[Ultimate Guide] Why are my emails going to spam? (+ solution for every provider)

Emails going to spam cover image

Inbox Warmer

Ensure Every Email Reaches Its Destination And Stays Out Of Spam Folders.

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Introduction: Understanding the Impact of Emails Going to Spam

According to a recent Radicati Group report, 54.6% of all emails end up in spam. That's over half of all emails sent worldwide! This statistic underscores businesses' challenge in bypassing spam filters and getting their messages into their recipients' inboxes. Understanding why your emails are landing in the spam folder can be challenging, mainly when you have applied all your expertise and resources to craft an outstanding email. 

For email marketers, salespeople, and business owners, this translates into lost revenue, as your audience doesn’t engage with your emails.

The relationship between email deliverability and customer engagement is undeniable. The more your emails land in the inbox, the higher the chances of your emails being opened, read and clicked.

A poor sender reputation and high spam folder placement can undermine your business. It could also lead to deliverability issues with your email service provider, affecting your sales and marketing efforts in the long run.

I wrote this in-depth guide to help you understand why your emails are going to junk in the first place, how to prevent them from going to spam, and how to stop them from going there ever again.

A note about the differences between ESPs (Email Service Providers)

All Email Service Providers (ESPs) Logos

Email deliverability issues can vary between email service providers, including Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook. Understanding these differences can help you tailor your email campaigns to meet each provider's requirements and nuances.

For instance, Gmail's spam filters may prioritize different factors than Yahoo's. Thus, your email marketing strategies must be flexible and adaptable, considering the subtle differences in spam algorithms between providers.

It's also crucial to adhere to the industry standards for email deliverability set by different ESPs. These standards often include technical aspects like email authentication, formatting, and HTML usage.

Remember to check out our customized strategies for different email service providers at the end of this article. We will delve into the unique requirements and spam filter quirks of providers like Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo, helping you ensure your emails reach the inbox every time.

🔗 You can find the links to the version of this article with detailed step-by-step guidance for main email provider below: Don't see your email provider here? Read on, we added a full list of links to detailed explainations for each email provider at the end of this guide.

Why Are Your Emails Going To Spam Folders?

Your emails are your connection with your customers. They can drive engagement, foster loyalty, and boost your bottom line. But what happens when your carefully crafted email messages don't reach your audience but land in the spam folder instead? Understanding why emails end up in the spam folder is the first step toward improving your email deliverability.

Common reasons for emails going to spam include sender reputation, email content, and user engagement. If you have a poor sender reputation, if your email content triggers spam filters, or if your subscribers don’t engage with your emails, chances are high that your emails will land in the spam folder.

Email authentication protocols also play a significant role in this process. These protocols, like SPF, DKIM, and DMARC, help email service providers determine whether an incoming email is from a trusted source. When these protocols are not set up, your emails might be in the spam folder. We will review each of these in the following sections.

The Role of Spam Filters

Spam Filters

Spam filters are like gatekeepers, ensuring only trustworthy emails reach the recipient’s inbox. They use various criteria to classify emails, including sender reputation, content, user engagement, and email authentication.

Spam filters have evolved significantly over the years, incorporating machine learning and AI into spam detection mechanisms. This has made them better at identifying spam emails and spammers, but it has also increased false positives.

It means that even legitimate emails can sometimes end up in the spam folder.

The Reputation of Your Email Sending Domain

The reputation of your email-sending domain is a significant factor in determining whether your emails land in the inbox or spam folder. It's a measure of trust built over time based on the quality of emails sent from that domain.

Each email service provider decides the sender’s score based on the list of parameters. Most of these parameters are shared among all email service providers.

A poor sending domain reputation can significantly affect your email deliverability. This could be due to several reasons, like high spam complaints, low engagement rates, or sending to too many invalid email addresses.

