A new report has found that marketing emails account for more than two-thirds (70%) of spam email complaints.

This is despite the fact that marketers only account for 18% of total email volume and just 0.03% of unique domains seen by ISPs.

Return Path’s Q3 Intelligence Report, which tracked more than 315,000 campaigns, suggests the disproportionately high number of spam complaints is caused by the fact that pushing emails to the spam folder has become a shortcut for deleting them.

But it’s not difficult to see why consumers might feel overwhelmed by marketing messages.

Data included in Econsultancy’s Email Census 2012 shows that 16% of businesses send more than 1m emails per month.

A further 19% send between 250,000 and 1m emails each month.

Return Path’s report also shows that marketing messages account for 60% of email that gets caught in spam traps.

There are two types of spam traps:

  • Pristine traps: these are new email addresses that never sign up for email. They exist solely to identify spammers who collect email addresses by unscrupulous means.
  • Recycled spam traps: these are real addresses that have been abandoned by the user for at least 18 months. Marketers who don’t practice good list hygiene, or who use acquired lists, can be caught in these traps.

Once a marketer’s email has been reported as spam or is caught in spam traps, that marketer is on the way to an email sender reputation problem.

Return Path’s report, which is based on data from 241 ISPs, shows that 16% of marketing emails sent in Europe fail to make it into the recipient’s inbox.

Improving email deliverability

Data included in our Email Census 2012 looks at the factors that have the biggest impact on improving deliverability.

According to the majority of responding companies (53%), clean and up-to-date lists have the biggest impact, followed by a focus on relevance of email to recipients (50%) and reputation of sender (38%).

It is worth noting that less than a quarter (24%) of respondents believe that having experienced in-house email marketers are among the factors with the greatest impact on improving email deliverability.

David Moth

Published 28 November, 2012 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Comments (2)


Hugh Billings

As a communications expert, currently heavily involved in digital delivery, I have in the past met many businesses that a) Don't understand the value and possibilities of digital delivery, b) Think of all email deliverables as a single entity, and c) Don't have any form of in-house testing process for the elements of their ambitious digital programs.

Digital isn't anything other than new channels - how well your teams understand, deploy and develop them is what makes the difference.

Email are the most common today, but already misconceptions and bad practice is creeping into 'social' activity too.

over 5 years ago


David Morgan

I completely agree with Hugh. In house testing is very important but how people perceive email marketing and digital delivery is often misguided. Email deliverability is affected by a host of different factors.

over 5 years ago

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