Why Are My Emails Ending Up in the Spam Folder?

From time to time, every marketer wonders, “Why are my emails going to spam?”. Unfortunately, the answer is rarely simple.

See, all emails you send must go through a spam filter. These tools identify unwanted content and stop it from reaching the user’s inbox. They use a variety of criteria to analyze emails, from spam scores to AI learning.

The issue here is that all email providers use different spam filters. What’s more, they won’t reveal how those filters work. This makes sense (no reason to help spammers) but it makes the email marketing process harder.

Even if we aren’t privy to spam filter algorithms, though, we know how they tick. Here are some common reasons why they might flag your emails.

Poor IP Reputation

Much like a business, your IP address can develop a reputation. For email providers, that reputation is a key factor in email deliverability.

One reason why your IP may get a poor reputation is your sending activity. If you have a lot of spam complaints, your reputation will take a hit. The same applies to having a high bounce rate, which is anything more than 2%.

In some cases, however, you may develop a poor IP reputation through no fault of your own. If you’re sending an email via a shared IP, for example, being associated with spammers will put a dent in your credibility.

If your emails often end up in the spam folder, check if your IP reputation is the culprit. Find your email IP address, then use online tools like Validity’s Sender Score to check its reputation.

If your score is too low, reach out to your email service provider (ESP). A good provider will only let legitimate senders use its platform. If they’re using your issue to upsell you on a dedicated IP, look for another provider.

Lack of Authentication

These days, most spammers use real domains to mask their emails. To protect your domain, you’ll need to use email authentication standards.

First, ensure you’ve added an SPF record to your domain. Doing so will create a public list of IPs allowed to send emails from your domain. This won’t solve all your delivery issues, but it’s a big step in preventing abuse.

Next, see if your emails use DKIM authentication. This security standard detects if messages get altered in transit. Emails signed with DKIM are more likely to pass as authentic and avoid spam folders.

Finally, check if you’ve set up your DMARC. DMARC is another essential standard for preventing spammers from using your domain. If your DMARC isn’t set up correctly, your emails may go to spam.

Open URL Usage

Let’s say you want to send a newsletter that includes a link to your site. There are two ways of doing this, and one is far preferable to the other.

The right way is to add a hyperlink to a specific word. For instance, you’d say, “Visit our website to learn more about our products.” The words “our website” would hold a link that would take visitors to your site.

What you shouldn’t do is replace this link with an open URL. An open URL is a typed-out link to your site. Spam filters have noticed a pattern of spammers using open URLs, so it’s best to stick to hyperlinks.

No Reply-to Address

When someone replies to your email, where will the response go? If you’re using a “noreply@businessname.com” address, you’re doing it wrong.

For starters, a no-reply address will often trigger spam filters. As such, using it will lead to a higher spam score. But even if this isn’t the case, denying your recipients a chance to respond may leave them frustrated.

Now, there are some cases where you may not want to receive emails back. Even then, you should set up a mailbox that works. If someone replies, you can always browse the mailbox to see if they need help.

Keep in mind that the reputation of a reply-to address matters as well. Many messages get categorized as spam emails because the reply-to is suspicious. Some reply-tos also use free email domains, which is a phishing tactic.

Messy Email List

In general, spammers don’t have high email standards. They’ll use whatever addresses they can steal, regardless of the engagement they get.

Does your brand apply similar list-building techniques? If so, chances are that your inbox provider will consider your emails as spam too. To avoid this fate, it’s important to keep your email list clean and healthy.

Start by only adding opted-in subscribers to your mailing list. If you add people who aren’t interested in your emails, they won’t engage with them. If this happens too often, your provider will start noticing it.

Next, engage in email list cleaning regularly. This involves removing people who’ve unsubscribed or now have invalid emails. To prevent spending too much effort on this menial task, use a service like MailVerifier.io.

As tempting as it might seem, don’t try to buy email lists. All inbox providers find this practice shady and will punish you for using it. The same applies to scraping or stealing emails from the internet.

Lack of Plain Text

Most spammers don’t include a plain-text version of their emails. If you’re not including it either, some spam filters may take note of it.

Other than avoiding filters, including plain-text versions in your emails helps your recipients as well. Some of them don’t look at HTML versions or use screen readers, many of which rely on plain text to read messages.

Fortunately, most inbox providers make it simple to add a plain-text version to emails. Chances are, the email editor will have the option to toggle between the text and HTML view.

Spam Reports

A recipient marking an email as spam is the simplest feedback a provider can get. As such, spam reports have a direct impact on your deliverability.

Check your spam report situation by finding out how many recipients are doing it. For instance, in Google Postmaster Tools, the spam rate is readily available. Other email tools have similar statistics as well.

Most inbox providers also offer a service called feedback loop. This allows you to look at insights about spam reports created by your email campaigns. Keep in mind that you’ll likely need to register to gain access to this service.

If you notice a spike in spam reports, try to figure out the cause. Are these reports the result of a recent campaign? Who are the people clicking the report button and do they all come from the same email list?

Regardless of the reason, stop sending emails to people who marked them as spam. Doing so can only make your reputation worse. Instead, focus on making sure you don’t make the same misstep again.

Sloppy HTML

Sloppy HTML is another common spam indicator. As the logic goes, spammers are so busy spamming that they don’t have the time to check their code.

Usually, spam filters won’t pick up on email rendering issues right away. However, poor email readability may annoy your customers. As a result, they may mark the email as spam and cause issues for you.

The best way to avoid HTML issues is to use templates for all email types. That’s particularly important if you’re not an HTML expert. Alternatively, you can use email testing tools to catch HTML errors before sending them.

Poor Domain Reputation

All domains have a certain reputation. In recent years, spam filters have started putting more weight on that reputation when scoring emails.

When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. If you change email providers often, your sending IP addresses will keep changing. Your domain is always the same, making it a great way to judge your reputation.

Do you think your poor domain reputation is tanking your marketing efforts? Confirm by checking your reputation via online tools. Again, Google Postmaster Tools offers a simple domain reputation grade for all users.

If your reputation is low, check if your domain is on any blocklists. This tends to be the biggest factor in determining your domain reputation. Services like MXToolBox allow you to check several blocklists at once for free.

Content Triggers

Back in the day, spam filters emphasized content filtering. If you were using certain phrases, your email would end up in the spam folder.

Though this is less of an issue these days, your content still matters. For instance, many smaller receivers have their own content filtering rules. University inboxes and corporate mailboxes are common examples.

To avoid getting your email marked as spam, use common sense. Don’t use spammy words in the copy, preview text, or subject line. Do your best to keep the content concise and meaningful as well.

Why Are My Emails Going to Spam?

As you can see, the answer to “Why are my emails going to spam?” isn’t too obvious. Spam filters look at a lot of things, and they’re getting more sophisticated by the day. The above guide will help you manage them.

Want to minimize the risk of your emails getting marked as spam? Start by using MailVerifier.io to clean up your email list. Sign up here for a free trial.

Director at Alpha Infolab, Inc. | Website | + posts

Dewang Goyal is a seasoned expert in the expansive field of email marketing, boasting a track record that spans over a decade of transformative digital communication strategies. As a regular contributor to the MailVerifier.io blog, he offers deep insights and practical advice, helping businesses navigate the challenges and opportunities of digital communication. His articles range from the art of creating compelling email campaigns to the strategies needed for maximum audience engagement.

With a solid foundation in Computer Science, Dewang merges the worlds of technology and marketing seamlessly. This unique perspective allows him to approach email marketing from both a technical and a strategic angle, ensuring that his readers and clients benefit from comprehensive guidance.

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