Why all my emails go to the spam folder? This is a question many business owners have asked themselves at some point. If you have tried to find an answer, you have probably encountered impractical and unsatisfactory solutions.
This is because we are facing a dark mystery with no apparent solution, which today we will try to bring some light. However, first, we need to understand how an email is sent.
Table of Contents
How do emails work?
When an email is created, an Internet journey begins. To better understand this journey, we will use this image to guide ourselves through each of the following phases:
- A user (Alice) sends an email message and connects to an SMTP server (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) that is configured in their email account or Mail User Agent (MUA).
- Once in the SMTP server, a Mail Transfer Agent (MTA) sees the address of the recipient and is set to, the header part, or the domain of the address to determine its destination.
- After consulting the Domain Name System (DNS) server by the name of the Exchange Interchange (MX) for the domain name of the recipient.
- The SMTP server will send the message to the server through the SMTP protocol.
- The reception server will store the message and make it available to the receiver (Bob), which can access through the web, POP, or IMAP.
What are ‘spam filters‘ and how do they work?
Before any email reaches the receptor, there is a door with a security guard on the road. It is called ‘spam filter‘ and ensures that only the eligible emails reach their destination.
A spam filter is a program that is used to detect unsolicited and unwanted emails and prevent them from getting to your client’s inbox. Like other types of filtering programs, a spam filter looks for certain criteria to base its judgments.
What are the criteria to be considered a suitable email?
Unfortunately, there are many different criteria to determine when an email is suitable, hence the difficulty of solving this mystery. For instance, Gmail uses its own criteria (this should not be confused with Gmail’s smart labels – such as the ‘social’ and ‘promotions’ tabs-).
So, as we can see there are multiple factors that can play an important role in determining whether or not your emails will get delivered to your client’s inbox. Let’s dive into the most common reasons why your emails aren’t getting past the spam filter. This all comes after you’ve made sure the emails you’re sending are the best quality they can be. Consider using an English proofreading service if you think you might have trouble writing as a non-native English speaker.
Reasons why your emails go in the spam box (and how to make sure they don’t)
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Big mail providers such as Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, etc. invest a lot of money to improve and modernize their spam filters and keep their users’ inboxes completely free from unwanted emails.
Spam filters evaluate many aspects of your email before it reaches its destination. Here are the most common and basic ones to make sure your emails don’t end up in your client’s spam folder:
You didn’t get express permission to email
The number one rule of email marketing is to get express permission to email your leads. Send emails only to people who request it.
To get express permission, you’ll need an opt-in form on your site (like the one shown below) that makes it perfectly clear to your visitors that they are subscribing to your email list.
Never buy a database of emails since these people did not personally authorize you to send them emails from time to time. Whenever you have the information of any person or possible prospect make sure they subscribe to your newsletter or that you provide your email to send quotes or registration.
Do not manually add emails to your email marketing platforms that you got off of business cards collected at a conference. While you may think they would appreciate your newsletter, sending emails to them violates the CAN-SPAM Act because they did not give you express permission.
Your IP address was used for spam
Even if you never send spam yourself, your emails could get flagged as spam if your IP address was used by someone else for spam. For example, if you send your campaigns through MailChimp, your email is delivered through their servers. So if even one other customer sends spam, it could affect your deliverability as well.
(Note, however, that MailChimp is very vigilant about keeping their sending reputation intact, and they have very strict procedures and regulations in place to prevent this.)
In general, stick to a reputable email service provider and you should be fine. Some providers we recommend are MailChimp, Aweber, ActiveCampaign, Infusionsoft, and ConvertKit.
Your domain has been blacklisted
Blacklists are the worst case scenario, and when you use a service provider, they might give you warnings before you fall into one of these.
Email providers use services like “Spamhaus” (a well-known non-profit organization, which fights against spam) to reject emails, based on their own qualifications. Spamhaus also publishes blacklists that cause emails from certain senders on that list to be automatically placed in spam.
What is a ‘Blacklist’ or ‘Spam Blacklist’?
A blacklist or spam blacklist is a place on the Internet where you keep a record of all those domains and IP’s that have ever sent a spam email. Since the first time you send spam, this information is stored, making your domain and IP’s lose reputation.
It is difficult to leave a blacklist because the record lasts a long time in the file. Although there are different types of blacklists that have their own terms to eliminate your history.
ISPs are the most common on the Internet, coming from mail servers like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. For each case, you have to consult several procedures, but first, you must know if you are in a blacklist.
How do I know if I am on a spam blacklist?
The easiest way to find out is to consult web pages that specialize in locating domain and email addresses that are blacklisted from different servers. If you hear from one of your customers that your emails go directly to their spam folder, the first thing you should do is to check if you are on a blacklist.
A web page recognized for evaluating your performance in mailings is Mxtoolbox. Visit the site and paste your domain or IP to be evaluated.