It’s important to mention that the sender’s reputation can be split into 2 categories:

  • IP reputation (linked to the address of your email server)
  • Domain reputation (related to your domain name)

Most of the commonly accepted criteria in 2023 for email sender reputations are :

User Actions

Your subscribers' engagement and actions: opening emails, clicking on links, or marking emails as spam, provide vital signals to spam filters. Low engagement rates or high spam complaints can land your emails in the spam folder.

💡 User actions have an outweighed impact on your sender's reputation. They will be seen as positive or negative by the spam filters:
  • Positive: replies, reading time, clicking
  • Negative: unsubscribe, spam flagged

Respecting user preferences and sending targeted email campaigns in email marketing is vital. Provide options for the frequency of emails, the type of content they want to receive, and an easy way to unsubscribe. This can reduce spam complaints and improve engagement rates, enhancing email deliverability.

User Spam Complaints

There are no mincing words here: spam complaints hurt. They're a significant factor in your sender reputation, and too many can block your emails. To minimize spam complaints, get permission before sending emails and ensure your content is relevant and valuable. Also, make it easy for users to unsubscribe; losing a subscriber is better than gaining a spam complaint. If you are sending cold email campaigns, ensure they are precisely targeted.

Spam Traps

They are email accounts established by Internet Service Providers (ISPs). They appear identical to any typical email account, but emailing such accounts might land you on a publicly accessible blacklist.

Bounce rates

Bounce rates represent the count of emails that don't successfully reach the recipient. Bounce rates can be categorized as soft or hard. The first type refers to temporary issues with email delivery, while the latter is often the result of emailing a non-existent address.

Sending History

Distribution history encapsulates aspects like the volume and regularity of the sent emails. 

The frequency and consistency of your email sending influences spam classification. Sending massive volumes of emails sporadically will raise a red flag. A consistent email-sending schedule is much less likely to trigger spam filters. Spam detection mechanisms heavily scrutinize this element.

Opt-Out Rates

Opt-out rates are the frequency at which your readers have opted out.

Email Content Quality

Ever heard the saying, "Content is King"? It's especially true in the world of email marketing. The quality of your email content plays a pivotal role in whether your emails make it to the inbox or land in the spam folder.

Spam-triggering keywords and phrases are one of the main culprits behind poor email deliverability. Certain words and phrases, like "free," "guaranteed," or "no credit check," are red flags for spam filters. So, before you hit send, make sure your content isn’t packed with these potential spam-triggering elements.

🛑 20 of the most common spam trigger words:
  1. #1
  2. 100% free
  3. Additional income
  4. Be your own boss
  5. Best price
  6. Big bucks
  7. Cash bonus
  8. Earn extra cash
  9. Free trial
  10. Get out of debt
  11. Guaranteed
  12. Make money
  13. Million dollars
  14. No credit check
  15. Potential earnings
  16. Satisfaction guaranteed
  17. Save big money
  18. Work from home
  19. Free consultation
  20. Lower rates

Furthermore, the more personalized and relevant your email content, the higher your chances of reaching the inbox. People are more likely to engage with emails that speak directly to them or provide value, which can positively impact your sender reputation and email deliverability.

Spelling and Grammar Mistakes

It's surprising, but your elementary school English teacher was right — spelling and grammar really do matter! Errors in your email content can trigger spam filters. Moreover, they can tarnish your professional image and lead to lower engagement rates. So, before you hit send, take advantage of proofreading tools to ensure your emails are error-free.

The Reputation of Your Email Service Provider

Believe it or not, your Email Service Provider (ESP) can make or break your email deliverability. If your ESP has a bad reputation, your emails could be in the spam folder by association. Thus, choosing an ESP known for its high deliverability rates is essential, and maintaining a healthy relationship with them is essential.

Usage of Links, Generic Short Links & Shared Tracking Domain in Emails

Be careful when using links in your emails. Some spam filters may view generic links as a sign of spammy content. Instead, opt for trusted link shortening services or, better yet, use branded links by setting a custom tracking domain - we will explain how they work and how to set them up in the next section.

