account suspension lock icon

Every time I think about the dramatic growth of SparkPost (in fact, we are the world’s fastest-growing email delivery service), I am grateful for the trust you’ve shown in our company and the role you’ve allowed us to play in supporting your business.

There are many reasons why SparkPost’s technology is trusted to deliver more than 25% of the world’s non-spam email. Yes, we have a robust and elastic cloud infrastructure that easily scales to meet the needs of the largest senders. And, of course, our remarkable team of email deliverability experts understands the complex needs and challenges faced by developers and email senders. But there’s another reason, as well: we take our responsibility for fighting spam and other abusive email very seriously.

Let’s make no bones about it—spam is a terrible thing. Unchecked, it can overwhelm our inboxes. Some, like phishing or other fraudulent emails, even can be dangerous. That’s why mailbox providers like Gmail and Microsoft have rigorous spam filters and other shields to protect their customers. And it’s why SparkPost goes to great lengths to make sure our email delivery service isn’t used to distribute these harmful emails. (This is something our industry is united on. Although SparkPost is particularly diligent about steps such as domain validation, our peers and competitors take protective measures as well, and we work together in groups like M3AAWG to establish best practices.)

In addition to its impact on recipients, spam also hurts you as an email sender. Proactively managing feedback loop (FBL) and other signals from mailbox providers is critical to maintaining our customers’ deliverability. That’s because sender reputation has a very large effect on how ISPs treat your email.

So I hope it’s clear why we are diligent about preventing email abuse. It begins when you register for a SparkPost account. Every customer agrees to comply with our terms of use and a clear messaging policy that prohibit not only spam and outright fraud, but other inappropriate or illegal uses as well. And although I won’t go into technical details here, SparkPost’s deliverability and operations teams use a variety of tools and systems that monitor our infrastructure and mail streams to detect and block abusive email.

If an account is flagged as violating our messaging policy or shows other signs of unusual activity, we will suspend it. If that happens, you will receive an email outlining the reason at your registered email address. We also will post a notice on your SparkPost account dashboard. While your account is suspended, you will not be able to send email through SparkPost. You can learn more about account suspension on our support site.

In our zealous guarding against spam and other harmful email, we know we sometimes make mistakes—a “false positive,” to use the industry’s standard terminology. I don’t want to brush that under the rug, and I am genuinely sorry if a false positive has affected you. But more than that, you have my personal commitment that we’ll fix false positives swiftly and work our hardest to make things right.

The easiest way to reactivate your account is to respond to the email ticket, and our customer support team will work with you to resolve the problem. They’ll help you sort out what might have triggered the suspension, and they’ll identify any remediation necessary to get back on track.

Account suspension is not an action we take cavalierly. We know that our customers’ businesses depend upon email to drive revenue and nurture customer engagement. That’s why we always are striving to improve these systems and to reduce false positives. We also are working to make it easier to reactivate accounts that are incorrectly suspended.

We’re in this together. We’ll continue to do everything we can to keep email a positive tool for communication and growth—and to protect our customers’ sending reputations to ensure reliable delivery to the inbox.

If you have any questions or concerns about how SparkPost works to achieve that goal, or how it affects your business, please tell us. I’d like to hear how we’re doing—and what else we can do to support your business and your reputation as a sender.

—Phillip Merrick

spam complaints

Spam complaints are one of the most important signals you have access to as a marketer. They can tell you a lot about the health of your mail program. They are also one of the main data points that ISPs look at when determining how to treat your mail. In this post, we’ll explore what they are, how you receive them, and what to do with them.

What is a spam complaint?

A complaint is registered when a user clicks the “This Is Spam” button in the mail client. ISPs track the number of people who complained about your mail relative to the amount of mail you sent to them, which is called a “complaint rate”. As you can imagine, the lower the complaint rate the better.

What is an acceptable complaint rate for good delivery?

A complaint rate of 0.2% or lower is considered good.

How do you receive complaints?

Some ISPs (AOL, Microsoft, and Yahoo to name a few) provide complaint reports back to senders via a feedback loop. The M3AAWG website has a resource page that lists the available feedback loops and more information about what they are here. At Sparkpost, we subscribe all of our customer IPs for the available feedback loops, and the complaints and complaint rate for those ISPs can be viewed in our UI.

