When sending emails to contacts, you may receive some spam complaints. These complaints are considered “abuse” and can harm your sender reputation, deliverability rates, or even get you blocked by ISPs.

In this article, we’ll define what an abuse rate is, what is considered a high abuse rate, how it’s typically reported, how it affects you, and best practices for avoiding a high abuse rate.

What is an abuse rate?

An abuse rate is the number of people who reported email as spam out of the total number of messages you have sent. For example, if you send 5,000 messages and 5 people mark it as spam, your abuse rate is 0.1% (5/5,000).

What is considered a high abuse rate?

A normal complaint rate is anything less than 0.1%, or 1 complaint for every 1,000 sent messages. Anything above this level is considered high. This is the industry standard set by major inbox providers like Gmail.

How is abuse reported?

The two most common ways contacts can report email as spam are:

       1. Click the “this is spam” or “report spam” link or button in their inbox. As soon as this is
           clicked, it’s reported directly to us via Feedback loops that we have established with all
           major inbox providers. In general, contacts that report spam this way will be unsubscribed
           from your list. It is not possible to see which contacts used this method.

       2. Click the native unsubscribe link and then mark the reason for unsubscribing as
           “Spam.” You can view your unsubscribe report on a per campaign/automation
           email basis to see which contacts reported your email as spam using this method.

Note: Even emails unintentionally marked as spam count toward your abuse rate.

How does a high abuse rate affect you, the sender?

A high abuse rate results in long term deliverability issues that can take months to correct. ISPs, such as Gmail, will pay closest attention to your spam complaint rate over the past 30-60 days. Once you have a high complaint rate, it can take at least 30-60 days to repair it. 

If your account has a high abuse rate, our compliance team will place your account under review and will send you a notification via email. This notification will contain a series of questions for you to answer that will help us understand why the abuse rate is high, and will also provide actions for you to take to correct the issue. You will not be able to send emails during this time. Once we receive your response and see that you have taken the actions requested of you, you will be able to use your account to send emails again. 

Note: The notification will be sent to the email address listed in the “Notification email” field on Account > My Settings > Account Information page. It is important to make sure this email address is correct and up-to-date.

By having a high abuse rate, you risk having your account suspended, as our terms of useforbid sending emails to recipients that haven’t requested it. You may also want to review oursending policy before using our service to send emails.

Best practices for avoiding a high abuse rate

If you follow the best practices below, you should be able to obtain an abuse rate near 0%:

  • Only send to contacts who have explicitly opted in within the past 12 months. Clean contacts off your list who have not recently opted in. These older contacts account for most spam complaints. Ideally you should not be sending to anyone who has not opted in or opened in the past 6 months. You can use our Engagement Management tool or our engagement tagging automations to do this.
  • Enable the confirmation email (double opt in) on your forms and/or add captcha. This makes sure only valid addresses are added to your lists, not any bot traffic.
  • Do not use co-registration, 3rd party, or traded lists of any kind. These will results in many contacts marking as spam because they did not directly opt in to the content being sent. Only use lists of contacts who directly opted in at your site.
  • Show an additional unsubscribe link in a prominent position, somewhere close to the top of the email. This helps push your contacts toward unsubscribing from your list instead of marking your message as a spam. An unsubscribe will not hurt your deliverability, but a spam complaint will. It is much better to have someone unsubscribe instead of marking as spam.
  • Add a note on top of the message indicating how they were added to your list, there is always a chance that your contacts may forget that they subscribed to your list. If this happens, they may just simply mark you as spam. A note on top of your email will help remind your contacts how they got into your list and why they are getting your emails.
  • Send a welcome message or a sequence of on boarding messages after contacts sign up so your recipients are familiar with your brand's look and feel, and are aware of what you will be sending them. This way they won't be surprised when they get future message from you and will be less likely to mark as spam. If you wait days, weeks or months before sending a message to a contact after they sign up, the chance that they will mark as spam goes up exponentially.
  • Make sure your emails come from the same domain where contacts signed up and make sure the email has the same exact branding. Also be sure the From Name for your campaign aligns closely with the branding of the page where contacts signed up.
  • Send relevant, personalized automation messages, not batch and blast campaigns to large lists.