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Not long ago, spam was reasonably easy to define as unsolicited commercial email. Advertisements for things you never asked about, email from companies you had never heard of. Offers to increase the size of various parts of your body and claims of missing millions, yours for the asking.

However, as the amount of email we are all receiving continues to grow, our tolerance level for each individual email falls. The definition of spam seems to be changing to something more like that old definition of ‘art’ as “I know it when I see it”.

We’ve posted before about ISPs using a broader definition of spam, measuring not just permission but relevance. A recent survey by Q Interactive and MarketingSherpa has confirmed that this is a growing definition, not just for ISPs but for individuals.

“underscoring consumers’ varying definitions of spam, respondents cited a variety of non-permission-based reasons for hitting the spam button, including “the email was not of interest to me” (41 percent); “I receive too much email from the sender” (25 percent); and “I receive too much email from all senders” (20 percent).”

From an email senders perspective, this can seem unfair: We gather permission legitimately, they know who we are, and yet they still push the spam complaint button. Features like the Hotmail unsubscribe button can make it easier for people to get the result they want (less email) without having to accuse a sender of spamming, but until they become more common, we all need to be wary.

It’s not good enough to have their permission, you also need to put yourself in your subscribers shoes. They signed up for information about one of your products, but does that mean they want email about your other products? Not necessarily.

Also, making sure that you send emails soon after signup, and consistently can help subscribers remember who you are. If they do not get an email for 6 months after visiting your booth, it’s easy for them to call it spam.

Finally, a clear permission reminder and prominent unsubscribe link will make it easier for a subscriber who is no longer interested to unsubscribe rather than reach for that spam button.

As part of our approval process, we try to make this clear. If we hold up your campaign to check on the relevance of your emails, we are trying to help ensure you don’t end up with spam complaints, even if you are not sending unsolicited email.

How do you define spam personally? How do these findings fit with you as an email recipient, and as an email sender?

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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