avoid any such email abuse complaints.

Learn how Emarsys can help you create dynamics and vibrant email content to better engage your recipients. Request a demo.

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