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Stay in the loop, or get the boot!

by Andrew O'Halloran, Chief Privacy Officer

There is a subtle characteristic that differentiates the professional permission-based email marketer and the spammer. The difference is the extent that each will invest to make sure that recipients are sent relevant, timely, and valued messages.

No one is perfect. However, compared to the spammer, the permission-based email marketer not only has the intent to do the right thing but is also committed to ongoing improvement through feedback.

This is Spam!

One of the most important tools available to the permission-based email marketer is Internet Service Provider (ISP) complaint feedback loop programs. These ensure that you are kept in the loop whenever recipients click on the “This Is SPAM!” button.

Burying your head in the sand and ignoring this vital information is always an option, of course. But, don’t think that the ISP will do the same. SPAM complaints are one of the most important variables that affect your reputation as a sender. The fewer complaints, the better your reputation; the better your reputation, the better your deliverability, and therefore the better ROI you can achieve as a result.

You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge

If you ignore vital feedback, you can’t improve your mailing operations. Here are just a few ways to use ISP SPAM complaint feedback loop information:

Remove the complainant: Wrong me once, shame on you. Wrong me twice, shame on me. If someone complains, remove the recipient from your list. The last thing you want to do is resend and get another complaint. Most Email Service Providers (ESPs) have automatic functionality to do this.

Trend Analysis: Analyze SPAM complaint aggregate feedback loop data and look for trends or spikes. For instance, a spike in complaints may signal an error was made. Maybe a message was sent to the wrong list. Maybe the wrong ‘Subject’ line or ‘From’ line was used and made the message unrecognizable. Or, maybe you are sending too frequently (or infrequently as the case may be).

Segmentation Analysis: You may be incorporating data from different sources. By correlating the SPAM complaint metrics to the data source you can gain a better appreciation on each segment’s interest and preferences.

Testing Analysis: You should include SPAM complaint information in your testing. Whether you are testing a new newsletter format, different ‘Subject’ lines, or other factors, the SPAM complaint feedback information offers useful data for evaluating results.

Creative Analysis: You may be sending content that recipient’s want to receive, but if they don’t recognize the message (e.g. poor choice of ‘From’ line, ‘Subject’, or no alt-text to describe the blocked images) they may complain. Similarly, if the opt-out link is difficult to find, the recipient may well choose the path of least resistance – clicking on “This is SPAM”.


Yahoo recently started accepting Complaint Feedback Loop applications again. It was a long wait, but well worth it my opinion because the process is now streamlined and much easier to manage. To enrol you need two things: DKIM and a Yahoo Account.

#1 DKIM Required

The first is to be signing your messages with Domainkeys or DKIM. This is because the complaints are routed based on the authenticated domain rather than the last hop IP address. You should have been signing your messages anyway as a way to protect your domain name’s reputation.

#2 Yahoo Account Required

The second requirement is that you need to create a Yahoo account to submit the application. At first glance this may seem cumbersome – another account and password to remember and manage. However, this is one that I think you will appreciate because with this account you can do it all — review your existing complaint feedback loop settings, request new ones, and make changes as required.

Already subscribed to old Yahoo Feedback loops?

If you have an old Yahoo complaint feedback loop setup, you have two choices. One choice is to do nothing since these loops will continue to work. The downside, however, is that you won’t see these in the new interface, making it harder to manage your infrastructure. The second option is to re-apply your old feedback loops through the new interface (i.e. submit a new application). After approval, the system will automatically reconcile the two applications and essentially delete the old one and replace it with the new settings.

Other ISPs

Many other ISPs offer feedback loop programs. Notably, AOL, Microsoft/Hotmail, Road Runner, among others. It is essential that you sign up and use the information afforded by these programs. In fact, even before you send out your first message, make sure these feedback loops are put in place.

The bottom line is that Feedback Loops are a vital way of keeping in touch with your reputation as a sender. Use this data prudently and you will find your ROI rising as a direct result. Ignore this data at your own risk – and don’t be surprised when one day your ISP gives you the boot.

This entry was posted on Sunday, March 29th, 2009 at 11:14 am

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