News and tips from the industry leaders in email compliance.

Email Marketing Tip – Leveraging Negative Marketing Signals

Email marketers have no shortage of key performance metrics to measure, analyze, and leverage in their optimization efforts. From delivery rate, open rate, and click-thru rate, to conversion rate, click-to-conversion rate, and many more, marketers have no shortage of data to consider when evaluating email campaign performance. Most of these metrics are geared toward measuring positive actions on the part of recipients: opening and engaging with an email campaign, clicking through to a landing page and making a purchase, etc. However, every campaign also generates a variety of what might be considered recipient negative actions or negative marketing signals

Negative marketing signals are just as important for email marketers to measure and analyze. They can also be included in more advanced optimization efforts, as they bring additional information to the process of enhancing future campaign performance. 

Here are three basic negative marketing signals that email marketers should be monitoring regularly.


As a part of compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act and other email marketing regulations in the U.S. and around the world, one key aspect is the requirement to offer email recipients a way to opt-out of future email campaigns. So, every email campaign must provide this opt-out functionality (typically a link in the email to a web page offering a way to unsubscribe from future email messaging) and responses are collected, stored, and processed to ensure those email addresses are suppressed from future mailings. Evaluating opt-outs for trends in audience demographics, geography, timing, or other factors can be very useful in your optimization program. 

Spam Complaints

This is another useful measure of recipient sentiment. Watch for patterns in volume or in audience data, which can suggest various segments of your audience aren’t finding your email content engaging. A spam complaint may or may not relate to a specific email campaign. Sometimes it may relate more to something like the frequency of your campaigns, where some recipients decide they are receiving too many emails and simply flag them as spam, rather than opting out. 


While we all tend to focus on responders to our email campaigns, often the majority of your audience falls into a different category – non-engagers or non-responders. These are recipients who do not interact with your email campaign(s). You can choose how to define the group in whatever way provides the most actionable information (total non-engagers who never even open the email or those who open the email, but don’t click/engage with it beyond that, etc.) One action you might take to optimize future campaigns is to actually suppress certain types of non-responders, as we wrote about in a past Email Marketing Tip about suppressing non-responders


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