Emails have become an essential part of the present digital life. The estimated number of email users in 2020 was 4 billion people across the globe.
Whether you are a beginner or a professional marketer, you sure must have at some point or the other faced issues that include emails landing in the "Spam" folder instead of the "Inbox." Businesses that are dependent on sending bulk emails are more prone to penalizing email service providers.
Have you ever tried to find out why your emails are landing in the spam folder and not reaching the inbox?
Do not sweat. This guide will discuss email spam, including why emails land in the spam folder and stop them from reaching it. You will also get some simple solutions you can put in place and some of the best tools to identify the problem.
Table of contents
9 reasons why your emails land in the spam folder
- 1. If you haven't received permission from the email recipients
- 2. When you have a low IP reputation
- 3. When you have a low domain reputation
- 4. When you have poor email design and irrelevant content
- 5. When you receive negative engagements
- 6. When you have HTML issues
- 7. When your email authentication fails
- 8. When you don't provide an unsubscribe link
- 9. The proportion of active users
Free tools to check if your emails are landing in the spam folder
What is spam?
Spam originated from the word that was coined for canned pork. Suddenly this product was so prominent in the US that TV ads went overboard with their marketing campaigns.
Email marketers associated this with emails all over the internet but weren't relevant, so they started calling such emails: spam.
Spam is any unsolicited email sent in bulk. Sent in bulk is important. Take the example of the guy next door who wants to sell his car and observes that you have a vacant parking lot. Even though you haven't given him consent, if he sends you a one-on-one email, the email is relevant. This is because the email has been sent with a strategy in mind.
However, the same guy sent a bulk email campaign to the entire neighborhood without knowing if any of the users had a vacant parking lot or not, the campaign would be considered spam.
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How does an email client detect and mark emails as spam?
Do you think only spam emails reach the spam folder? Absolutely not!
There is a chance for your emails to land in the spam folder even if you are a trusted business. This is because spam filters and anti-spam software such as SpamAssassin identify the red flags by scanning emails. And in those scans, if they find anything it considers spam, your emails get flagged as spam.
So let's understand how anti-spam software and filters detect spam messages. When you start sending emails to your subscribers, it will land in the inbox only after the filters verify it.
9 reasons why your emails land in the spam folder
Is it possible for even my legitimate emails to land in the recipient's spam? Absolutely yes!
Because security measures are smart, even a small mistake can land your legitimate email in the spam folder.
Here are some critical points stating how emails can land into the spam folder instead of the inbox. These points become especially important when you are sending bulk emails.
1. If you haven't received permission from the email recipients
It's important to have an email-centric sign-up flow if you want your email program to do well. Always have a check-box in the sign-up flow, allowing users to opt-in for newsletters and promotional emails. Ensure that you target only those users who have opted in for direct marketing alerts.
To know how to use opt-in in your marketing strategy, you can read these guides:
How to Use Opt-In in Your Email Marketing Strategy
What Is Double Opt-In and Why You Should Use It?
2. When you have a low IP reputation
Your IP address gets shared whenever you send an email. Sharing an IP address has many drawbacks.
For example, if your IP has a negative reputation from the current or previous senders with poor habits, it can be the reason for your email landing in the spam.
Ensure that you are managing your IP reputation well. Google & Hotmail have their postmaster tools which allow you to track the IP reputation. You must make sure that if you have allotted a shared IP pool, only clients with good mailing practices share the IP pool so that the mailing by one brand doesn't affect the other brand.
Related guide: The Beginner’s Guide to Google Postmaster in 2022
3. When you have a low domain reputation
Good domain reputation is important for email deliverability. When the domain reputation is high, you receive good deliverability. Email volume increasing inconsistently is another primary reason for your emails to land in the spam folder.
4. When you have poor email design and irrelevant content
If your content is irrelevant to the recipient, the recipient will likely engage negatively with the email even if you reach the inbox. Moreover, when you use too many images, links, and less text, your message appears to be spammy, which is a clear red flag for the spam filters.
Also, most of the spam filters are AI-based. So if the content has had a history of hitting spam, even if you have changed the entire email headers, the chances of hitting the inbox are minimal.
14 Email Design Best Practices to Ramp up Your Email Game in 2022.
A Guide to Different Email Format with Best Practices.
5. When you receive negative engagements
Negative engagement means your emails are being reported as spam. So, spam complaints should be minimized as far as possible. But, even with high open rates, if users open your emails to report spam, the reputation will come down, and you will start hitting the spam box more frequently. Hence getting the cadence right - targeting the right users at the right time with the right content is important.
6. When you have HTML issues
If you have different HTML email versions, broken HTML, or even a plain text version, it will automatically reach the spam folder. This is because it appears unreadable and sloppy on every email client when broken HTML. So your users will start marking your emails as spam when they see broken HTML.
7. When your email authentication fails
If you have been passing SPF & DKIM and suddenly start failing due to some configuration issue or DNS failure, the emails have a very high chance of landing in spam. Hence it's necessary to keep an on all authentication protocols while monitoring your infrastructure.
8. When you don't provide an unsubscribe link
Imagine sending an email to a recipient with little interest in your product. Naturally, they'd want to unsubscribe from getting further emails. But if you don't have an unsubscribe button in the email, there are chances that the recipient will report your email as spam, which we already know is a negative trend.
So it is crucial to give users a clear way out or manage their preferences. Learn more about email unsubscribe rates and email preference centers.
9. The proportion of active users
You must maintain a balance between active and inactive users in your mailing list. The percentage of active users needs to outweigh the percentage of inactive users. If inactive users start outweighing the active users, your emails will start landing in the spam.
