About abuse complaints

Article author
Kelly Sutter
  • Updated

Abuse complaints occur when a subscriber clicks the spam button in their inbox. Abuse complaints are sent back to WordFly through ISP feedback loops and the address is flagged as a complaint immediately. The address will be removed from future list imports. Note, for CRM-integrated accounts, the abuse complaint is sent back to the database as an unsubscribe response.


Why you should take notice of abuse complaints

There may be several reasons why a subscriber clicks the spam button. If you start seeing large numbers of abuse complaints (over 2-3%) you should be concerned. It’s important to take notice of your spam complaints to improve your overall email marketing program. 


Most ISPs have thresholds for spam complaints. Yahoo, AOL, and Gmail have very low thresholds for these responses. The threshold is never posted publicly which means there is no way to know what that is for each ISP. In general, you can expect to see lower inbox delivery with just a handful of abuse complaints from your subscribers. And it doesn’t just affect your delivery to one ISP. Higher abuse complaints add up and contribute to your overall email ‘sender score’ which is a metric that all ISPs use to filter or block your emails.

Some reasons that cause subscribers to complain:

  • Mailing to subscribers who never requested your emails
    Purchasing or borrowing email lists is an easy way to make people unhappy. People who receive emails they never requested are likely click the spam button.

  • Mailing to subscribers who have clicked unsubscribe
    It’s tempting to add addresses back to lists, but it is a violation of the subscriber’s expectations when they know they have clicked unsubscribe. Instead of unsubscribing again, they may click the spam button.

  • Content
    Is the subject line misleading? Does email content meet subscriber expectations for your emails? Is your From/Reply To address recognizable? If any of these vary from your normal sending, you may see an uptick in abuse complaints.

  • Frequency (too much or too little)
    Send too much email during the day and you’ll likely receive a spam complaint from an inbox overload. However, email subscriber too little and your subscribers may forget who you are, resulting in the same action.

  • A bad click that sent back the complaint
    While it’s possible to click the spam button by mistake, it shouldn’t be your first conclusion for an abuse complaint.

What you can do

Abuse complaints are an indication of something that’s not quite right with the email marketing channel. Use it as a way of positively enhancing how you treat your email subscribers.

  • Remove the addresses that complained.
    WordFly actually does this for you through ISP feedback loops.

  • Take inventory and analyze what could have caused higher complaints.
    Are you respecting subscriber content and frequency preferences? Are you sending email to subscribers that that have given you permission to send? 
If you don’t know what subscribers want, set up your signup page with preferences. Take the time to properly collect permission on your subscribe page and you’ll have better results with that subscriber and across ISPs.

  • Set expectations around your mailing program when the subscriber opts-in.
    When subscribers sign up for your email program make sure to include some detail about what will be received and how often. Use WordFly’s archive URL to show an example of what is going to be sent out.


View abuse complaints

WordFly will automatically suppress abuse complaints in new list imports and when the original list is used in a new email campaign. These addresses will not appear as subscriber import issues on the List Summary page, though (you can export your list import issues to review them).


There are two additional ways you can see abuse complaints in your email campaign:
Reporting > Sent Email Campaigns
Reporting > Export Data


Option 1: Find complaints under email campaign reporting

Go to Reporting > Sent Email Campaigns, select the name of your sent email, and review the Unsubscribes tab to see abuse complaints. Click on the magnifying glass to see the subscribers who clicked the spam button.




Option 2: Export complaint data by email campaign or for your entire account.


Go to Reporting > Export Data and select Events by Campaign to export abuse complaints by email campaign. Select abuse complaints under section 3 (customize your report).


Or, go to Reporting > Export Data and select Events by Account to export abuse complaints by account. Select abuse complaints under section 3 (customize your report).


Learn more about both of these export options.