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37% make false spam reports

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Saturday August 5, 2006 )

Ok, perhaps that’s a little severe – after years of dealing with false spam reports it does wear a little thin :).

In regards to AOL, there’s no confirmation of any sort at present; you just click the “report spam” link – done. I just tried the “report spam” function with an AOL email newsletter. A small, immature act of retribution, but it made me feel a little better anyway and after all, it was for research purposes ;). It’s actually easier to clear your AOL/AIM inbox of unwanted messages using the feature than it is to use the delete function.

If you ever find your own lists mysteriously blacklisted; the “report as spam” epidemic could well have been contributing factor.

It’s really becoming a one-click world; and sometimes that’s not such a great thing.

Related:

Dealing with spam complaints and tracking spam
Anti-spam filtering services
How spam winds up in your inbox

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Over a third of users who have an email service which allows for spam reporting via a button admit to using the feature to unsubscribe from communications they had actually opted in to receive.

Given that, the number of emails that are falsely reported as spam each year must run into the millions.

According to a recent ReturnPath survey, over three quarters of users state they click the “spam” button to get rid of email they don’t want. 37% use it as an unsubscribe function from lists they asked to be added to.

It’s a *highly* annoying problem which I’ve written about before. Aside from the annoyance factor, it costs time and therefore money to deal with.

In my role as Business Operations Manager of a web hosting company, every day I get automated spam reports from AOL in relation to our clients’ mailings. There’s always dozens daily, on a bad day over a hundred. Being a responsible web hosting company, each one of these emails is examined to determine whether the report is genuine, or generated by a lazy AOL user. Most often I find it’s the latter.

So, what to do? I can choose to ignore these reports and run the risk of a slew of genuine complaints coming through which can then trigger a blacklisting for the mail server involved, or I can continue to waste a lot of time and check each one; which I do. It’s something you just can’t afford to ignore; our clients’ being able to send mail to AOL users is at stake.

So, how do you stop these ignorant, lazy people from this sort of irresponsible behavior and endangering your own lists with blacklisting?

Well, ReturnPath suggests improving the quality of your marketing communications to fully engage the user, but aside from that I don’t think you can do much. It’s the nature of the beast.

If that “report as spam” button is conveniently located and it’s become an ingrained habit as it appears to be; people will continue to use it, no matter how easy you make the unsubscribe process on your communications.

You can try putting your unsubscribe links at the top of each newsletter, but I really don’t think it will make that much difference, except to increase the rate of accidental/spur of the moment unsubscribes.

I think the onus should be on providers such as AOL to understand that this feature sometimes causes more harm than good; but I guess as it’s not them that’s affected by the problem, there’s little chance of that.

The frequency of false spam reporting could *perhaps* be lessened if there was a confirmation alert when the button was clicked – an alert that stated something along the lines of:

“Are you sure that this is spam and not a newsletter or communication you subscribed to? If it is a subscription, please use the unsubscribe link provided by the sender instead of reporting it as spam”

But if I really had my way, it would state: “False spam reports are punishable by death in 39 states – we’re not going to tell you which ones. So, do you feel lucky punk?”

Ok, perhaps that’s a little severe – after years of dealing with false spam reports it does wear a little thin :).

In regards to AOL, there’s no confirmation of any sort at present; you just click the “report spam” link – done. I just tried the “report spam” function with an AOL email newsletter. A small, immature act of retribution, but it made me feel a little better anyway and after all, it was for research purposes ;). It’s actually easier to clear your AOL/AIM inbox of unwanted messages using the feature than it is to use the delete function.

If you ever find your own lists mysteriously blacklisted; the “report as spam” epidemic could well have been contributing factor.

It’s really becoming a one-click world; and sometimes that’s not such a great thing.

Related:

Dealing with spam complaints and tracking spam
Anti-spam filtering services
How spam winds up in your inbox



 

 
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