This page explains which issues can cause different types of warnings in your account. To use this guide, locate the type of complaint you're concerned with below. These include abuse complaints, high unsubscribe rates, or high bounce rates. Using the list of possible causes, click a link to jump to the area of this page that will tell you more about that issue and how to fix it.

In this article:

Items Associated with High Abuse Complaints

  1. Permission
  2. Stale Lists
  3. Improperly Collected Lists
  4. Offline Lists
  5. Purchased Lists
  6. Content is not relevant
  7. Third-Party Marketing
  8. No Unsubscribe Link
  9. Outside Unsubscribe Process

Items Associated with High Unsubscribe Rates

  1. Permission
  2. Stale Lists
  3. Improperly Collected Lists
  4. Offline Lists
  5. Purchased Lists
  6. Content is not relevant
  7. Third-Party Marketing

Items Associated with High Bounce Rates

  1. Stale Lists
  2. Improperly Collected Lists
  3. Offline Lists
  4. Purchased Lists
  5. Improper Import

Permission

The first step, before you can engage someone through email marketing, is tangible and confirmable proof that the subscriber wants you to communicate with them. Tangible and confirmable proof in MailChimp terms means your subscribers have gone through a double opt-in process. Double opt-in is the process in which the user signs up on a form online then receives an email which requires the subscriber to click a link to approve the subscription. Any other type of confirmation will generally result in issues. Offline list collection, single opt-in, verbal or other processes show no proof that the user wants to receiver emails and are much easier for the user to have "forgotten" about subscribing to. Also, with those types of list collection, it's generally not clear to the user what kind of emails they will be getting. So scrapping emails, pulling your contacts from your address book(s), old business contacts, business cards in a fishbowl, etc are NOT tangible and confirmed list collection techniques. We provide a page to help you determine if your list is okay to use with MailChimp here. The basic rule of thumb is, if after reading that page, you feel you're still not sure if your list is okay...it's probably not okay. We do understand that some circumstances do not allow for online sign up, but there are ways to properly collect Offline Lists.

There is one other aspect to permission that is important. Is it very clear what the user will be getting when they sign up for your newsletter? Do they understand that they will be receiving email? Do they understand what type of content they will be receiving? Make sure that it is very clear on your signup form that the user will be getting an email and that the form explains what they will be receiving (weekly newsletter, daily blog updates, etc). Be as clear as possible about setting the subscribers' expectations. When you do not set the subscribers' expectations, they will use the only form of complaint they can find, which is the "Report Spam" button or the unsubscribe link. Failure to manage your subscribers' expectations on the signup form will lead to high unsubscribes or abuse complaints.

Permission is the most critical step in dramatically reducing high unsubscribe rates and high abuse complaints.

Stale Lists

Email addresses go stale really fast. When someone opts in to your list, you’ve probably got 3 months before their permission goes cold and about 6 months before the email address is bad. Wait too long before emailing them, and you’ll not only get tons of bounces - you’re going to get some really nasty spam complaints.

It’s not that hard for recipients to report you either. They just click a little "this is spam" button, and that sends an automatic email to their ISP (referred to as a feedback loop). If enough of these pile up at the ISP, your emails will be blocked from then on. Read more about feedback loops here.

So, if you’ve been collecting emails for a few years and are only just now getting around to emailing them, you need to re-invite them to your list. Send a quick email asking people if they still want to be on your list. Ask them to click a link to confirm. If they don’t respond, take them off the list. They obviously don’t want to hear from you. Here are some instructions on how to do this. If your lists are small enough (less than 500), you can do this same process using gmail or outlook.

Improperly Collected Lists

MailChimp is strictly a permission based newsletter delivery service. Sometimes, lists are collected from different sources or even third parties. For example, you received email addresses from a friend's address book or your friend gave you permission to send to a group of people they know. The question here is do you have either written or electronic proof that these people are willing to receive email from you? And if they did give you consent are they fully aware they will be receiving email about your product(s). When we see lists collected in this manner, we may ask you to do one of the following:

  • Delete the list if all members did not give permission.
  • Clean the list by deleting the inactive members and removing those who you do not have permission to send to.
  • Reactivate the remaining "cleaned" list by following these steps.

For more information on lists that are okay (or not okay), read the following.

Offline Lists

MailChimp is strictly a permission based newsletter delivery service. This means we do not allow lists that do not have proper opt-in confirmation. If you gathered this list at a show or in an offline capacity, you must have documented proof of the signup. Also, keep in mind, it is common for people to provide invalid email addresses with offline processes which can cause high bounce rates. Even worse is people giving you other people's email addresses which results in an unintended recipient receiving the email. Here is a great example of how a MailChimp customer is collecting email addresses offline and we also recommend reading the following.

