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Report as spam button abuse

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Thursday March 1, 2007 )

The Return Path survey found that while spam button abuse is still prevalent; 33% of respondents stated they are most likely to use the unsubscribe button initially, and 12% say they use the report as spam button only as a last ditch effort after trying other means

By ensuring you have clear and functional unsubscribe methods, you lessen the risk of blacklisting – and really, what is the point of having someone on your list who doesn’t want to be on it?

As for that 14% who abuse the report as spam feature all the time; eh, well…

.. I have nothing :).

You can read more about spam button issues in Return Path’s Third Annual Holiday Survey (PDF).

Related:

Email delivery issues

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With some users considering any uninteresting commercial email as spam, even if they’ve subscribed to the communication; it’s no wonder the dreaded “report as spam” button gets used, or more accurately, abused so much.

According to a survey report from Return Path, 14% of email users state they use the “report as spam” button all the time – it’s their way of unsubscribing. I get particularly irate with this sort of false spam reporting as in my job as Business Operations Manager of a hosting company, I see a heck of a lot of automated AOL TOS notification emails in relation to our clients’ accounts. No, I don’t peek in client’s inboxes – these notifications come directly to me from AOL. These are the messages that are generated when the spam button is clicked.

I open these emails to inspect the attached supposed “spam” in case the complaint is valid and warrants investigation of the clients’ activities. More often than not, I can see they are legitimate subscription communications, complete with working unsubscribe links.

One day last week, AOL’s TOS notification mailer went into a loop and I wound up with literally thousands of the damned things in my inbox in 24 hours. Aside from the annoyance and waste of time; these AOL users who make false spam reports just don’t understand (or care) that they are putting the senders communications at risk of being blacklisted; either by their hosts or by AOL themselves.

I’d like to suggest a new email user awareness campaign:

“Friends don’t let friends use the report as spam function indiscriminately”

.. do you think it will take off? Guess not, it’s not very catchy – not even if we cooked up a Web 2.0’ish widget or created a funny video with a chicken in it to get the message across :).

So how do we prevent people from this sort of false spam reporting activity? The answer is we can’t since many mail providers make it too darned easy to report an email as spam and there’s no consequences for abuse of the feature. That button is just within too easy reach. What we can do to *reduce* the number of these bogus complaints is:

a) Use double opt-in subscriptions – that helps to ensure that your subscribers really want what you are offering and it’s just good list hygeine practice these days anyway.

b) Don’t hammer your lists with mailouts unless you have something worthwhile to say i.e., worthwhile to your subscribers.

c) Don’t try to hide unsubscribe information or make people jump through hoops to remove themselves off your list.

The Return Path survey found that while spam button abuse is still prevalent; 33% of respondents stated they are most likely to use the unsubscribe button initially, and 12% say they use the report as spam button only as a last ditch effort after trying other means

By ensuring you have clear and functional unsubscribe methods, you lessen the risk of blacklisting – and really, what is the point of having someone on your list who doesn’t want to be on it?

As for that 14% who abuse the report as spam feature all the time; eh, well…

.. I have nothing :).

You can read more about spam button issues in Return Path’s Third Annual Holiday Survey (PDF).

Related:

Email delivery issues



 

 
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