Why Do Your Emails Go to Spam? Here’s What You Need to Know

Michael Thomas

Michael Thomas

Why do my emails go to spam? It’s a common problem that can be frustrating and time-consuming. Have you experienced the disappointment of a message not reaching its desired destination? If so, several potential causes could be responsible for your emails being directed to the spam folder. Poor email reputation, unauthenticated sender domain, inadequate server configuration, or content triggers could all be contributing factors.

Picture this: You’ve spent months, maybe years, curating your customer base. You’ve spent hours before sending each email newsletter for several campaigns, but your average open rate is tanking like a stock market crash. This is hugely concerning because the average open rate in 2020 was only 17.8% and even lower for specific industries. If you’re starting to wonder, “Are my newsletters being sent to the Spam folders of my subscribers?” you’ve hit the nail on the head. 

If you think about it, globally, millions of companies are sending newsletters via email. How many of them are making it to their intended inbox? I can tell you, actually:

globally average inbox placement

That’s right, globally, the average inbox placement rate in 2020 was 83%. That means one out of every six messages failed to reach the inbox

How many people are going to take the time day after day to sift through their spam folder to see if maybe, just maybe, your email was inadvertently diverted there?

I couldn’t find a statistic for that, but my guess would be very few

Therefore, you must do everything you can to ensure your messages are delivered to the intended recipient’s inbox. Fortunately, we’ve compiled ten reasons why your emails go to spam and what you can do about it! 

Why Do My Emails Go to Spam?

In this blog post, we’ll explore these issues and other potential causes of the do-my-emails-go-to-spam syndrome and offer tips on how to fix them for good.

Let’s dive in, shall we? 

Your Recipients Marked Your Emails As Spam

This is the most obvious reason. We’ve probably all done this. We see a newsletter in our inbox one evening along with how many other emails and to sort them all at once, you check the most obvious spam-like ones and hit that spam button to get to the nitty-gritty of your busy inbox. You could have Pulitzer-winning content, but you can’t account for the moods of your subscribers. 

It’s also possible they forgot they signed up for the newsletter in the first place. I know personally, there are a few companies who have a few sales throughout the year and only announce them via newsletter, and their messages end up in my spam folder because only 4 times per year am I reading them. It’s unfortunate for your conversion rates, but there are lots of people who do this. 

Regrettably, suppose enough of your messages are flagged as Spam by your subscribers. In that case, it will cause the default spam filters at major email providers like Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, and others, to send your messages to spam automatically. There’s not much you can do to stop this, unfortunately. 

You Don’t Have Their Permission

Online privacy laws like Europe’s GDPR, Canada’s CASL, and Brazil’s LGPD require you have expressed written permission or consent from the person receiving the message. The US CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t require it, but still, you shouldn’t send newsletters or advertisements to addresses who haven’t signed up and you shouldn’t buy lists of email addresses and send bulk blast campaigns. It’s in bad taste and in some cases, flat-out illegal. 

It really reminds me of the day when we had to worry about and deal with the fallout of junk faxes. How many junk faxes did you get before the FCC made it illegal

Your Email Server Has a Poor Reputation

Similar to the way you have a credit score that is based on the way you carry your personal finances, how often you pay things on time, and such, an email server has a “reputation score” for it’s IP address. Major email providers such a Google & Outlook use AI in their email filtering, and part of the intelligence fed into these machine learning algorithms is the ongoing reputation of a particular email server’s IP address. Companies assign an IP risk score to these servers, which can be used to analyze user and content quality. These scores are elevated whenever malicious traffic or high spam is detected. This information is continuously monitored by major email providers and integrated into the intelligence feeds at Gmail and Outlook, companies like Cylance and Sophos, and even ISPs who use AI-like services, such as Comcast and BT. 

This means even non-newsletter-type emails could be sent to the recipient’s spam folder. There’s nothing more tedious than trying to conduct business with someone via email. Each message you send goes to their spam folder or customers chat in because they didn’t get a copy of their order confirmation but later find it was in their Spam folder. 

What can you do about this? You can host your email with a company that cares about maintaining a high IP reputation score! For instance, here at ChemiCloud, we’ve partnered with MailChannels to have your emails always delivered to the Inbox of your recipients. 

MailChannels uses sophisticated algorithms and machine learning to spot spam-like trends in a stream of outgoing emails coming from mail servers and stop it in its tracks. 

