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This-is-Not-Spam Rate Points to Long-Term Value


By Ken Magill

It’s a situation no email marketer likes to think about. But at some time or another it is likely to happen to all of them—getting their messages delivered to people’s spam folders.

Yes, it’s a heck of a lot better than getting blocked, but it’s still a frightening thought.

I, for one, cringe whenever I go to a tradeshow and a subscriber tells me they have had to dig the Magill Report out of their spam folder.

However, Return Path has figured out a way to turn this lemon of an event into lemonade by studying email marketers’ this-is-not-spam rate—or the percentage of people who have made the effort to pull certain commercial emails out of their spam folders by marking them as “not spam.”

The email intelligence firm released its findings today.

For one thing, marketers who think all their email is making into people’s inboxes should think again, according to Tom Sather, senior director of email research for Return Path.

“Whether they know it or not, their emails are landing in someone’s spam folder,” said Sather.

But on the upside, email inbox providers place high value on this-is-not-spam reports because they come from real people, according to Return Path.

As a result, the ISP will be more likely deliver messages similar to the ones reported as not spam to the individual’s and other subscribers’ mailboxes.

“One reason mailbox providers give weight to TINS [this-is-not-spam] reports in determining the sending reputation of a domain and whether to deliver its email to the inbox is that these endorsements of value are decidedly deliberate and relatively rare,” said the study. “Subscribers must go through at least two proactive steps (search spam folder, report TINS) to tell mailbox providers that they value the reported message.”

Rare, indeed. The highest this-is-not-spam rate across more than 20 verticals Return Path studied was achieved by airlines—0.69 percent.

So what do people tend to report as not spam? Big surprise here: Emails they value.

For example, financial, insurance and airline emails are far more likely to get rescued from recipients’ spam folders than electronics and cosmetic emails, according to Return Path.

Electronics scored the lowest this-is-not-spam rate in Return Path’s study—0.01 percent.

The obvious reason is people value financial, insurance and airline emails far more than they value email from electronics and electronics retailers.

Also, financial firms, insurance companies and airlines presumably send fewer messages that are perceived as more important on an ongoing basis.

“Unlike other indicators, the TINS rate derives heavily from the mailer’s relationship with subscribers, and how interested they are in the message,” said the study. “Poor deliverability can be due to technical factors and weak list hygiene, and can be fixed somewhat quickly without changing email content or other factors that subscribers see. The TINS rate, however, can only be improved by building a relationship that makes the recipient want to read the sender’s messages, and that takes time.”

The financial and insurance verticals scored a 0.59 percent this-is-not-spam rate, according to Return Path.

Cosmetics scored a 0.04 percent this-is-not-spam rate, according to Return Path.

“The TINS rate cannot be ‘gamed’ by changing sending settings, or adjusting your email list composition or hygiene,” the study concluded. “The TINS rate can’t be changed quickly. It can only be improved over time, by building better relationships with your subscribers so that they will want to read what you send.”

According to Return Path, the study consisted of over a billion messages sent to its panel of 3 million email users during the first quarter of 2013.

Read the whole study here.


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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Dylan
Date: 2013-06-25 17:06:19
Subject: Great insight

The TINS numbers being so low doesn't surprise me. It's critical to set clear expectations upfront in the online environment and urge your subscribers to be proactive because of the value of your content.