How to stop & prevent emails from going to junk or promotions?

We now have a better understanding of why your emails are going to spam. It's now time to figure out how to stop and prevent from going there ever again. We will show a step-by-step tutorial for each of these step using google domains or gmail but we have also created detailed step-by-step guides for other providers.

Use an email warm up tool

Inbox Warmer can significantly improve your email deliverability and keep you out of junk and promotions by boosting your email reputation. Much like how a higher credit score gets you better loan offers, a higher email reputation helps your emails land directly in people's inboxes. This results in more people actually reading your emails, thus significantly improving your email deliverability and open rates.

Inbox Warmer will give you a broader, more accurate picture of your email performance. So, why wait? Start a free trial today and experience the difference it can make in your email marketing strategy.

Email Authentication: A Key Requirement

In the world of emails, proving you are who you say you are is a big deal. That's where email authentication protocols like SPF, DKIM, DMARC come in. They play a crucial role in email deliverability by validating the sender and ensuring the integrity of the email content. If you send a letter by post, authentication protocols are like the sender’s address you write in the back of the envelope. 

Always check if the record is already set up in your DNS record. You can find the DNS manager within the web interface of your domain hosting provider. See example below for Google domains:

DNS Record Check for Google Domains.png

SPF (Sender Policy Framework)

Think of the SPF as the bouncer at the email club. It checks whether the email is coming from a server that is authorized to send emails on behalf of your domain. Implementing SPF for your domain involves adding a special SPF record to your domain's DNS settings. Proper SPF setup is instrumental in email sender validation, helping prevent email spoofing.

Step 1

Generate a SPF record.

SPF Record Generation.png

Step 2

Update your DNS settings by adding a new record:

Name: @ or blank

TTL: Leave default

Type: Text

Value: Use record generated in previous step.

DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail)

DKIM provides an additional layer of security by attaching a digital signature to your emails. This helps verify the content's integrity and the sender's identity. Implementing DKIM involves adding a DKIM record to your domain's DNS settings. It ensures that the email content hasn't been tampered with during transit, bolstering your reputation and trust with email service providers.

DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance)

DMARC is like the big boss of email authentication. It brings together the power of SPF and DKIM and provides a policy for how to handle emails that fail these checks. Setting up DMARC involves adding a DMARC record to your domain's DNS settings. This provides a higher level of security and trust, enhancing your email deliverability.

Use a custom tracking domain

A custom tracking domain is a unique domain name that you set up for use specifically with email tracking within your email marketing platform. This means that when an email recipient clicks a link in one of your emails, the URL of the clicked link will appear to come from your domain, rather than from a generic domain provided by your email service provider. For example, instead of seeing a link that reads something like "track.emailserviceprovider.com", the recipient will see "track.yourdomain.com".

This is important for a few reasons:

1. Brand Consistency: Using a custom tracking domain can enhance your brand image and trust among recipients. Seeing your own domain in the email content may make recipients more comfortable clicking on links.

2. Better Deliverability: Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and email clients often judge the credibility of an email based on the consistency of the domain in the email content. If the domain in the email content matches the sender domain, it can help improve the deliverability of the email.

On the other hand, a shared tracking domain is a domain provided by your email service provider that you share with other users of the service. This can be problematic from a deliverability standpoint because the reputation of the shared tracking domain is dependent on the behavior of all the users sharing it. If one user sends spammy or malicious emails that damage the reputation of the shared tracking domain, it can negatively impact deliverability for all the other users.

In other words, with a shared tracking domain, you have less control over your sender reputation, which is one of the key factors that ISPs use to determine whether to place an email in the recipient's inbox or in their spam folder.

By using a custom tracking domain, you control your own sending reputation, and you aren't at risk of being penalized for the poor practices of other senders. This can lead to improved email deliverability and higher open and click-through rates.

