Email Marketing and Abuse Report Thresholds


I want to apologize in advance for getting a little ranty, but I have to get this out.

I was shut down by my email marketing vendor for the second time because I exceeded an abuse threshold of .04 percent. What constitutes  abuse you ask? According to my vendor, abuse is when a user flags an email as spam using either an independent anti-spam software or built in protection provided by the ISP handling the mail. The abuse rate has nothing to do with the users who use the UNSUBSCRIBE link located at the end of the email. Now the next question on your mind is how bad did you exceed the threshold. My level of abuse was .08 (double the maximum allowance).

Just so you know . . .

I am well aware of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 compliance requirements and adhere to them best I can. Do I slip up, probably, but for the most part I am on top of what is considered spam and what is not. First off, I do not send to unsolicited users. Each email address on my list (about 8,136) is a registered user of my website under my terms of use agreement which clearly states that I will be sending them mail. Secondly, I am not sending them information on replica watches, Viagra or Russian mail order brides. I send a monthly newsletter with tips and information on the local market and for the most part it works. We know it works, because I have 99.92 percent of those users not clicking the spam button. Other proof to its effectiveness is the large spike in traffic for the three days after the mailing. I even double up on the exposure by posting a blog similar to the email newsletter on the website with a click thru from the email and get lots of positive comments.

Here comes the ranty part

Like I said before, I am extra careful to comply with the AntiSpam requirements, so much that I will read every unsubscribe and double check to see that they were actually taken off the list. Sometimes the user will send an unsubscribe request from an email address different then what they registered and I go out of my way to find the right address and remove it. Here is where it gets stupid. Some times I will get an email asking me to remove them because the unsubscribe link doesn't work. Now, the unsubscribe feature is fully provided by my vendor, I have no control over it whatsoever. I explain to my vendor that it is very likely that I am being reported as spam because your stupid unsubscribe link doesn't work. I have have been sending to this this list for four years, and never had a problem until now.

The abuse rate thresholds are dumb too.

Like I said before, my abuse rate was .08 percent and I send to 8136 users. .08 percent is like 6 users. So I have 8130 users that want my newsletter, and I get shut down because 6 of them don't. When I put this to the vendor, he told me that the abuse rates where not set by the vendor rather by the ISPs, so if my vendor allows me to operate at a .08 percent, the vendor and all of their other clients (which happens to be all of Prudential and more) run the risk of getting blacklisted by those ISPs. the vendor went on to tell me I needed to "tighten up" my registration process by putting in another step to detail the terms of use before the registration completion. Well I guess that is a good idea, but why would I do that when I am effective with the majority of my subscribers. If I add another step to the registration process I will only effect the 99.92 percent that are OK with my emails.

Here is my frustration.

With the Internet being what it is in the real estate industry, we that effectively use web and email based prospecting tools have a competitive advantage over those who wait for the lead to come walking through the door. What this means for us is that we as e-realtors (or whatever you want to call it) have this advantage because we can reach people at their first notion of home buying. It's a numbers game at this stage, some will be receptive, some will not but with these low abuse thresholds we may not be able to reach them at all in the future.

What do we do?


Lou Lynch
Associate Broker / Technology Director

Lou Lynch is an Ulster County real estate advisor and local area expert providing stellar home buyer and seller services in the Hudson Valley region of Upstate New York.


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I see your point too and just so you know, my problem isn't with the end user at all. By no means, if you don't want the email, you shouldn't get it. My frustration is mostly with the real spammers pushing the viagra and replica watches. They are the real cause for these low thresholds set by the ISPs (AOL, Yahoo, Gmail, etc.).

What makes it even worse is that my personal acount, gets bombarded with real spam. So it seems to me is that there needs to be a different system (or criteria) to identify spam. How is it that the emails for online pharmacies and a fake college degrees continously make it through when my legitiment and completely solicited (under the terms of use agreement on my website) emails runs th erisk of getting banned by major ISPs?

Thanks for the comment.


No they don't discount them, I wish they did. We also have a lot of registrations being made by our competition which ultimately end up with them being on my email list. I am sure they are reporting me as spam as well.

I think the whole system needs to change not only with my provider, but with the ISPs and the way they way they identify spam.

Thanks for your comment

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