At ChemiCloud, this feature is included at no extra cost with all our web hosting plans.

Yes, that’s right, all e-mail accounts you create under your hosting with us are backed by the MailChannels network. 

Your Subject Lines Are Misleading or Contain Spam Triggers

It’s essential to ensure that your email subject lines are clear and honest, or you could find yourself in hot water with the law. According to the CAN-SPAM Act, it is illegal to send emails with misleading subject lines. This means that any words which could be interpreted as deceptive must not be used in a subject line. 

If the subject line of your newsletter or message contains trigger words, the message will automatically be sent to spam. Trigger words are a term for verbiage designed or styled to catch the recipient’s attention. You can break down most trigger words into the following categories:

  • Manipulative words or phrases; these include words like, “Urgent!”, “Act Now!”, “Limited Time Offer”, “Call Now”. 
  • Outlandish claims and statements; these include verbiage like “Once in a lifetime”, “Money-making”, “All-natural”, “Money back guarantee”, “Earn extra income”.
  • Inappropriate greetings; these include greetings like “Dear <your email address>”, Dear friend, Greetings of the day!, and Dear <wrong name>.
  • Needy and spammy subject lines; this one includes great ones like “Please open me”, “Read please”, “Can we have a minute of your time?”, and my favorite one “Instant weight loss!”.
  • Words that say your email isn’t spam; really you would think people would use this because it is so obvious the effect would be the opposite. Using phrases like “this isn’t junk”, “this isn’t spam”, “not spam”, and “mark this as not junk” certainly won’t get you to the top of many inboxes. 

Spam filters are becoming increasingly sophisticated, so using these types of words can easily land your emails in someone’s spam folder instead of their inbox. It also doesn’t help if you have a poor reputation among mailbox providers due to previous campaigns containing false information or other violations of postal service regulations. If your domain has a bad reputation for sending out unwanted emails, then even perfectly legitimate messages will likely end up being blocked by alert spam filters before they ever reach their intended recipient’s inboxes.

To prevent your emails from being marked as spam, it is essential to stick to email best practices and steer clear of any common red flags that can alert mailbox providers. Moreover, sending fewer messages at once will help boost deliverability rates since an excessive amount of emails sent in one go could raise suspicions amongst filter algorithms designed to spot potential fraudsters who are attempting malicious activities such as phishing or identity theft scams via mass mailings.

It is important to be aware of the potential spam triggers that can exist in your subject lines and how they may lead to decreased deliverability. To further avoid having emails filtered out as spam, it’s also essential to consider what content could trigger filters when composing messages.

Make life easier on yourself and craft your emails without trigger words. While there’s no surefire way to avoid spam filters, ensure your email is on point and your chosen wording isn’t hyperbole. Be your authentic self! Check out this great list of 100 Common Spam Trigger Words from Vision6.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of over-linking when sending emails. While a few links are necessary, having too many can be a red flag for spam filters and cause your email to end up in recipients’ junk folders.

The first thing you should consider is how many links you’re adding to your message. When including multiple links, it is wise to keep the number below two or three; otherwise, your email may be classified as spam. Rather than utilizing HTML tags, using plain text for hyperlinks can be beneficial in cutting down the number of URLs inside your message.

Another important factor is where those links lead. Make sure that any external websites linked to your emails have valid SSL certificates and use HTTPS rather than HTTP (the “S” stands for secure). Spam filters may also look at anchor text used with each link; avoid words like “free” or “click here” which could raise suspicion about the legitimacy of what you’re linking out to.

It is essential to pay attention to the number of links included in emails, as excessive amounts can result in them being marked as spam. To ensure that your emails reach their intended destination, adequate email server configuration must also be taken into consideration.

Unauthenticated Sender Domain

Are you using DMARC, DKIM, and SPF in your DNS? Okay, if you’re not a techie, you probably think that’s the word soup. No worries! 

Regarding email delivery, one of the most important factors is having an authenticated sender domain. An authenticated sender domain is a domain that has been verified by your email provider and which can be used to send emails. It helps ensure that your emails are delivered correctly without being marked as spam or blocked by recipient mail servers.

The primary benefit of having an authenticated sender domain is that it increases the trustworthiness of your emails in the eyes of other mail servers. Without authentication, there’s no way for them to verify whether or not you are who you say you are so they may treat all messages sent from unauthenticated domains as suspicious and potentially malicious. This could lead to them blocking or marking those messages as spam before reaching their intended recipients.

