It’s an end-of-year list you didn’t know you wanted.

Which brand filled your inbox with corporate clutter? Whose business saw their daily marketing emails lead to the most unsubscribes? Which company’s irrelevant broadcasting made you hit the spam button?

Now, the strict defintion of spam (here's one from Spamhaus) and the recipient's perception can be two different things.

They may well have subscribed in the first place, but if they become uninterested, emails become irrelevant, or too many are sent, then this can the same as spam to them. They may also report such emails as spam. 

It’s not all about naming and shaming (although most of it is of course), has also revealed the company with the highest number of subscriptions in its inaugural Spammy Awards. Lets check out the winners and losers, relatively speaking.

From a total number of 117,548,525 email subscriptions, discovered...

Top unsubscribed subscriptions

2nd Place: (48% unsubscribe rate)

3rd Place: Jetsetter (47% unsubscribe rate)

4th Place: Monster (44% unsubscribe rate)

5th Place: SlideShare (44% unsubscribe rate)

Sends the most emails

2nd Place: Groupon (276 emails/user)

3rd Place: Facebook (251 emails/user)

4th Place: LinkedIn (193 emails/user)

5th Place: Twitter (116 emails/user)

Most popular day for email

2nd Place: Black Friday (average 21.62 emails/user were sent)

3rd Place: Veteran’s Day (average 17.74 emails/user were sent)

4th Place: Thanksgiving (average 17.51 emails/user were sent)

5th Place: Election Day (average 17.48 emails/user were sent)

Most popular subscriptions

2nd Place: Facebook (64% subscription rate)

3rd Place: Google (58% subscription rate)

4th Place: LinkedIn (52% subscription rate)

5th Place: Twitter (48% subscription rate)

Best practice

Here are a few insights to remember.

Whether offering content, promotions or discounts, just be completely clear about what your recipient can expect from clicking open. If you lead them on with erroneous or disappointing content, your emails won’t get read again.

Offer a variety of email content. If you’re sending a newsletter one day, send something more personalised the nest time. If you’re offering your latest products one day, offer a discount or promotion another.

As an email marketer you receive just as many emails as the rest of us. Go through your inboxes and your spam folders, and really think about what you read and why. The best exercise you can do is put yourself in the shoes of the people you email. 

If you want to succeed in email marketing we have loads of really helpful resources on the blog. Download our massive and comprehensive Email Marketing Best Practice Guide. Also For a helpful list on what to avoid, check out these 45 words you should avoid in your email subject lines, for guidance on what to measure here are the 16 most important email marketing KPIs for your business and learn how fashion ecommerce brands use email marketing.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 16 December, 2014 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Comments (9)

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Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

This means that one-per-day is the right kind of frequency to aim for, when sending transactional emails.

How do I know? Facebook has a 64% subscription rate and sends 251 emails/user/year. Combining them shows that each subscribed facebook user would get almost exactly one email per day, virtually all of them transactional, notification emails. This is an issue that facebook will have tested thoroughly, so we can trust their decision.

over 3 years ago

Dela Quist

Dela Quist, Email Marketing Evangelist & CEO at Alchemy Worx Ltd - 100% Email Marketing

This is a highly misleading headline and the article itself is somewhat irresponsible. For starters there is no mention of anyone hitting the spam button. is an unsubscribe service which by definition means the people who use it had to have subscribed to begin with. is a service aimed at people who have either subscribed to LOTS and LOTS of email lists or like me have their email address in the public domain (I don’t use it btw). The average person does not have this problem, according to Gmail their average user gets 5 commercial emails a day. On’s site they claim to have just over a million people who use their service and according to your piece those users are subscribed to 117,548,525 emails, that’s about 100 subscriptions per user – hardly the average Jo(e) then. The idea that every person on the planet’s inbox is completely overloaded is myth promoted by the media, IT managers, inbox zero proponents - people who in my opinion are borderline OCD and people who make software to fix a problem that doesn’t exist for most people.

When you ask “which company’s irrelevant broadcasting made you hit the spam button”, the answer is simple; either companies who through no fault of there are only be relevant for a short periods. Monster for example, you love their email when you are unemployed, actively looking or hiring – completely irrelevant when you are employed, happy in your job or laying people off! Or stumbleupon daily website recommendations, the kind of thing that seems a good idea at the time but like joke or word of the day recommendations have so little inherent value to the proposition that you become bored.

What is most interesting about the awards and a point you either missed or chose to overlook because it hasn’t got anything to do with spam at all, it is the simple fact that NONE of the highest frequency senders made the most unsubscribed list. In fact I would hazard a guess that they were nowhere near the top. Oh and while we are at it the highest frequency senders are also the most popular, but I guess that would have exposed the inconvenient truth that most consumers - normal people quite like the email they get.

over 3 years ago

Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff, Editor at Methods Unsound / Search Engine Watch

That's quite the impassioned response, and I appreciate the length to which you've taken the article down.

Frankly I believe that if you're sending irrelevant, impersonal emails that don't take into account a recipients history or behaviour than you're spamming them. Even if the user has opted in to receive them.

There's no 'inconvenient truth' or fact purposely overlooked, I'm merely reporting's findings with a little best practice guidance.