If your list hasn't been confirmed, just having a business card or a general business contact isn't confirmation enough for us. We will have to ask that you reconfirm your list.

That way you'll definitely have their permission to email them, and we'll have proof that they gave it to you. All lists need to be current and confirmed before we can send content to them. If you would like to reconfirm the list please let us know using the form below.

Purchased Lists

MailChimp is strictly a LINKpermission based newsletter delivery service. This means we do not allow lists that have been purchased or collected from someone who has a purchased list. These lists are notorious for providing bad addresses that cause high bounce rates but, also contain spam trap addresses, which cause blacklisting. Please read the following.

When this occurs, we will ask you to delete the entire list or remove the purchased portion of the list.

Relevancy is an important aspect of email marketing. Your readers are already inundated with massive amounts of email and spam. If your content resembles spam or does not hold their interest, you risk the subscriber clicking "this is spam". There are a few things that can help with relevancy:

Content is not relevant

Relevancy is an important aspect of email marketing. Your readers are already inundated with massive amounts of email and spam. If your content resembles spam or does not hold their interest, you risk the subscriber clicking "this is spam". There are a few things that can help with relevancy:

Third-Party Marketing

Third party marketing is when you decide to market another product/service to your subscribers. It can also occur if you switch company names, acquire a new business, etc. Any time you are sending as Company A and either send on behalf of or as Company B, it can and will cause confusion. The issue here is your subscribers signed up to receive information about you and your products. Maybe you have a disclaimer on signup that they will receive information about other product/services but most subscribers do not read the fine print. In any event, there are ways you can handle these scenarios properly:

  • Create a new list and send an introduction email, allowing them to sign up to receive this information on the other product/service.
  • If you are switching company name, rebranding or just acquired a new business, you have to reintroduce yourself, explain the change and allow users to unsubscribe, if they no longer wish to receive the content.
  • Making your subscription process clear that they may receive news about other services/products. Again, this does not stop subscribers from clicking "this is spam", but making it very clear does give you protection.

Terms of Use Violation

Our terms of use are located here. If we find content or accounts violating our terms of use, we will suspend the account for investigation, because these accounts generally produce high unsubscribe and abuse complaints. ISPs and anti-spam organizations take spam very seriously and we do too. So when we see content violating our terms or on the edge, we must take appropriate action with the account. If you are experiencing high abuse complaints and your content is on the edge or in violation of our terms, we suggest finding a different vendor or working with us to clean up your sending history. If your account has been shut down for risky content or terms of use violation, you can go here to contact our compliance team.

Improper Import

Sometimes, we see where a user has uploaded a bad list, the wrong list or made a mistake in uploading the list incorrectly. In these situations, we ask you delete the list and upload the list again to correct the issue.

If your campaign didn't include the required MailChimp unsubscribe link, it is a direct violation of our terms of use and The Federal Can Spam Act. When you do not provide an unsubscribe link and your recipients want to be removed, they will report you as spam which could lead to account suspension. The unsubscribe process has to be able to do three things: process unsubscribes, bounce records and send information to the ISP feedback loops. The ISPs require that we MAKE SURE this happens. (As you can imagine, it's their job to keep spam away from their customers, so they want us to play by the rules. We don't get a free pass just because we're awesome). We will shut down accounts when we do not find an unsubscribe link and we ask you agree to supply the link in all future templates. If you are using our default templates, the link is already included, but if you are using your own template make sure the unsubscribe *|MERGE|* tag is included in your template. If you have been suspended for not having an unsubscribe link, you can go here to contact our compliance team.

Outside Unsubscribe Process

The unsubscribe process has to be able to do three things: process unsubscribes, bounce records and ISP feedback loops - and the ISPs require that we MAKE SURE this happens. (As you can imagine, it's their job to keep spam away from their customers, so they want us to play by the rules. We don't get a free pass just because we're awesome.) For those reasons, we wouldn't be allowed to let you supply your own unsubscribe link. We will shut down accounts when we do find an outside unsubscribe link and we ask you agree to supply the MailChimp unsubscribe link in all future templates. If you are using our default templates the link is already included but if you are using your own template make sure the *|MERGE|* tag is included in your template. If you have been suspended for using an outside unsubscribe link you can go here to contact our compliance team.

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