Authentication also allows you to use certain features like DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) and SPF (Sender Policy Framework). DKIM adds a digital signature to each outgoing message which verifies its authenticity. At the same time, SPF provides additional security measures, such as restricting which IP addresses can be used when sending outbound emails from your server. SPF and DKIM can offer an extra layer of security to prevent malicious emails from being sent by someone pretending to be another user.

To ensure the successful delivery of emails between two parties, ISPs have implemented DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication Reporting & Conformance) policies which necessitate authentication via either DKIM or SPF. 

Unauthenticated sender domains can be a significant cause of emails going to spam, so it’s important to understand how they work and take steps to ensure your domain is authenticated. To further protect against emails ending up in the wrong inboxes, it’s essential to recognize potential trigger words that could lead an email straight into a recipient’s spam folder.

You can follow our KB article here to set up your domain’s SPF, DKIM, and DMARC records. 

 
Key Takeaway: Authenticating your sender domain is key to successful email delivery, as it helps build trustworthiness with recipient mail servers. This involves setting up DKIM and SPF for additional security measures against spoofing attacks and complying with DMARC policies to ensure messages are delivered without issue.

Seriously, if you don’t include a link for recipients to unsubscribe from your newsletter in 2021, shame on you! This is the top reason why your messages will be delivered to the spam folder. In the US, the CAN-SPAM Act clearly states your emails must include a straightforward way to unsubscribe. Additionally, if someone clicks on the link, you must process the request within ten days, and you can’t force the user to jump through a bunch of weird hoops, forms, and steps to be removed from your mailing list. 

By not giving your users a choice to unsubscribe, or even worse, putting an Unsubscribe link that the user completes, but you don’t remove them from your list (we’re looking at you SiriusXM!), you’re showing your brand may not be 100% trustworthy and authentic. No one wants to receive product advertisements forcibly! It just rubs people the wrong way. 

In 2014, Google began shipping an update to Gmail which gave users a link to click to unsubscribe to newsletters without looking through the tiny print at the end of an email to find the unsubscribe link. Check it out: 

Unsubscribe

Outlook had this feature for a while before Google rolled it out.

To let users unsubscribe while in Gmail, set up one-click unsubscribe. Include one or both of these headers in your messages:

List-Unsubscribe-Post: List-Unsubscribe=One-Click
List-Unsubscribe: <https://your-company-net/unsubscribe/example>

If you include both headers, Gmail uses the one listed first.

When a user unsubscribes using one-click, you receive this POST request:

"POST /unsubscribe/example HTTP/1.1
Host: your-company.net
Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded
Content-Length: 26
List-Unsubscribe=One-Click"

Learn more about List-Unsubscribe headers:

These features can also be manipulated if you’re using an email relay service to deliver your campaigns, like SendInBlue or Validity, for example, making it super easy to apply these settings to all of your campaigns automatically! 

Are You Sending Attachments With Your Newsletters?

Why? This is a HUGE red flag for almost all spam filters. Files are super easy target vectors for malware, viruses, and other nasty things bad actors can install on a compromised system. Generally speaking, when sending newsletters, you shouldn’t include attachments with them. 

If you need to send an attachment, consider what it is. For example, if you’re a flower nursery and you have an exclusive set of bouquets for sale, featuring Ranunculus, Roses, Eucalyptus, Garden Roses, Veronica, Lisianthus, and Scabiosa in a Ceramic Vase, you might think at first to send an order form as a PDF file to some of your top customers. 

Instead, why not get creative and make a form using Google Forms, Office Forms, or a Typeform? This would give you more ‘play’ with the form; you can incorporate your own branding, and also optimize the number of responses into something more manageable than your Inbox. 

Limit Your Sending Frequency

As a business owner, you’re thinking about your business 24×7. It’s your livelihood; after all, I totally get it. But your customers and subscribers aren’t always thinking about you the same way you think about them. Yes, if you have a famous brand and an engaged fan base on social media, that’s great, but you probably have a whole other percentage of customers who love your products just as much but don’t engage on social media. 

Those people probably have more important things going on in their Inboxes and don’t need to hear from you every day, for example. When it comes to receiving newsletters, studies show most users prefer to receive them once a week, with the second most preferred being once a month. And oddly, other studies suggested Tuesday was the best day to send out new email campaigns as Tuesdays had a higher open rate than others throughout the year of 2020. 

