Why are my emails going to spam?
Do you often find yourself asking this question? Well, you’re not alone.
Email marketing has become an integral part of every business. It’s an efficient and convenient way to communicate with leads, customers, and subscribers across the globe.
However, a major challenge businesses face is having their emails land in the recipient’s spam folder instead of their inbox. This frustrating problem can severely affect your email marketing campaign and business communications.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss 12 reasons why your emails are going to spam and provide tips on how to prevent it from happening. At the end of this post, we’ll also provide you with a few spam checkers that you can use to test your email campaigns.
Want to jump ahead? Use this table of contents to navigate which section most interests you:
- Understanding Spam Filters
- Why Are Your Emails Going to Spam
- How To Avoid Emails Going to Spam
- Spam Filter Testing and Spam Checkers
But frankly, we recommend you take in the entire article. Because by the end of this post, you’ll not only know why your emails go to spam, but you’ll also know exactly how to get back to your subscriber’s inbox.
Let’s dive in.
If you prefer written instructions, then please continue reading.
Understanding Spam Filters
Before we explore why your emails are going to spam, it’s important to understand how spam filters work.
Spam filters are software programs that scan incoming emails and classify them as either spam or legitimate. There are different types of spam filters, but they all have a common goal, to protect users from unwanted and potentially harmful emails.
Spam filters use various criteria to determine whether an email is spam. These criteria may include the sender’s reputation, the email content, the presence of attachments, the email’s format, and the recipient’s behavior. If an email meets the spam filter’s criteria, it’s classified as spam and sent to the recipient’s spam folder.
First, let’s start with all the reasons why emails go to spam in the first place. Then, we’ll dive headfirst into some actionable solutions to get your emails back in your subscribers’ inbox where they belong.
Why Are Your Emails Going to Spam
Many things go into whether or not your emails get delivered to the inbox. Let’s dive into the 12 reasons why your emails aren’t getting past the spam filters and are going to spam.
1. You Aren’t Targeting the Right Audience
When your emails are inaccurately marked as spam, it could be because you have low engagement rates. One of the tell-tale causes of low engagement rates is having the wrong audience on your email list in the first place.
Every marketer tries to grow their email list as large as possible. And considering the importance of email marketing, they should improve their email list as much as possible.
But rather than simply getting more subscribers, marketers must focus on getting the right subscribers. How can they do that?
By using targeted optin campaigns with OptinMonster:
OptinMonster allows you to create optin campaigns that target exactly the audience you’re looking for. Because we offer many different targeting options, you don’t need to cast out a net to get leads blindly.
Instead, you can set up various display settings and triggers to make sure you’re only adding people who fit your buyer persona.
As a result, your engagement rates will rise, and your emails will be sorted to the right place.
2. You Don’t Have Permission to Email Subscribers
The #1 rule of email marketing is to get permission to email first. Never buy a list of email addresses; you risk violating the CAN-SPAM Act and may be subject to penalties of up to $16,000. Oh, and that’s $16,000 per email:
That means if you’ve been sending an automated email series to people who haven’t permitted you, you’re looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
To get permission, you’ll need an optin form on your site that makes it clear that your visitors subscribe to your email list.
Here’s an example of OptinMonster’s sidebar optin form:
When a user fills out this optin form, it’s crystal clear they’ll be joining OptinMonster’s email list.
Another way that marketers harm their email campaigns is by manually adding emails that they get from business cards collected at a conference or from social media.
Let’s be clear on this: Don’t do that.
While you may think they would appreciate your newsletter, sending emails to them violates the CAN-SPAM Act because they did not give you permission.
Instead, you should send those leads personalized emails rather than templated newsletters. Follow up with a separate drip campaign, personal email, or autoresponder series designed just for those leads and give them a chance to optin to your newsletter.
3. Your IP Address Is or Has Been Used for Spam
Even if you never send spam yourself, your emails could get flagged if your IP address was used for spam in the past.
If you send your campaigns through an email marketing service, your email is delivered through their servers. So if even one other customer sends spam, it could also affect your deliverability.
