Why Emails Go to Spam and What to Do About It

|by Emma Phillips

When you’ve spent hours constructing the perfect email, ­it's demoralising to find it was lost to the spam folder of doom. All that time and energy invested, and you didn’t even reach the recipient’s inbox. While there are many reasons why your emails may find themselves banished to spam, there are just as many tips and tricks that will see your emails soar into that inbox once again.

Before we get stuck in, let’s answer the age-old question: Why do emails go to spam?”

Why do my emails go to spam? 

Studies have shown that 45 percent of emails are spam. With a staggering 300 billion emails sent every day, no one likes to spend their valuable time filtering through spam to find the emails they actually wanted to receive.

To tackle this, email service providers such as Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo have begun to further clamp down, but their processes are not foolproof. Sometimes spam still slips through the cracks and legitimate emails can be mistakenly branded as spam.

So, what are some of the common reasons that these legitimate emails end up where they shouldn’t be?

You haven’t set up proper authentication 

A key reason your emails could be landing in spam is that they have not been authenticated correctly. Authenticated emails are more trustworthy both to subscribers and spam filters. There are a few different ways to achieve this, including: 

  • Domain Key Identified Mail (DKIM): Helping to protect both email senders and recipients against spam, spoofing and fishing.
  • Sender Policy Framework (SPF): Prohibiting spammers from sending emails on behalf of your domain.
  • Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC): A protocol that gives further protection to those both sending and receiving emails.

You’re using a bad email list  

If you’re sending emails on mass, many things could go wrong - all of which suggest to spam filters that you’re not the most trustworthy of senders. Just a handful include:

  1. Low email engagement: Taking a mass approach, your emails are unlikely to be the most relevant to subscribers and, therefore, also unlikely to see the best open rates. This increases the chance of them being flagged as spam as your ISPs view your emails as unwanted.
  2. A stale list: Without regular cleansing of your data list, you’ll soon see it filled with inactive and unused email addresses which, over time, will increase bounce backs and make your emails appear spammy to the filters.
  3. You didn’t seek permission: If you haven’t gone through the right processes to gain consent from the contacts on your list to email them, you are breaching regulations, and this will lead to disgruntled recipients who mark you as a spam sender.

Your sender information is inaccurate

It’s not just about the quality of the data you’re sending to, the accuracy of your sender information also plays an important role in email deliverability. Small errors add up so check that the ‘from’ name and the ‘reply-to’ address are both correct and that the email address you send from matches your sender address and authentication information. Combined, this will help prevent your emails from being lost in the spam abyss.

Your subject line is misleading 

Deceiving the reader into opening your email with promises not upheld will damage trust and result in dissatisfied subscribers. As your click-through rate subsequently reduces, you’ll likely start to see recipients begin to report your emails as spam. 

You’re using spam trigger words

Certain words and phrases can immediately raise the risk of your emails being sent to spam. Poor spelling and grammar can also have this same effect. When repeatedly recognised as spam, your emails could then end up blacklisted. To minimise the risk, avoid using:

  • Lots of exclamation marks!!!!!!! 
  • Over-sensationalising statements 
  • The word ‘free’ 

You’re sending too many emails

Sending to your subscriber list too often is another sure-fire way to increase the likelihood of your emails being deemed spammy. Avoid sending multiple emails a day as this can lead to increasing unsubscribe rates.

You’re using too many images  

Image heavy emails tend to be flagged as spam. Not only do they make your emails less accessible, especially when key messaging is hidden with the image itself, but images don’t always scale well to be viewed on mobile devices – both of which result in a poor user experience. Spam filters may also consider image-heavy emails as spam as disingenuous senders often use ‘spammy’ words embedded within an image.

Your email was reported as spam   

Spam complaints are a big reason for emails landing in the spam folder. Every time a subscriber reports an email, whether it is actually spam or not, the complaint is recorded by the mailbox provider. Unfortunately, this means that if you receive enough spam complaints, all of your future email campaigns will be sent directly to spam.

