Be honest. When you get email that you weren't expecting or didn’t request, what do you do? According to some studies, one-third of recipients click “this is spam,” even if they’ve specifically requested it from the sender previously. Needless to say, this can cause problems for email marketers, business owners, and even MailChimp.

Below, you'll learn about spam, blacklists, and the importance of maintaining best practices when you build your list.

In this article:

Spam Reports

When someone reports an email as spam, their inbox sends a message to their internet service provider (ISP) that says, “Hey, I think these guys are spamming me.” With that complaint in hand, the ISP can keep an eye on you and track how many people on their network report your emails as spam.

If enough people click the spam button, the ISP can blacklist you, which means they block all future emails from you to everyone on their network. ISPs have different thresholds for when they decide to block emails, but 0.01% is what delivery researchers generally refer to.

Blacklists and Spam Filters

ISPs don’t have to get human complaints to blacklist you. Aggressive spam filters that detect “spammy” email content—like red fonts, too many exclamation points or phrases like “click here"—can shut you down automatically.

In a worst-case scenario, a firewall could be programmed to recognize blacklisted URLs in email content. That means that if another person or business mentions your domain in their totally separate email, the ISP could block those emails, too.

Another thing to understand about the process is that ISPs and anti-spam services sometimes share their records with each other. So, if you get reported to one, you could be blocked from others.

It’s extremely difficult to get de-listed from a blacklist, because they’re pretty much run in secret. The takeaway is that it’s critical to ensure your subscriber lists are permission-based and frequently updated. A few complaints can derail your email marketing for a long, long time.

What You Can Do

With effective list management and good content creation, you can up your chances at staying on the right side of the filter. In every case, permission is key. Ask people in person, over the phone, or in a one-to-one email to sign up to your list.

MailChimp’s signup forms and our Chimpadeedoo application for iPad and Android can help.

So, what do I have to do?

  • Get permission.
    Never, under any circumstances, send marketing emails to someone who hasn't requested them. Prospects, leads, friends, family, and even previous customers are not fair game.
  • Get permission.
    Never, under any circumstances, send marketing emails to a list you purchased or “scraped” from websites.
  • Get permission.
    Don’t send to people you think might be interested in hearing from you, like colleagues, co-members of your association, or people you met at a trade show.
  • Get permission.
    When a subscriber signs up using your MailChimp form, you’ll have proof of consent that they signed up, and a record of their engagement with your campaigns.

Use the double opt-in method. The double opt-in method requires subscribers to fill out your signup form, receive a confirmation email, and click a confirmation button. This is helpful for a couple of reasons.

  • This person really wants to hear from you. They filled out the form and they confirmed their interest. It’s a really common process, so don’t worry that you'll lose people halfway.
  • They’ve confirmed their email address is valid, which cuts down on the potential for bounces.

To improve deliverability, you can also ask new subscribers to add your From email address to their address book. This whitelists your emails, so they don’t get accidentally blocked or reported as spam in the future.

Over time, a list can go stale as subscribers meet goals, lose interest, change email addresses, or forget they signed up. When this happens, spam complaints can rise again. Every six months or so, send a quick reminder email to your subscribers and ask them to reconfirm their subscription.

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