Note, however, that every email marketing service we recommend is vigilant about keeping their reputation intact. They have strict procedures and regulations to prevent this type of thing.
You should be fine if you stick to a reputable email service provider. And while we can’t verify every email service provider in this post, we recommend Constant Contact, Drip, and Brevo (Sendinblue).
We know for a fact that these three providers take email deliverability seriously. Thus, they don’t let spam connect to their server’s IP address.
4. You Have Low Engagement Rates
We already discussed the importance of getting high engagement rates.
Top webmail providers have stated that they look at how many emails are opened and how many are deleted as a factor in spam filtering decisions.
So if you have low open or read rates, your emails are at higher risk of being flagged as spam. You need to do everything you can to increase engagement.
Other than targeting the right audience from the start, you can send your emails at the right time, perfect your subject lines, segment your list, and keep your list fresh by scrubbing it regularly.
For more detailed tips on how to increase your open rates, read our post on ten easy ways to improve your email open rate.
5. Your Subscribers Don’t Remember You
The second most common reason emails never reach the inbox is spam complaints.
Every time a subscriber reports an email as spam, the complaint gets recorded by the mailbox provider regardless of whether or not the email was spam.
Once the complaints exceed a certain threshold, all future campaigns 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?
Well, the most likely reason is that they don’t remember you. Even though they gave you permission to email them, they don’t remember doing it, so they think you’re 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, and voice. Also, make sure the sender’s name is one they’ll recognize.
It also helps to personalize your email copy to the person you’re sending it to. Here’s an example from an OptinMonster email that includes:
- Our company’s name where the recipient can see who the sender is
- Consistent branding with our website
- Personalized introduction by first name
Even if subscribers forgot they signed up with OptinMonster, we use these small cues to remind them that we’ve started the relationship.
To make sure they don’t report your as spam, you’ll want to provide an easily accessible Unsubscribe link. That way, they’ll simply opt out of your list instead of reporting you as spam:
Notice how “easily accessible” doesn’t mean you’re encouraging readers to unsubscribe. In the example above from OptinMonster, our call to action (Login to OptinMonster to Get Started) is what grabs attention.
Most email recipients are trained to look for the Unsubscribe button at the bottom of your email. So make sure it’s there, but don’t draw unnecessary attention to it.
Otherwise, you’ll lose subscribers who could have become lifelong customers.
6. You Have Low Mailbox Usage
In their spam filtering algorithms, email service providers look at the ratio of active to inactive email accounts on your list. An inactive email account is an account that hasn’t been used for a long time or is rarely used.
If you’re mailing a campaign to a large number of email addresses that appear to be inactive, that’s a red flag to spam filters.
To prevent this, clean up your email list periodically of any subscribers who haven’t engaged with your campaigns in a while.
You can do that by sending a win-back email to increase engagement. This is a way of giving your audience one last chance to start engaging with their company before you remove them from your email list. Here’s a good example:
Notice the email copy is direct and addresses the situation head-on. Then, the call to action (Yes, Keep ‘Em Coming) encourages users to reengage.
Depending on your email service provider, you can do this automatically. Some providers include a feature to purge any emails from your list that look inactive automatically.
7. Your Subject Line is Misleading
As the CAN-SPAM act states, it’s against the law to intentionally mislead someone with your subject line to induce them to view the message.
In a survey conducted by Litmus and Fluent, over 50% of participants stated that they’ve felt cheated, tricked, or deceived into opening a promotional email by a false subject line:
Here are some examples of misleading subject lines:
- Did I leave my jacket at your place? This type of subject line can be used as a trick to make it look like they know you.
- RE: CURRENTLY IN OFFICE is doubly sneaky because it can be mistaken for a reply to your email or a work-related email.
- Urgent – Update your information. If something says “urgent,” it had better be urgent.
- Thanks for your order! It’s super poor form to use a transactional subject line if the email isn’t actually transactional.
We know what you’re thinking. “Why would anybody do something like this? These are some super shady tricks.”
