Let’s Get Serious: List Quality and Complaints

A philosopher once mused that two wrongs don’t make a right, and ever since then, school administrators were equipped with their favorite platitude. But in all seriousness, two big wrongs which will ruin your email program are poor list quality and not taking the appropriate approach to complaints.

Let’s break it down!

List quality
How do you obtain the email addresses you send to? In other words, what are your points of acquisition. For the sake of brevity, let’s say you have one source: your website. Of course, you’re not one of those _____ (fill in the blank) senders that buy lists, etc. But there could be important components that are being overlooked which are adversely affecting your list quality. These include:

  • Validation of email addresses during sign-up: A secondary field to confirm/match the typed email address. This will help prevent fat-fingered address typos.
  • Double opt-in: This will allow for a confirmation of the email addresses validity and acceptance into your program.
  • Setting appropriate expectations: From the start, let the subscriber know the type and frequency of email they’ll be receiving.
  • Preference center: Allow subscribers to modify the frequency and type of email they want to receive. Give subscribers an easy way to unsubscribe from your program, but it’s ok to make a final attempt to maintain a cordial relationship by giving them other options in case they’re still interested in the program.

Subscriber complaints
If you’re doing your utmost to have good list hygiene, will that mean the end of complaints? Nope. Why? People’s preferences change!

It could be that you’re mailing too much, or even too little, and subscribers who are not familiar with your brand may mark it as unwanted mail. How about your content? Is it insipid and just not interesting anymore? Has it been tested for compatibility with the available email clients?

The key here is to be aware of how subscribers are (or aren’t) engaging with your email. That includes signing up for feedback loops and other services provided by mailbox providers, to get as much insight as possible into the filtering decisions are made for the email addresses you mailed to at each mailbox provider.

In particular, there are three areas are of primary concern:

  • Unknown users:This is the mailbox provider telling you to stop sending to this address. These are marked by a hard-bounce code (e.g., 550… citation of issue). You should remove all unknown users from your list immediately.
  • Spam traps: These are addresses which are inactive and you shouldn’t send to! Spam traps are either “recycled” (nothing environmentally green about it), which means that the address at one point was used by an individual and the mailbox provider took over due to prolonged inactivity, or “pristine” (also referred to as honey pots, although there’s nothing sweet about ‘em), which are addresses created with the purpose of catching spammers.
  • Inactive users: These are users within your list who are not engaging with your campaigns. You should have a segmentation policy in place wherein the inactive segment is identified and, if mailed to (during a win-back campaign, for example), close monitoring is applied to remove those users who are not engaging and/or complaining about your campaign. It’s important to note that inactive users are susceptible to becoming spam traps. Mailbox providers will send an unknown user code for a year prior to turning it into a spam trap, and if you send to spam traps your performance will definitely show it.

With Return Path’s Email Optimization suite, you have a plethora of tools which elucidate on all aspects of your reputation and performance. We provide you not only the tools but expert guidance on how to optimize your performance. It’s time to get serious about list hygiene and complaints. We got your back!

To learn more about the challenges to deliverability, download our latest ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Email Deliverability

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