When a new customer signs up to receive your content, ask them how often they want to hear from you. You can further segment these results by people wanting weekly messages or a monthly newsletter. Giving your subscribers exactly what they’re asking for reduces your chances of getting marked as spam! 

Are you following “HTML Best Practices”?

If you’ve been on the Internet for a long time, you probably remember when email clients like Eudora could only send/receive the email in plaintext. This made composing email campaigns pretty simple. Of course, nowadays, using plaintext is almost unheard of as it can’t capture the branding or spirit of a company, and there are no engaging images or other visual elements to draw the user into the message. 

When using HTML in your newsletters, it’s important to follow some simple ‘best practices to ensure your messages don’t end up in the Spam folder. Mailchimp, a company specializing in transactional email delivery, published a great guide on Email Design Reference here. Some highlights include:

  • Assume email clients will initially block images or that specific images—background images, for example—will ultimately fail to load. This is especially true for users who use Outlook (the application and webmail) and Gmail. By default, those services and apps don’t show email images. 
  • Use basic, cross-platform fonts such as Arial, Verdana, Georgia, and Times New Roman. Don’t use Comic Sans! 
  • Avoid elements that require Flash or JavaScript. If you need a motion in an email, a .gif is your best bet. (RIP Flash, Dec 31, 2020)
  • Don’t forget about the mobile experience! Is your email readable at arm’s length on a small screen? Will the images slow their load time on a mobile device? Are your links easy to press with a thumb?

Keep it simple. Don’t go overboard with elements unless that’s your thing. We’re looking at you with love LingsCars!

Are You Staying Relevant With Your Subscribers?

Don’t send content to say hello or provide a friendly reminder that your company exists. Your subscribers don’t care about this. They know who you are; they’ve bought your products and are waiting for you to tell them about more of your products. So do that. If you run an eCommerce store, analyze your trends, see what’s selling, and push that with your customers. Find relevant products that may be of interest, for example. 

Also, try to make a solid effort to stay on brand. If you’re that shop owner selling embroidered booties for cats and dogs, emailing your subscribers about something totally irrelevant isn’t going to help your click-thru and engagement rates. 

If you think it’s been a while since you’ve communicated with your subscribers, why not send a new email with a discount or a promotional code? Run a flash sale, or send an exclusive personalized set of offers to top customers and new customers to your list who may not have made a purchase yet. These messages are read as authentic and are more likely to be opened, leading to higher conversions and sales! 

FAQs

Why are my emails going to spam?

It is difficult to definitively answer why emails are going to spam without knowing the specifics of your email setup. Generally, emails may be sent to spam if they contain certain words or phrases that appear suspicious, have a low sender reputation score, or lack authentication, such as DKIM and SPF records. Blacklisting by a third party could be another potential cause of emails being sent to spam. To ensure that your emails reach their intended destination, you should use reputable email services with proper authentication setup and avoid using words commonly associated with spam in subject lines and body content.

How do I stop my emails from going to spam?

To ensure your emails are not flagged as spam, adhere to email best practices such as setting up SPF and DKIM records, avoiding triggering words or phrases, limiting the number of recipients per message, verifying recipient addresses before sending messages out, and providing an unsubscribe link. This includes using a reputable email service provider, setting up SPF and DKIM records to authenticate your domain name and sender address, avoiding words or phrases that could trigger filters (e.g., free, urgent), limiting the number of recipients per message to reduce the chances of being marked as bulk mail, verifying recipient addresses before sending messages out, providing an unsubscribe link in every message sent out for compliance with CAN-SPAM laws; lastly ensuring all images have alternative text so they can be read by anti-spam programs. Following these steps will help keep your emails from going into someone’s junk folder.

Conclusion

To ensure your emails don’t end up in spam, take the necessary steps to maintain a good email reputation. Ensure your email standing is positive by not sending too many emails in a short duration, and confirm that receivers are not flagging them as spam. Additionally, authenticate sender domains and avoid using any words or phrases which may trigger filters. Finally, configure your server properly for optimal delivery rates and follow HTML best practices when formatting content with appropriate subject lines without misleading information or triggers for spam filters. Taking these measures will help ensure that my emails going to spam won’t be an issue anymore.

If you enjoyed this article, you’d love ChemiCloud’s Hosting! Don’t forget all ChemiCloud customers benefit from MailChannels outbound email scanning to ensure your messages are delivered to the inbox of the intended recipients.

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