You’re so right. But there are also some gray areas you should avoid, too. Here’s one that recently came to our attention by Russel Brunson:
Now, don’t get us wrong. We’re big fans of Russel and the work he does with ClickFunnels. But this subject line seems conveniently misleading.
It says, bad news… I messed up 🙁 and does a fantastic job building curiosity. The problem?
It’s clearly a sales tactic to create a sense of urgency. The idea is that there’s a big sale that you didn’t hear about because Russell “messed up.”
The reader is left feeling like they got a better deal from the error, and the subject entices them to open the message.
This is a grey area tactic you should avoid. Instead, find a better way of creating strong subject lines that aren’t misleading and are 100% honest. Remember, Russel can afford to take that risk. He’s got millions of dollars in savings and a thriving company that could take a hit.
If you don’t have the same security, playing with email subject lines isn’t worth the risk.
8. Your “From” Information Is Inaccurate
It’s also against the CAN-SPAM ACT to mislead anyone with your “from,” “to,” “reply-to,” and routing information.
For example, if you made your email look like it’s from the President, that would be illegal. It’s an extreme example, but you get the point.
Here’s a real-life example from a popular scam during the COVID-19 pandemic:
This email is falsely credited to the UK government. Shady practices like this are illegal and should be avoided at all costs.
As a best practice, make sure you include a name in the “from” field that your subscribers are likely to remember and don’t change it too often. It could be the name of an individual, your company name, or a combination of the two.
Like we showed earlier, we send emails with a personal name from our employee and OptinMonster’s brand name:
Whichever you choose for your brand, shoot for memorability and consistency.
9. You Don’t Include Your Physical Address
You legally must include your physical address. That can be your current street address, a post office box registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox registered with a commercial mail-receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations.
This is usually just above your Unsubscribe button at the bottom of your email campaign:
You need to add your own address, too. And if you don’t have one because you work from home?
You should definitely get a PO box for business purposes so you don’t have to broadcast your home address.
10. You’re Not Learning From Your Mistakes
We already touched on the importance of adding an Unsubscribe button. But it’s such an essential concept that we need to dive deeper into why it’s crucial.
No matter how valuable you think your email campaigns are, you still need to give your subscribers a way out. If you don’t, you could get spam complaints at best or be slapped with thousands of dollars in fines at worst.
At the bottom of your emails, include an unsubscribe link or a similar opt-out feature.
But, again, you already knew that. So why are we bringing it up now?
Because you should use these unsubscribes as an opportunity to boost your engagement rates in the future.
For example, you can send an “unsubscribe confirmation” email whenever a user opts out of your list. In that email, you can include a survey to figure out why your customer wanted to be removed from your list.
With that information, you can start customizing your email campaigns to prevent similar subscribers from leaving your newsletter. In other words, you’re simply learning more efficiently from your mistakes.
11. You’re Using Spam Trigger Words
Specific words in the subject line or the email’s body trigger spam filters. Some spam trigger words are:
- Cancel at any time
- Check or money order
- Click here
- Dear friend
- For only ($)
- Free or toll-free
- Great offer
- Increase sales
- Order now
- Promise you
- Special promotion
- This is not spam
Your email provider may have a built-in tool that checks your emails for spam trigger words before sending them.
Keep in mind that the above trigger words are common examples. They may not be specific to your email service provider, however.
So contact your provider directly to see if certain words trigger spam flags. Make a list of words to avoid in your subject line while crafting your email copy.
12. Your HTML Emails Don’t Follow Best Practices
If you’re sending text-only emails, you don’t have to worry about this. Text-only emails are the kinds that you typically send to friends and family. Here’s an example of a text-based email:
However, send HTML emails from your business. That way, you can include some branding elements that make your emails more memorable and helps with engagement.
You can include your brand name at the top:
As well as a compelling call to action button at the bottom:
We’ve tested plain text versus branded emails with our email list and found that the branded emails get higher engagement.
It’s definitely a good thing to try with your own list.
