One of the main issues any email marketer faces is a high spam rate, basically the recipient marks the file as spam in their inbox. This can cause your other emails to be driven straight into spam if this happens often.

Why is it called Spam?

The real origin of the term comes from a 1970 Monty Python’s Flying Circus skit.  In this skit, all the restaurant’s menu items devolve into SPAM.  When the waitress repeats the word SPAM, a group of Vikings in the corner sing “SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, lovely SPAM!  Wonderful SPAM!”, drowning out other conversation, until they are finally told to shut it.


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    Exactly where this first translated to internet messages of varying type, such as chat messages, newsgroups, etc, isn’t entirely known as it sort of happened all over the place in a very short span of years, in terms of the name being applied to these messages.  It is, however, well documented that the users in each of these first instances chose the word “spam” referring to the 1970 Monty Python sketch where SPAM singing was drowning out conversation and SPAM itself was unwanted and popping up all over the menu.

    What is a spam complaint rate?

    A spam 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 spam rate is 0.1% (5/5,000).

    What is considered a high spam complaint rate?

    A normal spam 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.

    Why am I getting a high complaint rate?

    There are a few reasons for spam complaints. Here are the most common ones:

    • The recipient does not recognize the sender
    • The recipient cannot locate the unsubscribe link
    • The recipient does not trust the sender (prefers to click report-spam rather than unsubscribing)
    • The recipient is not happy with the content, feels they are being coerced into opening message by a deceptive subject line, finds the content irrelevant, among others.

    How can I avoid this in future?

    Following the best email marketing practices is key to decreasing your Spam complaint ratio.

    You need to build and maintain the relationship between you and your subscribers. If your subscribers recognize you and remember that they explicitly chose to join your list, the spam complaint ratio will be low. Moreover, in such a case, subscribers who are no longer interested in your mailings will be more eager to unsubscribe rather than click the spam button. Naturally, the unsubscribe process needs to be clear and obvious. Hiding the unsubscribe link may only increase the spam complaint ratio. It is a very good practice to add the unsubscribe link at the top pf your email.

    If your subscribers receive what they have signed up for, the complaint rate will remain low. However, if your mailings do not contain the information that your list was interested in, the complaint rate may increase. Aggressive marketing tactics that coerce subscribers to open your messages (i.e. using deceptive subject lines) may skyrocket the complaint rates and cause further issues.