10 ways to avoid emails going to spam

Thankfully, there are numerous things you can do to help ensure your emails reach the recipients' inbox. Here are our top tips for maximising email deliverability and avoiding the spam folder:

1. Build your own email list

A way to ensure better engagement with your emails is to build your own list of subscribers. Organically growing this list takes time, but it’s worth the investment and ultimately is the most effective way to ensure your emails are only sent to people interested in hearing from you.

2. Provide a double opt-in for your email list

People make mistakes, they mistype their email address and sometimes they even intentionally provide you with the wrong details. An extra verification step to check that details are correct and the confirmation of their subscription can tackle this problem. Introducing double opt-in improves the overall quality of your email list, leading to higher engagement and email delivery rates that lower the risk of hitting the dreaded spam folder.

3. Authenticate your emails

As mentioned earlier, incorrectly authenticated emails are likely to be recognised as spam. It’ll come as no surprise that ensuring your email is proper authenticated is one of our key deliverability tips as it will verify you are who you say and that the emails you send are genuine.

While it can be a little tricky to set up, email authentication methods such as DKIM (Domain Key Identified Mail), SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance) are your responsibility as the email sender but we can help you get started.

4. Regularly clean your email list

You’ll notice your email contact list and number of subscribers will change over time. Some addresses will become inactive, some may choose to unsubscribe as their needs change and other contacts will ignore your emails or even mark them as spam which has a knock-on effect on your sending reputation.

The quality of your list data is much more important than the total number of contacts you have. By taking the time to regularly cleanse your data and remove unengaged or bouncing email addresses, you will maintain the health of your contact list and ensure receivers remain interested in hearing from your business.

5. Ask subscribers to whitelist your emails

As you welcome new subscribers to your list, take the opportunity to ask these freshly engaged subscribers to add you to their whitelist. By recognising your ‘from’ email address as a safe sender, your subscribers are telling their email service provider that they want to receive your emails. This, in turn, increases your sender reputation and ensures you’ll make it to their inbox.

6. Don’t use misleading header information

You of course want to entice recipients to open your email with a subject line that draws them in but make sure it’s not misleading. Carefully toe the line between arousing curiosity and deceiving recipients. Being transparent and setting realistic expectations within your subject line and pre-header of what your subscribers can expect to gain from reading your email will help support email deliverability. 

7. Send relevant content to your subscriber

Avoid sending a mass of irrelevant emails and really think about what content adds value to your subscribers. The aim is not to simply keep in touch with your contacts at any cost, but to craft and share interesting content that truly resonates. Taking this approach will see your engagement rates soar and minimise the risk of your emails being ignored or mistaken for spam.

8. Follow email design best practices

To provide the best possible viewing experience to recipients, pay close attention to how well optimised your emails are. Following email design best practice, you can’t go too wrong. Avoid the use of large images which impact load time and contribute to your emails being seen as spammy. Not all platforms allow embedded videos or media to be played either, so these are also best not to be included. We also suggest you avoid including attachments as this is how viruses are commonly shared and ISPs will typically direct emails with attachments into spam.

Plan for sufficient time to thoroughly test and check your emails, making sure sloppy typos or grammatical errors haven’t slipped the net and that links work correctly.

9. Make it easy to unsubscribe

This may seem counterintuitive but making it easy to unsubscribe from your emails is a must to meet GDPR compliance. This shouldn’t be your only motivation to include an unsubscribe link, however, as it is also a clear indicator to recipients that they can trust you and that they’re in control.

If you believe in the value of your content, allowing your contacts to unsubscribe each time they hear from you isn’t so scary. Placing a simple unsubscribe link in your email footer will do the trick.

10. Link to an email preference centre

Rather than lose subscribers altogether with a singular choice to unsubscribe, give your recipients the freedom to decide how and when you contact them. Introducing a preference centre achieves just this, allowing your contacts to tailor their experience. The ultimate way to put your subscribers in control and satisfy their expectations, a well-structured preference centre minimises unsubscribes and reduces the risk of being marked as spam.

Start making the most of your emails 

Armed with this knowledge and tips to help ensure your emails reach the inbox, you’ll gain the maximum value from your efforts, fully prepared to fend off those pesky spam filters and enjoy increased engagement from your subscribers.

To take your email marketing to the next level with Conesso, book a demo today.

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