However, you need to follow some best practices for sending HTML emails so they don’t get marked as spam:
- Use a maximum width of 600-800 pixels
- Keep your HTML code as clean and straightforward as possible
- Keep your image-to-text ratio low
- Optimize your images
- Don’t use obscure fonts
- Optimize for mobile
To give you an example, here is one of the branded HTML emails that our subscribers love:
See how simple it is? We include our logo at the top for brand recognition, but most email is text.
We also use a simple visual cue, the gray box at the bottom, to highlight the “You are receiving this email because…” area.
This makes the email scannable and reminds subscribers about the benefits of being on our email list.
Alright, so all of this information has been awesome. And now you know why your emails are going to spam instead of to your subscribers’ inboxes as they should.
But let’s turn our attention to seven ways to be proactive and ensure you’re getting higher engagement rates.
How To Avoid Emails Going to Spam
Since you now know the theory behind email deliverability and the 12 reasons why emails go to spam, you’re now ready to take action. Follow our seven tips to get into your customer’s inbox.
1. Use OptinMonster’s Lead Verification System, TruLead®
A major benefit of using OptinMonster to grow your list is that you can use their original lead verification algorithm, TruLead®.
TruLead® lets you verify your users’ email addresses to make sure that only the highest quality leads are making it to your list.
With their lead verification system, you can block email submissions with:
- Specific IP addresses
- Special characters, strings of characters, or patterns
- Free email accounts (like Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail)
- Role-based emails (help@, info@, support@, and so on)
- And much more
Verifying your leads with TruLead® saves you tons of money in the long run. That’s because most email service providers charge by the number of contacts on your list.
If half of your list is made from spam submissions, then you’re paying extra money for worthless leads.
Plus, TruLead® helps you earn more money over time. That’s because all your email campaigns will go to the right people, so you can expect to generate higher sales.
Finally, deliverability rates will increase because more people engage with your email campaigns. Higher open and click-through rates will ensure that your emails go directly to your customers’ primary inbox where they belong.
In the end, OptinMonster is the best tool for making sure that your emails don’t end up in your user’s spam folder.
Want to see OptinMonster and TruLead® in action? Sign up for your risk-free OptinMonster account today!
Then you can sign up for TruLead® for 30 days, totally free. This lets you try out the lead verification system at zero risk.
2. Target the Right Customers From the Start
We’ve already touched on this at the start of the post. But it’s the best way to make sure you don’t get your email campaigns flagged as spam.
You need to use OptinMonster to target the right audience to your email list. Fortunately, we make that ridiculously simple. You have SO many options for targeting your ideal buyer persona, including:
- Referrer Detection
- Geo-Location Targeting
- Page-Level Targeting
- Cookie Retargeting
But then we also have a list of triggers that help you identify the right subscribers by their interactions with your site.
For example, you could show your optin campaigns after a user has scrolled a certain length of your blog content. Or you could trigger campaigns based on which social media platform your user is coming from.
With OptinMonster, you can make sure that you’re only adding subscribers to your list who are genuinely interested in your content, products, or services. That will reduce the chance of your emails getting marked as spam and increase engagement rates.
3. Use Double Optins From the Start
Another way you can use OptinMonster to prevent your emails from going to spam is to use our double optin feature.
A double optin asks your users to confirm that they would like to be added to your email list after they optin. It looks something like this:
This helps because sometimes you can get false subscribers by spambots. When that happens, you can expect your open rates to plummet.
By using OptinMosnter’s double optin feature, you can make sure the people on your email list are only those who genuinely want more of your content, products, or services.
4. Use WP Mail SMTP
Many of our clients choose not to use an email service provider. Instead, they send their email campaigns directly through WordPress. If you’re in a similar boat, then you need to use WP Mail SMTP:
Over 1,000,000 websites have used WP Mail SMTP to make sure email campaigns go to the right place and are not marked as spam.
It’s also easy to configure. The WP Mail SMTP team will set everything up for you, saving you hours of headaches. Then, you simply need to craft the right email copy and hit send.
Wp Mail SMTP will make sure your emails are appropriately authenticated and sent via trusted 3rd parties. This will guarantee your email campaigns aren’t incorrectly labeled as spam.
