Are You Getting Reported as a Spammer for Sending Legitimate Emails?

Even though on the face of it, it may look like a personal rant, I assure you  it is more than that!

This article is loosely based on an event of my life! :P

On June 12, 2011, I sent the following message to my affiliates from my server:


I am sending this email because I believe a lot of my affiliates are not subscribers of my Nuttiezine newsletter. Here is an article I believe will help affiliates, mainly newbies, promote not just my stuff but any other affiliate product too. I suggest you read it, if you have not already!

You are receiving this email because you are my affiliate. Your affiliate ID is: XXX

What? Don’t like these emails? You can remove yourself from this list by clicking the link at the bottom of this message. Instant removal! :D


OPT-OUT Link Goes Here "

That is the exact email I sent to my affiliates because *I* thought it would ‘help’ them. Usually I use Aweber for most of my email marketing needs but occasionally there comes a time when it becomes imperative to send emails from my server; in this case not all of my affiliates are on any of my Aweber lists and since I wanted to make sure that every affiliate of mine gets the email, I decided to use my server!

Next day, my host forwarded an ‘abuse complaint’ to me that they had received from Spamcop™! Inside I see a copy of the same message I sent out on June 12 (yep, the so-called ‘helpful’ article):

Hello Arindam,

We regret that it has become necessary to issue this Policy Enforcement Notice for violation of our AUP or TOS based on complaints and/or logs of abuse attached or included below. We will review the complaints and/or logs again if you believe this is an error. However, it is your responsibility to investigate your account and reply promptly to avoid disconnection. You are required to suspend or remove all domains, sites, users, and/or exploits causing this issue.

Pending your reply with your comments, questions, or actions to resolve this issue, the account is:
[ ] Monitored for Additional Violations
[ ] Accessed for Investigation, Cleaning, Hardening, or Securing
[ ] Traffic filter applied
… [ ] Outgoing traffic: none
… [ ] Incoming traffic: none
[x] Suspended in:
… [ ] 48-Hours
… [x] 24-Hours
… [ ] 12-Hours
… [ ] 6-Hours
… [ ] 1-Hour
… [ ] 0-Hours

Copy of the original complain:  …."

The next part of the email identified the ‘parts’ of my original email message as ‘possible spam’, and identified both and the opt-out links as ‘Spamvertised web sites’ (what else can you expect from the Spamcop’s robots anyway! :D ).

So anyway it was clear that if I don’t respond within 24 hours my host may suspend my account; of course they could not do otherwise, and thank goodness I was not away on some vacation! :D

It is really very easy to lose your temper at this point and frankly I thought that the guy who reported me to spamcop is a moron (I am not actually sure how the whole thing happened; maybe the guy only clicked on the "This is spam" button? Well I don’t know). Why? There were at least three reasons why the email was not spam:

a) When one joins my affiliate program s/he agrees to receive important emails from me occasionally. Unlike many other marketers out there who send out almost every kind of marketing message to their affiliates, and pretty frequently at that, I email my affiliates very rarely, maybe once in several months, and that too, only when I feel the need to convey an extremely important message to my affiliates. In this case I genuinely felt that the article could be useful to my affiliates (now it is another matter if someone feels differently; that is their prerogative).

b) I also mention in the email that they are getting this message from me as an affiliate, and I even mention their affiliate ID!

c) I also provide an opt-out link at the bottom of the message so that those who don’t want to receive any further messages from me can opt-out.

It is important to note that out of the thousands of affiliates I sent the email to, only one fella reported me as a ‘spammer’! I am quite used to this kind of thing even with Aweber (the ‘complaint rate’ beside your message denotes the percentage of subscribers on your list who reported you as a spammer); thankfully Aweber handles these complaints on my behalf by removing those ‘morons’ from my lists. I have also noticed that it does not matter if you send helpful content or promo messages to your subscribers, you may get reported as a spammer for any type of message. There are times when I see ‘low’ complaint rate for my promotional messages and ‘higher’ complaint rate for content-rich messages I send out, and at other times it is just the opposite!

So back to the topic: how did I tackle the spam complaint? Well –

1. I explained to my host why this email is NOT spam (all the 3 reasons I mentioned above)

2. I thanked them for their proactiveness in keeping my server from getting into some "email blacklist"

3. I informed them that I have removed the person (who reported me as a spammer) from my database; I also mentioned the email address I removed from my database.

The last point was actually what made them close the ‘abuse complaint’ ticket. This is pretty much what Aweber does too: it removes the ‘complainant’ from my list; only in my case my host got in the way and the process was all manual; if I had a system like Aweber my host would not have to be bothered with these things and the whole process would have been automated!

The only other time I had received an ‘abuse complaint’ from my host was when somebody hacked into my server, uploaded an email-sending script and spammed tons of people!

So in case you face a similar situation that is how you can tackle the spam complaint. I must say that the first prerequisite for this process to work is that your host must be as understanding as mine. There are hosts who would ask you before pulling the trigger, and then there are hosts who would shoot you first and ask later (hmm, speaking of which, a certain host whose name starts with the big G comes to mind :P ).

I know a lot of people may think differently but I stand by what I said earlier – that I don’t think that the email I sent was spam. In any case the purpose of this article is not to vent my frustration but to suggest you about the steps you can take when you receive a similar complaint from your webhost! Good luck! :)

As always, if you liked this article, please feel free to post a nice comment, retweet it, like it on Facebook and link to it from your website, thanks. :D


Disclosure: is affiliated to Knownhost and Aweber.