Creating Connections Before Reaching Out

The power of pre-existing connections in email deliverability cannot be overstated. Building rapport before initiating email communication can significantly enhance your chances of landing in the inbox. Social media and other channels can be great for this initial contact, as it helps establish trust and recognition, making your emails welcome in your recipients' inboxes.

💡 Add a social step on Twitter or LinkedIn for cold emailing campaigns before emailing your target. For newsletters, try to opt the customer in with content.

Using Relevant Subject Lines And Optimize Preview Text

Your email's subject line is the first impression. If it's long, misleading, or filled with spammy language, it could lead to lower open rates and even trigger spam filters. The key is to craft compelling subject lines that are short, relevant, and straightforward. Remember, clarity often trumps creativity when it comes to email subject lines.

Email Previews Examples.png

This is what we refer to as preview text. It's the succinct summary that appears in your inbox just after your subject line, visible on both desktop and most mobile platforms. Spoiler alert: its significance may surprise you. Continue reading to understand more about your preview text and how it can enhance your overall email strategy.

Latest studies suggest that optimizing your preview text can enhance email open rates by up to 45%. By merely including a few more words, you provide an extra opportunity to encourage your recipient to open the email. Whether it's promoting a discount or sharing a resource, your preview text can give additional context and spark interest leading to an email open.

Avoiding Spam Triggering Keywords

Have you ever noticed that certain phrases seem to end up in your spam folder more often? There's a good reason for that. Spam filters are designed to keep out unsolicited emails, and they do this by looking for common spam-triggering keywords. By using natural language and personalizing your email content, you can avoid these pitfalls and increase your chance of reaching the inbox.

You can use a SPAM content checker to verify you email content.

Optimizing Content for Response Rates

The content of your email plays a pivotal role in driving response rates. To optimize your content, focus on creating user-centric email content. Make it about the recipient, not just about you or your product. Additionally, implement A/B testing to continually improve and tailor your content to your audience's preferences and behaviors.

Staying Clear from Blacklists and Avoiding Spam Reports

Getting your IP or domain blacklisted can be a death knell for your email deliverability. Understanding the factors that lead to blacklisting and taking proactive steps to manage and avoid spam reports can help you stay off these lists. If you find yourself on one, however, swift action is needed to get de-listed.

You can simply check your blacklist status by inputting your IP address or domain in the input bar:

UCEPROTECTL3 - blacklist check 1.png

Choosing the Right Email Client

The email client you use can influence not only your email deliverability but also how your emails are presented to recipients. Consider factors like reliability, customer support, ease of use, and features while choosing an email client. Furthermore, ensure your emails are compatible with the most popular email clients, such as Gmail, Outlook, and Apple Mail.

Compliance with Laws

Email marketing is governed by laws like the CAN-SPAM Act and GDPR. Not complying with these regulations can lead to hefty fines and tarnish your brand's reputation. Therefore, a solid understanding of these legal aspects and strict adherence to them are vital for your email marketing's long-term success.

💡 Add your company's address and an easy way to unsubscribe.

Removing Unnecessary HTML and URLs

Excessive HTML and URLs in your emails can raise red flags for spam filters. Keeping your email design clean, concise, and spam filter-friendly is an effective way to improve deliverability. Use URLs sparingly and only when necessary, and avoid relying too heavily on HTML for your email's layout and aesthetics

Testing Your Emails Before Sending

Testing your emails before hitting send is like proofreading a document before submitting it. Pre-send testing can help identify any potential issues that might affect your email deliverability. There are plenty of tools and services available for email testing, and utilizing user feedback during the testing phase can provide invaluable insights for improvement.

Practical Tips to Prevent Emails from Going to Spam

While there are several strategies to prevent your emails from landing in the spam folder, the simplest yet most effective ones involve user actions. Understanding email bounce management and encouraging your users to take specific actions can greatly improve your email deliverability. Here are three simple but effective user actions:

Unmarking an Email as Spam

If a recipient accidentally marks your email as spam, guiding them on how to unmark the email can be beneficial. This not only helps improve your sender reputation but also ensures your future emails land in the recipient's inbox.