5. Tell Subscribers to Whitelist Your Emails
When you send welcome emails to your new subscribers, tell them to whitelist your emails. This is basically asking your subscribers to tell their email service providers you aren’t spam.
Not sure how to set that up? Check out this resource on how to whitelist an email address with Gmail, Outlook, or Yahoo.
This is a simple action that helps in a couple of ways.
For starters, subscribers can be sure they’ll keep receiving the emails they signed up for. Also, having more people whitelist your emails will increase your sender reputation, and your inbox delivery rates will be higher overall.
Again, you’ll want to do this in your welcome email. Your readers are still excited about the content they just signed up for, and your brand is fresh on their minds.
This is the perfect time to ask them to whitelist your future content.
6. Tell Gmail Users to Drag Emails from Other Tabs to Primary Inbox
Even if your email didn’t go to spam, Gmail users might still have trouble finding your emails because they have been filtered into other tabs like Social or Promotions.
We classify these as spam because, let’s face it, people rarely look in these folders either.
To prevent this, simply ask your subscribers to drag your emails from their Promotion folder to the Primary folder.
Here’s what that looks like from an email we got from MemberPress:
Now, your Gmail subscribers will always receive your emails in their primary inbox.
7. Teach Subscribers How to Keep Your Emails Organized
Your emails are important to your subscribers, but they also get a lot of other emails. Help them find your emails easily by teaching them how to organize them into a special folder.
Also, remember that engagement significantly affects your inbox placement rates. Helping your subscribers keep track of all your future emails will help keep your emails out of spam for good.
Give your subscribers these instructions to help them organize emails from you:
How to Organize Emails
- Create a special folder where you can archive emails after you have read them.
- Don’t set up filters to automatically direct emails into these folders, or you may miss something.
- After you’ve finished reading an email, manually move it to the folder.
You would be surprised how many of your readers would gladly set up this special folder for your future emails. One of the biggest reasons many people don’t organize their inboxes this way is that many companies fail to ask.
Now that you have seven ways to prevent your emails from going to spam, we’ll look at a few more resources to help you stay in your readers’ inbox.
We’re talking, of course, about running your emails through spam filters before hitting Send.
Spam Filter Testing and Spam Checkers
Still worried that your emails might go to spam? If you follow all of the above tips, and you’re still having a problem with your emails getting sent to spam, here are some spam checkers that you can use to test your emails for issues.
Litmus is a suite of email optimization tools that includes a spam checker. Here’s how it helps you keep emails going to spam:
- Scans your emails by all the major spam filters before sending to make sure that they pass
- Checks your reputation by looking at your IP addresses and any domain names used in your email and checking them against known blacklists
- Verifies that your email authentication, such as DKIM, DomainKeys, SenderID, and Sender Policy Framework, is set up correctly
- Gives you a spam score, which advises you on why you got that score and how to improve it
Mail-Tester is a free spam-checking tool that gives you an easy-to-understand score out of 10 on a scale of spamminess.
You’ll have to check each email manually, but it checks to see if you’re blacklisted, DKIM, and the quality of your message, as well as doing a SpamAssassin check.
IsNotSpam is a free spam checker that you can try if you don’t have the budget for Litmus.
You’ll have to check each mail manually, and it doesn’t have a comprehensive testing capability. Still, it will check your Sender Policy Framework, SenderID, and DKIM to make sure they’re set up properly, and it will do a SpamAssassin check to score your email content.
We hope that this guide helped you answer 2 key questions:
- Why are my emails going to spam?
- How to Stop Emails Going to Spam?
Exclusive Bonus: Download the free Email Deliverability Checklist to make sure your emails always reach the inbox!
Tired of learning how to get more leads and ready to take action? Alright, let’s do it! Join OptinMonster today risk-free to help your brand reach its full potential!
Thanks for reading this article – I hope you found it helpful.
I wanted to let you know about our powerful Exit Intent® technology that converts abandoning website visitors into email subscribers and customers. Typically 70% of the people who visit your website will leave and never return, meaning all those marketing efforts to reach them have gone to waste.
