The Importance of Permission

The first step to building a successful list is to get permission from subscribers who want to receive your campaigns. Permission is not only common courtesy, it’s required by our Terms of Use.

In this article, you'll learn about the importance of permission and what you can do to secure it.

How We Define Permission

Although people talk about permission in a variety of ways, it’s something very specific when it comes to email marketing. Permission is express, verifiable consent to receive marketing communication.

Express means that when you asked for permission, your question wasn't tied in with another agreement. For example, a separate checkbox for "I would like to receive marketing email from XYZ company" is express and clear.

Because permission should also be verifiable, we recommend getting written or otherwise archived permission from each subscriber. When you use MailChimp's double opt-in signup forms, we handle all of this for you. The process requires a subscriber to click a button and confirm their email address. Behind the scenes, we track the date and time of each action, so that you have verified permission.

The Double Opt-in Process

Requirements and Best Practices for Lists

Consequences Without Permission

People who haven't given you permission are more likely to report your campaigns as spam, and less likely to engage with your campaigns or make purchases. It’s in your best interest to always secure express permission.

Spam reports can lead to aggressive spam filtering or blacklisting, which makes it impossible for some subscribers to receive any of your campaigns. This can also damage MailChimp’s reputation as a whole and negatively affect delivery for all our users.


Spam Reports

When someone reports an email as spam, their inbox notifies their internet service provider (ISP) that the message in question looks suspicious. The ISP then tracks how many people on their network report emails from the sending domain as spam.

Unfortunately, 20 percent of email users report that they mark emails as spam that they know aren’t spam. Some of these spam reports may actually be attempts to unsubscribe, so it’s important that all of your campaigns include an unsubscribe link your subscribers can easily find.

Your recipients are also more likely to mark your emails as spam if they’re not familiar with your company. Studies show 43 percent of email users will report spam if they don’t recognize the sender's From name or From email address. Make sure these labels are clearly tied to your brand, and send campaigns regularly so subscribers don’t forget who you are. You should always include a permission reminder in your campaign footer.

About Abuse Complaints

About Accidental Abuse Complaints

The Unsubscribe Merge Tag

About Inactive and Stale Addresses

Edit the Permission Reminder


Spam Filters

Spam complaints aren’t the only way you can get blacklisted by an ISP. Aggressive spam filters may detect sloppy code or "spammy" content, and flag your campaigns. There are no all-encompassing guidelines on what content to avoid, but in general we recommend you design your campaigns to be clean, clear, and balanced.

In a worst-case scenario, a firewall could be programmed to scan any campaign content for URLs that have been reported as spam or blacklisted, and block the email that contains them. That means that if another person or business mentions one of your blacklisted domains in their totally separate email, the ISP could block that user's emails too.

Increasingly, ISPs and anti-spam services share their records with each other. If you get reported to one, you could be blocked from others as well.

About Spam Filters

My campaigns are going to spam folders.

About Email Firewalls



If enough people mark your campaigns as spam, the ISP can blacklist you. When that happens, any message you send to anyone on their network will be blocked. ISPs have different thresholds for blacklisting, but they tend to be very low. A few spam reports could get you blocked. Once you’re on a blacklist, it’s very difficult to get yourself removed.

A few complaints can derail your email marketing for a long time, so it's critical to ensure your subscriber lists are permission-based and that your permission doesn't go stale.

How Blacklists Work

When Email Addresses Go Stale

What You Can Do

To ensure a healthy subscriber list, always secure permission before you send. Never assume you have permission, and when in doubt, get confirmation.

Make sure your list collection methods are compliant with our Terms of Use and never send unsolicited marketing campaigns. We strongly recommend you use our double-opt in signup forms so all your subscribers receive a confirmation email.

Remember that any list from a third-party source, no matter how reputable, violates our Terms and puts you at risk. Plus, the numbers show that a purchased list is a useless list, so permission is also important to your ROI.

Requirements and Best Practices for Lists

Examples of Compliant and Non-Compliant Lists

The Double Opt-In Process 

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