If you haven’t been blacklisted you will see a list full of ‘OK’ and green circled checkmarks. If you are included in any, a red button will appear, as well as the name of the blacklist and the reason why you are in it.
How to get out of a blacklist?
Leaving a blacklist can be a long process, and among other things allows you to know more about the good practices of email marketing and the consequences of not following the rules.
In case you find yourself on public or private blacklists you can use MultiRBL. Once MultiRBL detects in which blacklist you are, it provides several solutions or proposes a link where you can start your procedure to get out of that blacklist.
You have been reported as a spammer
One of the most common reasons why emails never reach the inbox is spam complaints. Every time a subscriber reports an email as spam–even if it isn’t really spam–this complaint gets recorded by the mailbox provider. Once the complaints exceed a certain threshold, all future emails skip the inbox and get sent directly to the spam folder.
So why would a subscriber flag your email as spam if it isn’t spamming? Well, the most likely reason is that they simply don’t remember you. Even though they gave you permission to email them, they don’t remember doing it, so they think you are sending them spam.
To prevent this from happening, make sure that the branding in your emails is memorable, and matches the branding on your website. This includes any images, colors, typography, voice, etc.
Also, make sure the “from” line is from a name they will recognize and include an easily accessible “unsubscribe” link so that they can opt out if they no longer want your emails.
You haven’t authenticated your domain (DKIM records) or added your SPF record
What are DKIM records?
DomainKeys is a spam and phishing scam fighting method which works by signing outbound email messages with a cryptographic signature which can be verified by the recipient to determine if the messages originate from an authorized system.
The process of signing outbound messages and verifying this signature is typically done by the email servers at each end – not by end-users client software.
DomainKeys uses DNS TXT-records to define DomainKeys policy and public encryption keys for a domain name.
DKIM is an extension of DomainKeys which uses the same style DNS records. A domain can have as many DKIM public keys as servers that send and sign mail.
How to set up your DKIM records on a G Suite account?
- Login into your Google Admin Console. Now click and follow this path: Apps > GSuite > Settings for Gmail > Authenticate Email. You should see a window like this one:
- Click on ‘Generate new record‘ to create the domain key for your domain.
Note: You can only generate a domain key 24 hours after you create your G Suite account.
- Go to your domain hosting account and access your CPanel. Go to your domains section and click on ‘Advanced DNS Zone Editor’. Add the generated record to your domain’s DNS records.
- After 48 hours, come back to your Admin Console > Apps > GSuite > Settings for Gmail > Authenticate Email. Click on ‘START AUTHENTICATION‘. You should see now something similar to this:
Note: If after 48 hours you email authentication was not verified, please make sure you entered the correct TXT record into your domain provider’s DNS settings page.
What are Sender Policy Framework (SPF) records?
A Sender Policy Framework (SPF) is an email authentication method designed to detect forged sender addresses in emails (email spoofing), a technique often used in phishing and email spam.
SPF allows the receiver to check that an email claiming to come from a specific domain comes from an IP address authorized by that domain’s administrators. The list of authorized sending hosts and IP addresses for a domain is published in the DNS records for that domain.
How to set up your SPF records on a G Suite account?
- Go to your domain hosting account and access your CPanel. Go to your ‘DOMAINS’ section and click on ‘Advanced DNS Zone Editor‘.
- Look for your current TXT record and update your current SPF records to this (change the domain used in the example for your own one):
Value: v=spf1 include:_spf.google.com ~all
IMPORTANT: You should only have Google’s SPF record, you don’t need anything else.
You haven’t added your DMARC policies
What are DMARC policies?
DMARC stands for “Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance.” DMARC is a protocol that uses Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys identified mail (DKIM) to determine the authenticity of an email message. DMARC requires both SPF and DKIM to fail in order for it to act on a message.
This policy defines how your domain handles suspicious emails. A DMARC policy supports three ways to handle suspicious emails:
- Take no action on the message and log it in a daily report.
- Mark the message as spam. G Suite puts these messages in the recipient’s spam folder.
- Tell the receiving server to reject the message. This also causes an SMTP bounce to the sender.
How to set up your DMARC policies?
- As done before with the SPF records, go to your domain hosting account and access your CPanel. Go to your ‘DOMAINS’ section and click on ‘Advanced DNS Zone Editor‘.
- Add the following TXT record (change the domain used in the example for your own one):
Value: v=DMARC1; p=none; rua=mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org rua=mailto:email@example.com rua=mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
IMPORTANT: Add you can see, you should include all your used emails into this TXT record.
Check your settings using G Suites Tool Box
In order to check your settings are right, use G Suites Tool Box. If your settings were set properly you should see something like this:
That’s it! We hope this post helped you to learn the reasons why your emails are going in the spam box, and how to avoid spam filters. Now it’s your turn. Go ahead and follow the steps outlined above to avoid emails going to spam!