Why do ISPs share this information?

ISPs provide this valuable information to senders in order to help them improve their mail programs. That brings us to the next question…

How should you handle spam complaints once you receive them?

Once you are signed up for all of the available FBLs, it’s important to do 2 things:

  1. Ensure you are removing subscribers who have complained from your list.
    1. Though it’s not a legal requirement… Remember, it’s one of the most important metrics that ISPs use to decide whether your mail is wanted by their users or whether it deserves to be in the spam folder, or even blocked.
    2. Plus, it’s just bad form to continue mailing to people who clearly don’t want your mail.
  2. Look at complaint trends.
    1. Send out a new campaign that generated a ton of complaints? Maybe it’s time to take a closer look at the content and targeting.

Spam complaints are a direct signal from your subscribers letting you know how they feel about your mail. Properly managing user expectations lowers your risk of complaints and increases your likelihood of good delivery performance and higher ROI.

Hope this quick overview helps give a better understanding of spam complaints and how you can use them to refine your email programs!

Happy Sending

–Clea

ps: Find this topic interesting? Check out these other related posts:

avoiding spam traps

First, a recap of Spam Traps: Part 2. In the last post, I talked about who uses spam traps and how they can impact your mail program. We established that mailing to traps can result in blacklistings and blocks, which limit your ability to reach your active, engaged subscribers. In the final part of this series, we’ll explore avoiding spam traps in the first place, and what to do if they have already made their way into your database.

There are two main reasons that spam traps end up on your list:

  1. Poor address acquisition practices.
  2. Poor list maintenance (commonly known as “hygiene”).

The easiest way to avoid mailing to traps in the first place is to have a well-structured subscription process. This means subscribers are giving clear consent, understand what they will receive, and from whom they will receive it upon sign-up. It goes without saying here, that purchasing a list is a terrible idea. The industry standard best practice is to have the user confirm their subscription, by clicking a link in an email sent to that address. This allows you as the marketer to verify that they entered the correct address, and to be certain they wish to receive your mail. For various reasons, not every program allows for this confirmation process (known as Confirmed Opt-In or COI). So, what can you do to protect your program? Practice good list hygiene.

Good list hygiene means monitoring engagement for all the addresses in your database (via opens and clicks), and regularly removing those who are inactive after a period of time. Guess what? Spam traps will not engage with your mail, so if they made their way onto your list – because a subscriber accidentally or intentionally entered the wrong address when they signed up – you will be removing them through this process. That means that you should start this culling of inactive addresses as soon as possible.

Savvy marketers will have a soft-COI process set up for new users, where they will send a series of welcome emails, which encourage the user to engage with their brand. If the subscriber doesn’t engage with any of these welcome messages, they are automatically unsubscribed from the program. In this case, a spam trap would only receive a small number of messages. In addition to this, but especially for senders who don’t have a soft-COI program, you should be removing subscribers who do not engage after a period of time. That timeframe will depend on your content, mailing frequency, and other program specifics, but a general rule of thumb is 6 months maximum with no engagement. Addresses falling outside that engagement window should be removed from your database on an automated, on-going basis.

Proper list hygiene, combined with a clear opt-in process, will reduce and prevent any negative impact that spam traps might have on your program. But wait! There’s a bonus! These practices are part of a strong foundation for a good sending reputation, so you will also see better delivery and inbox placement at the ISPs. We know that all major ISPs look at user engagement and inactivity as important signals about you as a sender, so why not set yourself up for success?

Okay, now let’s tie all 3 parts together:

  1. Spam traps have no value to you as marketer, because they don’t belong to a real user.
  2. Mailing to spam traps can cause big problems for your program by way of blacklistings and blocks, which stops you from reaching your active subscribers.
  3. Avoiding spam traps in the first place can be accomplished by having a clear, well-structured sign-up process, and maintaining your list regularly based on engagement. This will also result in a better sending reputation and better delivery.

There you have it! Everything you need to know about spam traps.

At SparkPost, we work closely with all of our Elite customers to ensure they are following email best practices, and are successful as a result. Find out more on our product page.

— Clea

Other posts in the Spam Traps series:

  1. Spam Traps Part 1: What Are They?
  2. Spam Traps Part 2: How They Impact Your Mail Program

9 Things ISPs Really Want Email Marketers to Know