Nov 17, 2004

AOL Feedback Loop

This year, AOL started a new "Feedback Loop" system, where if any AOL member clicks their "this is spam" button for an email they received, a report is sent to the sending server administrator (along with a copy of the email). Bazillions of messages are sent from MailChimp, so we’re bound to get a few of those FBLs.

We’ve observed some interesting things through AOL’s nifty little system. Here are the types of messages we see getting reported as spam by AOL recipients:

  • Church newsletters
  • An organization reporting their president has passed away
  • Purchase receipts
  • Happy Holiday messages to clients

Just because your message isn’t about Viagra, it doesn’t mean people won’t think it’s spam. Be careful how you design and write your messages.

Some other interesting things we noted:

  • We manage a very large, confirmed-opt-in list for a reputable client. Even with confirmed opt-in, his campaigns get AOL spam complaints. Very, very few per thousand, but still—it’s amazing. We’ve seen users signup, then confirm opt-in. Then after confirming optin, they report the welcome email as spam.
  • AOL strips out their members’ contact info from the email header, but when each recipient’s email address (or UserID) is included in the "Opt-Out" link, it’s easy to see who’s complaining and remove them from your list. Of course, you wouldn’t want to contact them—just remove them from the list and get on with life

The FBL system isn’t perfect, but it’s served us well. It’s become a good "indicator" of a user’s list management practices. If a certain threshold is reached, we start investigating.