OptinMonster’s Exit Intent® technology detects user behavior and prompts them with a targeted campaign at the precise moment they are about to leave.
You can unlock this powerful technology 100% free when you purchase our OptinMonster Pro plan.
Get started with OptinMonster today and see why 1,000,000+ choose OptinMonster to get more subscribers and customers.
President of OptinMonster
Nicely Explained Mary! Love to know about these reasons here, it will be very helpful to me. Thanks s lot.
I’m so glad this was helpful for you, Swayam! Thanks for your comment. 🙂
I don’t have a business, but I have a few regular email friends. In the past month three of them have told me my emails are appearing in their spam folders. I haven’t changed my email address in years and all of these people have been friends for years. Could I have some kind of virus that redirects my emails to their spam folders?
Your blog timing is perfect, Mary.
Reading through your tips helped me solve the problem of why my previous emails were not arriving. The acronym was too close to another popular one.
Business owners who focus on email marketing may not understand why emails don’t arrive in a recipient’s inbox.
I’m wondering if the CAN-SPAM act affects anyone emailing people in Canada, as well as doing business here.
Thank you for your wealth of info!
I am so happy you enjoyed it, Keri! Great question. Canada has their own spam law, called CASL. You can find more information here: http://fightspam.gc.ca/eic/site/030.nsf/eng/home
Thanks Mary – I sadly contacted CASL this week to report an out of control email incident.
On the plus – I’ve been telling others about the amazing blogs you and the guest authors write on this site.
Not only are your blogs well researched, but the tips shared are useful, relevant and doable. My instinct is that your target audience would really appreciate reading and learning from these blogs.
Thank you so much, Keri!! High praise indeed, and really appreciated. 🙂
Such a wonderful list of eye opening list.
Really learnt a lot here. Just started building a list on my blog
and found these tips useful for my mailchimp campaigns.
I am so glad you learned a lot from this post, Donfelix. Congratulations on launching your new blog and email list– so exciting!!
Thanks for sharing it Mary. It really taught me a good lesson.
You are very welcome, Sajwal! 🙂
CAN SPAM does not require expressed opt-in as you state in the first section. While it is definitely good to get it, CAN SPAM operates on a “have not opted out” philosophy. CASL however you need explicit opt-in to a specific email stream. If I am wrong, please point me to where it says that exactly so I can change things asap!
You are correct, the CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t require senders to get the recipients’ consent first, but that is a very bad practice that we absolutely do NOT recommend. You also risk violating the CAN-SPAM Act if the emails you obtained were harvested (which is illegal), or if some of the senders had already opted out to receiving emails from your company. You can read about the risks of buying email lists here on the FTC’s website.
Again, we strongly advocate permission based marketing and urge you to NEVER purchase an email list!
Great article, Mary. Added it to our resource guide on email marketing.
Appreciate that, Kayode. 🙂 You might also enjoy our guide to running an email marketing campaign.
I’ve also heard that you shouldn’t send out “mass” emails. If that’s the case, should my emails be sent out in increments of what?? 50?
The best approach is to use a reputable email service provider so you avoid deliverability issues when sending to a large list, Maria. WPBeginner’s list of the best email marketing services is a good starting point.
If someone replies to my marketing email, does that mean future emails from same address will be recognized as non-spam emails?
Subscriber engagement is improves your sender reputation, Joe, but there’s no absolute guarantee. The best bet is to ask subscribers to whitelist your emails, as suggested in our first tip, so your emails get delivered. And here are some tips to boost email deliverability.
Thanks for this information. I will try some of the tips.
Very helpfull information, thanks for sharing
Does email marketing software influences the email deliverability rate?
Curious to know about it.
Email marketing software doesn’t have an impact on deliverability, but your email service provider (ESP) certainly will. Each provider does their best to ensure their IPs are clean but some do end up having better deliverability than others. That’s why we always recommend going with an ESP like Constant Contact or Sendinblue as they are reliable and consistently strive to give you the best deliverability rates possible.
Very useful information to all readers