As a member of the Deliverability Operations team, I can tell you that we spend a lot of time discussing the importance of list hygiene and good mailing practices with our senders.
Typically, this covers everything from ensuring recommended customer acquisition practices are in place, engagement-based segmentation is utilized to monitor for inactivity, and that customers are appropriately removed from mailing lists as activity lapses or unsubscribe requests are received.
The purpose behind these conversations is always the same: to highlight the importance of maintaining brand reputation in the eyes of ISPs, and ensuring that messages continue to get delivered to the inbox. A key component to achieving this is making sure customers themselves do not perceive the messages they receive as spam.
While there are official regulations such as the CAN-SPAM Act in place that make clear determinations when it comes to spam, it is also important for senders to keep in mind that “spam” is increasingly in the eye of email recipients themselves. And as far as an ISP is concerned, the recipient is always right.
So What Counts As "Spam"?
If a customer receives emails that they feel do not apply to them, that they were not expecting to receive in the first place, or even that they simply do not wish to receive any more (regardless of being properly opted in), they may mark the message as “spam” in their inbox.
This triggers a spam complaint to the ISP hosting their mailbox, and can impact reputation to that entire network—even in very small values. This is yet another reason why maintaining best practices is critical to avoid negative customer engagements and maintain inbox placement.
How Do ISPs Use This Data?
Even more critical however, is that ISPs themselves use customer evaluations of the communications they receive to inform their own filtering mechanisms. Recently, Microsoft detailed this strategy within their own Spam Fighters program. For the uninitiated, Spam Fighters essentially works by surveying a randomly selected portion of Outlook users.
In order for Microsoft’s filters to work successfully, they need to identify both good, and bad mail. What better way to inform their machine learning than by asking their users themselves? The question placed to the selected users who volunteer to participate is simple:
Is this spam? Or non-spam?
This binary statement highlights the importance of customer perception to senders. While there are other factors that contribute to a message ultimately being flagged as spam (authentication, attachments, sending IP, etc.), how the message comes across in the inbox cannot be underestimated. So put yourself in the recipient’s shoes.
A positive customer experience with relevant content going only to engaged users is the best way to ensure you don’t become another example in the “spam” category.
While we're on the subject of email marketing, how confident are you that your emails are contributing to a positive customer experience on mobile? If your subscribers are dealing with poor formatting, long load times, and unresponsive links, you're losing their attention. Download our Mobile Email Guide to learn how to fix and prevent these problems.