Adding an Email Sender as Your Contact

Being added to the recipient's contact list significantly improves your chances of bypassing spam filters. Thus, it's a good idea to guide your users on how to add you as a contact in their email client.

Setting up a Filter to Stop Emails From Going to Spam

Instructing your users on setting up filters can help ensure your emails are correctly categorized and not labeled as spam. The more users that have filters set up for your emails, the better your email deliverability rates will be.

Prompting Recipients to Whitelist Your Emails

Guide your users to whitelist your emails and move your emails from promotions to the inbox. This simple action improves email deliverability by signaling to spam filters that your recipients want your emails.

You can include instructions on how to whitelist in your welcome email.

Bounced Email Monitoring

Have you ever wondered why some of your emails bounce back? Well, if you're struggling with this, you're not alone. Understanding why emails bounce and how to avoid it can significantly increase your email deliverability.

Bounce monitoring is an integral part of effective email marketing.

When an email can't reach the recipient for some reason, it's said to 'bounce'. There are two types of bounces – hard and soft. Hard bounces occur when the email address is invalid or non-existent. Soft bounces are temporary issues, like a full mailbox.

Paying attention to these bounces can help you keep a clean email list and maintain a good sender reputation. You need to remove the hard bounces immediately, while soft bounces need attention if the issue persists.

By monitoring and addressing these bounces, you can reduce the bounce rate and enhance your email service's effectiveness. After all, a healthy email list is key to reaching your audience's inbox and not the spam folder.

💡 The bounce rate should never exceed 6%.

Further Insights into Why Emails Go to Spam and How to Fix It

The world of email marketing is complex, but that doesn't mean you can't navigate it successfully. Let's delve deeper into how spam filters work and how to ensure your emails land in the right place.

Accurate Sender Information

The 'From' field in your email is one of the first things recipients see. If the sender's information is misleading or inconsistent, it can trigger spam filters, and recipients may mark the email as spam.

Ensure that your sender name and email address correctly represent your business or organization. Inconsistent sender information can raise red flags and harm your sender reputation.

Proper Use of Words and Punctuation

Your subject lines and email content matter, too. Overuse of capital letters, multiple exclamation points, or words commonly associated with spam can land your emails in the spam folder.

Maintaining a professional tone, using correct grammar and punctuation, and avoiding spammy language can make your emails more appealing to both spam filters and your audience.

Maintenance of a Good Email List

Email deliverability isn't just about avoiding spam filters. It's also about reaching an engaged and interested audience.

Frequent unsubscribe requests, low open rates, and high bounce rates are signs that your email list may need some TLC. Regular cleaning, removing inactive subscribers, and running re-engagement campaigns can help maintain a healthy email list.

Remember, quality over quantity is the mantra here. A smaller, engaged list is more valuable than a large, uninterested one. After all, the ultimate goal is to create a successful email campaign that connects and resonates with your audience.

Steering Clear of Untrustworthy Links and Sketchy Websites

Dodge the trap of spam filters by ensuring your emails don't host any dubious links. These filters are quick to sniff out any connection to low-reputation or irrelevant websites. If your email links to such sites, it's likely to end up in the spam folder.

Your reputation is on the line with every email you send. Every link in your emails needs to be carefully evaluated and made sure it's trustworthy and relevant. A reckless link can have detrimental consequences for your email deliverability.

Striking the Right Text-to-Image Ratio

Crafting an effective email is like crafting a beautiful painting; it's all about balance. A high ratio of images to text might make your email visually appealing, but it can also trigger spam filters. This is because spammers often hide their messages within images to dodge spam filters.

Striking a healthy balance between text and images is vital. While images can boost engagement, your message should primarily be in text form to keep those spam filters at bay.

