Commentary

A Lesson in SPAM

I just attended the Email Insider Summit, and I came back with more than just a sunburn—I gained a little knowledge, too.

One of the most notable things I learned was about the repercussions of marking an email as SPAM. This is a subject Amanda hinted at in her last blog—she mentioned how several of the summit’s attendees found it frustrating that we, consumers, simply hit the SPAM button instead of actually unsubscribing to an email. Little did I know, when I mark an email as SPAM, my email provider actually sends negative feedback to the sender of said email.

This is all well and fine if the email is truly SPAM, but like Amanda stated, the “technical definition of SPAM is much different” than what we consumers actually consider SPAM. We consider anything we don’t want in our Inbox to be junk. In truth, much of that “junk” is legitimate email. For this reason, many legitimate mailers get served a dish of injustice when email providers tarnish their reputation with negative feedback because users mindlessly click the SPAM button. At the summit, I was urged to, instead of reporting SPAM, actually unsubscribe to the email.

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While I am a bit empathetic towards these emailers that are getting wronged, I can hardly put anyone at fault. I think most consumers have no idea that marking email as SPAM can taint a company’s reputation. After all, I only learned of it after I attended a summit dedicated to email.

2 comments about "A Lesson in SPAM".
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  1. Daniel Warfield from Ajar Publishing LLC, May 27, 2008 at 9:47 a.m.

    That's fine if the emailer makes it easy to unsubscribe. I have several newsletters that won't go away because I can't remember a password, or because I'm not able to reply to the email with the same address used to subscribe (such as an alias on my own domain that can't actually send outgoing emails). Forbes is the worst offender on my list. Writing to them is useless and I can't unsubscribe so I mark them as spam. What else can one do?

  2. Sally Robinson, May 27, 2008 at 10:46 a.m.

    In the past I've worked for an ISP/ESP and would constantly monitor feedback loops and work on whitelisting mail servers to allow mail delivery from our servers to some of the major ISPs such as AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo! etc. Not only does the rampant use of the "mark as SPAM" button impact mail delivery, but also the use of domain forwarding or aliasing. Many times customers who had name@theirdomain.com forwarding to an AOL or similar account would be a large percentage of the mail delivery issues we saw with those larger ISPs. Since our servers were the last hop on the way to the AOL inbox, it looked like the messages were coming from our servers, even if we were simply passing along the messages as configured by our clients.

    I'd love to see more about this from you, taking a look at it from a personal and a professional context.

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