Understanding Complaint Rate

When it comes to optimizing your email deliverability, it most often comes down to your sender reputation. A sender reputation is primarily a reflection of two things: high engagement and complaint rates.

Since complaints are such a key piece to sender reputation and deliverability, let's dive into how to properly understanding what your real complaint rate is and how to improve it.

Google vs Everyone Else

The first thing you need to know is that all other mailbox providers who aren't named Google are happy to tell email service providers (such as Campaign Refinery), who complained.

This is extremely useful because we can immediately unsubscribe them and know right away if a piece of content was not well received by recipients.

You'll see the complain rate shown in aggregate on your dashboard, like this example:

Dashboard complaint rate example

You'll also see this metric shown inside of campaigns, as well as a breakdown for any individual email both within campaigns and on broadcasts that look like this example:

Per email complaint rate example

At Campaign Refinery, we have thresholds that we require all senders to stay within in order to remain an active sender on our platform.

Maximum threshold: 0.1%

Ideal target rate: 0.05%

However, when looking at the examples above, it unfortunately doesn't tell the whole story.

Since Google doesn't post back analytics in the same way as the other mailbox providers, and you couple that with most lists being 50-80% Gmail addresses, your complaint rate is likely much higher than what your initial analytics would indicate.

Google Postmaster Tools

In order to properly understand your complaint rate for Google recipients, you'll need to configure your domain with the free tool from Google, called "Google Postmaster Tools".

To get started, you'll need to login with your Google account at https://postmaster.google.com

Once you've configured your domain, you'll be able to see a more abstract report of your complaint rate that is calculated a bit differetly than the other mailbox providers.

Here's an example of what you'll find once you're all setup:

Google Postmaster Tools Spam Rate

Again, the goal here is always to minimzie the complaint rate to as close to 0% as you can, but it's important to know that Google calculates this based only on email that hits the inbox.

So, while other mailbox providers may show a lower complaint rate, it's not neccessarily comparable but that's ok as long as you know what you're looking at/for.

Spam Rate Goals for Google

With Google Postmaster Tools, it's a good rule of thumb to keep your average complaint rate below 1% since it's calculated so differently. We still encourage you to do everything in your power to get as close to 0% as you can, but if you're doing everything else correctly you can continue to inbox at a high rate even with a slightly higher spam rate.

Note: Coming soon, we will be integrating Google Postmaster Tools directly into Campaign Refinery so you can check your Spam Rate from Google without every leaving your account!

Lowering Spam Rate

We've established that a spam/complaint rate at 0% is the ideal whenever possible, but what can do you do to help get your overall spam complaints down?

Here's a series of great first steps to do just that.

  1. Subscriber Consent

When subscribers are complaining, it begs the #1 question – do they consent to hear from you?

As a reminder, cold emailing is strictly forbidden on Campaign Refinery.

You're only allowed to send emails to people who have explicitly asked to receive information from you and your brand. This includes opt-ins, members and customers who understand they will get emails from you and understand why.

  1. Speed & Recency

Not sending enough emails to your list?

You're not alone in this struggle, but it could be a big reason why people are complaining. When you go too long between sending emails, it's easy for people to forget who you are or that they signed up to your list in the first place!

Make sure that as soon as someone gets on your list, you're sending theme mails to allow them to unsubscribe if they wish and set the expectation of what you expect in the future.

Plus, you want to make sure you're sending emails often enough that people remember who you are and that they get emails from you on a regular basis so your other future emails aren't a surprise.

  1. Header Unsubscribes

An unsubscribe is so much more desireable than a spam complaint.

By default, Campaign Refinery includes a way for subscribers to 1-click unsubscribe at the top of every email, which makes a material difference on overall complaints.

Header unsubscribe example
  1. Content Fit & Segmentation

Sometimes, even if people know who you are and have lots of ways to get off your list easily they can still hit the spam button because they simply didn't like what you sent them.

This can be true most often when sending an aggressive promotion that feels extremely one sided and not in line with helping them achieve their goals.

Exercising a strong sense of editorial oversight goes a long way to making sure content passes the "sniff test" where it feels like it would be congruent with what your list wants to receive.

Segmentation is a powerful tool inside of Campaign Refinery to also help you better fit your message to the various sub-niche's that may exist within your larger audience.

  1. Sending to Role Accounts

By default, Campaign Refinery will unsubscribe what's known as "role accounts". These are emails that are typically something like "admin@" , "info@" , "support@" etc.

We do this because role accounts will often change hands between different people within an organization, so if the person who filled the role previously signed up for your list, an entirely different human may receive your emails in the future.

This change of personnel can lead to confusion about why they are getting an email from you or your organization, which increases the risk of a complaint.

In some case-by-case instances we may disable this particular cleaning result from being an automatic removal per-account, but by default you should be protected from this risk vector when you use Campaign Refinery as designed.

Complaint Rate Summary

We hope this helped you better understand complaint rates, what targets to shoot for and how to make adjustments once you've identified any that are outside of KPI (key peroformance indicator).

To sustain a healthy and profitable email list, the goal is always to get complaints as close to zero as possible, but as you scale actually sustaining zero complaints is unrealistic.

However, every good steward of an email list should be using all the tools and resources at their disposal to try and continually improve their list happiness and reduce complaints.

We've made sure to build-in more tools than any other platform that assist you in this pursuit and we will continue to explore more features in the future that will make life even better for both you and the subscribers on your list.

Happy emailing!