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Ken Magill

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Low Spam Complaints Don't Mean Your Reputation's Not Crap

6/14/11

By Ken Magill

While low spam complaint rates are certainly something email marketers should strive for, there’s a good reason for low complaints and a bad one, according to a just-released study by email security and deliverability firm Return Path.

As a result, emailers with very good reputations have average spam complaint rates very similar to those with not-so-good reputations, according to the study.

According to the study, emailers with a Sender Score—the gage Return Path uses to rate emailers’ reputations—of 91 to 100 out of 100—100 being best—had an average complaint rate of 0.0 percent while emailers with a Sender Score of 81 to 90 had an average spam complaint rate of 0.1 percent.

Meanwhile, emailers with a score of 51 to 60 had an average complaint rate of 0.4 percent.

So those emailers with scores 51 to 60 can rest easy knowing recipients like—or at least aren’t angered by—their messages, right?

Wrong.

While the average inbox placement rate for emailers with scores of 91 to 100 was 88 percent, the average inbox placement rate for emailers with scores of 51 to 60 is 71 percent, meaning 29 percent of their messages aren’t getting delivered to recipients’ inboxes.

By failing to deliver so much email, those marketers are lessening their chances of drawing complaints, but they’re still running a poorly performing email program.

“People can’t complain about email they don’t receive,” said the study.

According to the Return Path, high complaint rates are trouble when the mailer has a high delivery rate.

“A high complaint rate with a high delivered rate is an indication that your delivered rate will soon start dropping if you don’t make fixes, fast,” the study said.

One of the most striking differences between mailers with high Sender Scores and those with lower scores was their unknown user rate, or the percentage of addresses that don’t exist the sender tries to reach.

While emailers with a score of 91 to 100 had an average unknown user rate of 0.2 percent, those with a score of 51 to 60 had an average unknown user rate of 9.1 percent.

“Senders with better reputation metrics have cleaner lists,” the study said. “Unknown user rates above 1 percent for legitimate email [are] considered problematic and you should address [them] quickly.”

Another striking difference between emailers with high scores and those with lower scores was their DKIM authentication rate.

Emailers with a score of 91 to 100 had a DKIM rate of 54.9 percent while those with scores of 51 to 60 had a DKIM rate of 18.6 percent.

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