It also stands to reason that the highest frequency senders are also the most popular. If you're firing at will you're bound to hit your target eventually.

over 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at SaleCycle

@Dela The title is tongue in cheek to a certain extent, though I think the customer perception of spam and the strict definition (non-opted in emails) can be very different things. If emails don't interest customers, or they think they receive too many, this can be spam to them.

Sending more emails can be a good tactic. Indeed, Parry Malm argued the case for this very well last year:

However, sending emails without measuring engagement levels, testing frequencies etc is liable to cause trouble in the long run.

over 3 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

@Dela Quist: it's a jokey article, wrapping some really interesting figures in a thick coat of linkbait, hence the focus on "spam".

The email numbers are so high because of a loose definition of "marketing emails".

The figure you mention, "according to Gmail their average user gets 5 commercial emails a day", is probably in the right ballpark if you only consider marketing emails (where the main focus is to sell you stuff).

In contrast, most of the emails in this article are transactional emails, sent by social networks, where the main focus is to tell their users that something "interesting" has happened. I would consider them commercial emails - but definitely not marketing emails - however the author hasn't made this distinction.

over 3 years ago

Dela Quist

Dela Quist, Email Marketing Evangelist & CEO at Alchemy Worx Ltd - 100% Email Marketing

Pete trust me I tried very hard to read this as tongue in cheek. I don’t think it was, but even if it was meant to be, I think anyone who read it particularly the first version that did not include a definition of spam would be more likely to see this as yet more evidence that every email marketer even those working for highly respected brands are spammers and that most marketing email is spam. So I decided to object because it promotes what I call Fear and Self-Loathing in Email Marketing an issue I have written about extensively.

Email is the only channel that spends so much time trying to pretend practitioners are not doing what they actually do which is trying to build their brand and generate revenue via reach and frequency. Can you imagine a TV industry blog or website talking endlessly about irrelevant TV ads and promoting a product that allowed viewers to unroll ads? Look what happened when Tivo tried that a few years back.

To your point about treating all email as the same, I agree – worse still there is a tendency to behave as if email recipients can’t tell the difference between an unsolicited offer for discounted Viagra, an email from a respected high street brand, a phishing email from Colonel mustard in Nigeria and an email from your Mum and it drives me nuts too

over 3 years ago

Dela Quist

Dela Quist, Email Marketing Evangelist & CEO at Alchemy Worx Ltd - 100% Email Marketing

Christopher I can see where you are coming from and don't see any conflict between that and the point I am making. Most people should and indeed do go to a great deal of trouble to ensure the email they send is about as relevant and personal as their technology and resources will allow. Where we disagree is calling anyone and everyone who doesn’t not a spammer.

Putting relevance aside, and believe you me not every email I get from e-consultancy is relevant to me, I am almost certain that your team does not take into account your subscribers’ history or behaviour when they send email. How do I know? Because at least 5 and more likely 10 people here at Alchemy Worx are subscribers - I alone am subscribed twice. I also know a great number of the great and good in the UK Digital marketing space who are subscribers and I have never once received an email from one of your lists that both I and they were subscribed to that was differentiated in any way.

You don't even use first name personalisation!

Does that make you spammers? No!

The bottom-line is I know that you send email at least once a day to anyone who asks to receive them. The content is occasionally relevant and sometimes not and I can unsubscribe any time I want. I don’t because on balance I think it is worth being on the list.

over 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at SaleCycle

@Dela At no point in this article do we say that most email marketing is spam. We're talking about irrelevant or emails that are sent too frequently. I think most consumers can tell the difference between the viagra/PPI spam and marketing emails. Besides, most of the former doesn't even make it past spam filters into people's inboxes anyway.

We're aware of what the technical / legal definition of spam is (I added that link to make it clear), but consumers don't judge spam on these terms. For example, a Silverpop survey from a few years ago found that 40% of people viewed emails they no longer wanted as spam, while 35% viewed any email from a commercial entity in the same way.

Also - while I see the commercial / marketing distinction, this isn't necessarily a distinction the consumer makes.

The simple message here is that email marketers need to ensure that their emails are relevant and not so frequent that recipients are turned off by them. Of course, as different people have different tolerances, this isn't necessarily the easiest task. Perhaps Jetsetter and others need to try harder here.

over 3 years ago


Sherwood Botsford, Midship's mite, bosun tight & crew of the captain's gig at Sherwood's Forests Tree Farm

Most of the time I sign up for a trial of some SaaS, work with it for 10 minutes, and discover that it doesn't meet my needs. But I get emails, one a day for a lengthy period of time until I unsubscribe.

Most recently it was Grammarly. It didn't work as I expected, and they kept hounding me, "discount this discount that' NOW I have a very negative mindset toward their brand despite their humourous web page.

Key factors for *anyone* in contact with customers on a regular basis.

1. Don't overdo it. I don't want to hear from you every day. I don't want to hear from you every week. Contact me once a month tops. Every 6 weeks is better.

2. Don't just contact me to sell me something. Inform me, teach me, give me links to good stuff not necessarily on your own site.

3. Don't expect me to click blind. If you provide a link, provide 100 words telling me what this link is about.

4. Don't send me message with less than 300 words in it.

5. Your subject line better match the content.

over 3 years ago

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