💡 Use as few images as possible to increase your emails' deliverability.

Proceeding with Caution with Attachments

While attaching files may seem like a convenient way to share information, they can have a detrimental effect on your email deliverability. Spam filters often view emails with attachments suspiciously, especially if they're unusual file types or overly large.

So, how should you share files? Links to trusted file-sharing sites or embedded files in the email can work. Keep in mind that the key here is to balance the user's convenience and the spam filter's watchful eyes.

Opting for a Dedicated Sending Service for Your Website

Consider using a dedicated email sending service. Shared IP addresses run the risk of being blacklisted due to the actions of others. A dedicated IP address ensures that your sender reputation remains in your control.

There are a plethora of email sending services to choose from. The best one for you will depend on your needs and the nature of your emails.

🔗 You can find the links to the version of this article with the specific set up for each provider:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

This section will cover commonly asked questions about email deliverability, clearing up misconceptions and providing practical solutions to enhance your email marketing efforts.

Are my emails going to spam test?

You can use email testing tools or send test emails to different email providers to see if your emails are landing in the spam folder.

Do BCC emails go to spam?

Not necessarily. However, excessive use of BCC can trigger spam filters. It's always good to maintain a clean and engaged email list.

Do emails with attachments go to spam?

Sometimes. Attachments, especially large ones or those with certain types of file formats, can be flagged by spam filters. It's often safer to share links to files instead.

Do emails with links go to spam?

They might if there are too many links or if the linked websites are suspicious. Be mindful of the quality and quantity of your links.

Do emails without a subject go to spam?

Possibly, emails without a subject line can seem unprofessional or suspicious, increasing the chance they'll be marked as spam.

Do PayPal emails go to spam?

Legitimate PayPal emails shouldn't, but phishing attempts often do. Always verify the sender's email address before responding to PayPal emails.

How to check if your emails are going to spam?

The best way is to use email testing tools or send test emails to various providers and check where they land.

How to fix email going to spam?

There are many strategies, including verifying your email domain, maintaining a good sending reputation, keeping your email list clean, and crafting quality content.

How to know if your email is going to spam?

Check your email campaign reports for high bounce rates or low open rates, which could suggest your emails are being marked as spam.

How to make email go to spam?

This is an unusual request, but if you're testing, you could try including common spam trigger words or sending from an unverified domain.

How to make emails from someone go to spam?

Most email clients have an option to mark messages as spam or block certain senders.

How to make emails go to spam in Gmail?

In Gmail, click the 'Report spam' button for the selected email.

How to make emails go to spam on iPhone?

Go to the Mail app, select the email, tap the flag at the bottom, then 'Move to Junk'.

How to make spam emails go to the inbox?

You can mark the email as 'Not spam' or add the sender to your contacts.

How to send a mass email without going to spam?

Keep your email list clean, verify your domain, avoid spam trigger words, and personalize your content.

How to stop your emails from going to spam?

Maintain a good sender reputation, provide value in your content, and encourage recipients to add you to their contacts.

What words make emails go to spam?

Words like 'free', 'guarantee', and 'no risk' can trigger spam filters, especially if used excessively. Feel free to check the list we have shared above.

Conclusion: Boost Your Conversion Rates with Effective Email Practices

Effective email practices aren't just about dodging the spam folder.

They are integral to the success of your email marketing campaign.

Stay open to learning and adapting, implement the strategies you've learned here, and watch your conversion rates climb.

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Lauren Vu

Lauren, a co-founder at Inbox Warmer, is an email deliverability and marketing expert with more than 10 years of experience under his belt. He has successfully managed email campaigns for a diverse range of businesses, from start-ups to industry giants like Sage, Microsoft, and SAP.

Any questions? Get in touch by email.

Inbox Warmer

Ensure Every Email Reaches Its Destination And Stays Out Of Spam Folders.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  4.8  based on 90+ user reviews