How to avoid spam folder with a best practices checklist
There are many reasons for emails landing in the spam folder. Some of them are email authentication status, diligence in analyzing the email metrics, email list health, the value you offer your recipient with your email content, etc. A few tips you can use to keep your emails out of the spam folders are:
1. Building your email list
You need to be aware of your messages to your targeted audience. If you are sending the wrong message to your targeted audience or using the right message to an unengaged audience, both are considered a waste of time and will send your IP address to the spam list.
Ensure you avoid the following:
Using a shared list
Co-registering, purchasing, or renting email from a third party. You get added to the spam camp when you do email harvesting or scrap emails.
If you need a long-term benefit with an email program, you need to build your email list organically. Developing a trustworthy plan is not easy, but you don't have to worry about longevity once you have sketched one.
2. DMARC, DKIM, and SPF – Email authentication with any one of them
Though authentication of your email is tricky; it can bring many benefits when sending a legitimate email. Yahoo, Google, and other inbox providers focus on authenticated email, and therefore your email directly reaches the inbox instead of the spam folder.
DMARC (Domain-Based Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance) influences the power of SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mail); when you meet this standard, you can make sure that there are no chances of email tampering during transmission.
SPF checks who you are by comparing the sender's IP with a list of IPs authorized by the domain administrators.
3. Monitoring reputation by avoiding deny lists
You will be on the email deny list( (blacklist) if your email domain reputation slips or when you send an email to any of the spam trap emails. So there is even a chance for the well-intentioned and cautious senders to fall into the email deny list.
Below are a few best practices you should follow to reduce this risk of falling into the email deny list:
First, make use of the real-time email address validation.
Remove unengaged subscribers by implementing a sunset policy. Sunset policy is the practice of getting inactive users out of your email list.
4. Monitoring the engagement metrics of your emails
You can quickly know if any changes are needed in your email or if your email program is improving by tracking the engagement metrics and email performance. You can also build a few baseline metrics to have a clear picture of the email performance. Click-through rates, open rates, and spam complaints are some of the metrics you can follow.
5. Improving your email design, content, structure
There are many practices to follow while you design an email. Few are as follows:
It's easy for people to recognize you when your email aligns with the brand. It includes logo, tone, images, fonts, colors, etc.
Do not use spam trigger words like "special offer," "risk-free," "dear friend," "toll-free," and more.
Ensure your email copies are to the point, simple, and easily readable for your targeted customers.
The email you send needs to be responsive for all devices like desktop and mobile.
Don't just include images. Your text and image ratio should balance each other for a perfect email template.
Make your email personalized wherever and whenever possible to enhance the user experience.
If you are sending a marketing email, your email should contain a physical address.
Avoid using a no-reply email address.
End your email with the right salutation.
Read our comprehensive guide on how to improve email design for more tips to get higher deliverability.
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Tips to land emails in the inbox
Take the users' consent in the sign-up flow. It will help keep your email deliverability and engagement rates high.
Performing a full-fledged domain warmup before starting campaigns with a new domain.
Asking email users to drag the email from different tabs (like spam, promotions, etc.) to their primary inbox folder.
Cleaning your email list regularly will help stop the low email engagement rate. Being proactive is essential for receiving improved email deliverability rates.
Offering a preference center enables both existing and new subscribers to select how frequently they get your emails. As a result, it decreases the risk of your subscribers marking your email as spam. You will also experience higher engagement rates.
Ask subscribers to whitelist your email.
Free tools to check if your emails are landing in the spam folder
There are plenty of free tools available online that can help detect deliverability, test your reputation, render the quality of email content, subject lines, and more. But in this guide, we have covered an all-in-one free tool that can do everything without much hassle - Google Postmaster.
Related guide: Mailer Daemon 101: Your Guide to Tackle Spam the Right Way
Google Postmaster tool is a free email analytics tool that enables businesses to analyze different factors based on email performance. The tool offers insights into the email sending practice's problematic areas and provides a solution to enhance deliverability and email success rate.
How to activate Google Postmaster tools?
If you want to send more than 100,000 email addresses with a larger email size, visit Google Postmaster tools to follow the verification process. While activating the tool, you will be asked to install Google Search Console. You will be able to access information and reports on your domain reputation, spam rate, authentication, delivery errors, IP reputation, feedback loop, and encryption once you set up your account and verify the domain.
There are important factors to understand about these metrics and data points. They include the following:
Google Postmaster tools focus only on messages associated successfully with a domain through DKIM or SPF authentication. Therefore, if an organization does not have an authenticated email with its domain, Google Postmaster will not access that data.
Google Postmaster tool has a minimum email volume threshold for data to populate. Messages to "@gmail.com" users will only be shown in the Google Postmaster Tool metrics, and therefore, there is no chance for emails sent to G Suite or Google Workspace to accrue in the platform.
The reports from Google Postmaster will be updated once a day by taking into account the previous day's performance insights. Most of the data is populated usually around 7.00 PM UTC or 12:00 PM Pacific. It means there would be a lag in the data availability. When there is a delay, the Google Postmaster tool cannot track specific campaign performance.
Start sending spam-free emails.
Finding the right reason for your emails landing in the spam folder is complicated. I hope the above guide provides you with a good understanding of email spam and how to make your emails reach the inbox folder. If you have any queries, feel free to reach out to the team at Mailmodo, and we will help you establish an impeccable deliverability rate and email conversion. Read how our client Project Pro achieved 3X open rates by improving their email deliverability.
What you should do next
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