If you’re an email marketer, you’re probably worried about your well-crafted emails ending up in a spam folder. If so, you’re not alone. A big part of the job is finding out how to land in the inbox.
Unfortunately, inbox placement isn’t something you can see clearly. This information is not available, and you can’t know automatically whether or not you landed in the spam folder, and asking your recipients remains the only way to really know for sure. In any case, there are many things you can do to avoid ending up in spam!
There are several reasons why your emails might be going to spam. In this article, we'll discuss some of the most common indicators and provide tips on what you can try to avoid the dreaded spam folder..
Common indicators that your emails have landed in spam
Open rates—are your emails being opened by recipients?
Open rate is one of the most important engagement metrics. It’s also a huge factor that mail servers use to determine whether you make it to the inbox. The more people opening your emails, the more likely they’ll make it to the inbox overall.
A sudden drop in open rate is also one of the best indicators that your emails are going to spam folders. Your open rates will be steady when your emails are arriving in inboxes, but it’s very rare for recipients to check their spam folders for your emails. If your open rates have dropped a lot compared to similar sends in the past and/or the open rate is lower than 15%, it’s a good sign you’re going straight to spam.
Sender tools—what do their reports say about your placement?
Large sender tools like Google Postmaster or Microsoft SNDS can give you some insight, as well. These tools report real data from what they receive—the more emails they receive from you, the more data they’ll have at their disposal. They provide information like delivery errors, reputation (more on that later), and authentication checks. Most importantly, they provide a spam rate.
Spam rate is the number of emails marked as spam by users compared to the number of emails delivered. This is real data you can use to see how many subscribers are marking you as spam. But this would mean that the email arrived in their inbox first. For spam placement, these tools only provide rough statistical data for security reasons.
Recipient feedback—what are your contacts saying?
Want to know if your emails are going to spam folders? Try asking the recipients! If you’re sending emails out to more personal contacts, like colleagues or clients, this is a surefire way of knowing exactly how many of your emails were sent to the spam folder automatically.
If you have any other means of contacting recipients, it’s best to use that, as you have no idea if your follow-up email will be received in their inbox, either. Ask them whether they received the last email you sent out in their inbox, and provide them with the necessary details to find it. Their feedback can give you valuable insight into inbox placement.
You could also create a seed list. This is a smaller list of emails you use to test out your emails across different devices and destinations. It requires a good deal of effort to be useful, but it can be a really helpful indicator of spam placement. Collect addresses that give you permission to send test emails, like friends or colleagues. Send out your email and see what they say.
Bounce rates—is your email content seen as spam?
Another good indicator that your emails are going to spam folders is bounces—specifically, the bounces that are related to the content of your email (rather than due to the recipient). A bounce means that your email was rejected by a server, meaning the email never arrived in the first place, so how does this help you see if your emails are going to spam?
If one server completely rejected your email as spam, it’s likely that other servers see you as spam, too. Just because they didn’t bounce you doesn’t mean they’re putting your email in the inbox. There are many reasons the content of your email would be seen as spam, and we’ll talk about those later on, but this is a good indicator that your emails are landing in the spam folder.
Sender reputation—how does your domain score with ISPs?
Sender reputation is another metric to track when evaluating whether or not your emails are going to spam. Sender reputation is a score that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) give to email domains based on several factors, including:
- How many emails are sent from the domain?
- How often are the emails are marked as spam?
- How often do recipients unsubscribe from emails?
- How often do recipients open, forward, or delete emails?
Sender reputation is only available if you have a custom domain and are sending relatively large amounts of emails, but if that’s the case with you, it’s very important you keep it positive.
You can check your domain's sender reputation using several third-party tools, like SenderScore from Validity or Google Postmaster. If your sender reputation score is high (80 or higher), that's a good sign. However, if your score is lower than 70, you may want to take steps to improve it.
The best way to improve your sender reputation is to work on permission. Make sure everyone on your list has given explicit consent to receive your emails during the double opt-in process and remove those where this is unclear. Sender reputation can be improved by improving your overall list quality, too (i.e. valid email addresses, engagement).
Common reasons why emails are going to spam
Your recipients aren’t interested in your emails
This is a very important consideration to make. If you don't have explicit permission from your recipients to send them emails, your messages are more likely to get marked as spam.
This doesn’t only hurt your sender reputation and deliverability, but it's also a violation of GDPR. If you’re sending to users in the EU, your emails may be directed to spam because of this. So if you want to stay compliant and avoid the spam folder, make sure you have explicit permission from your recipients before sending them any emails.
Before anything, you need to make sure your opt-in process is compliant. When someone signs up to receive your emails, send them a verification email. Keep track of explicit permission you’ve gathered and only send to those users. All of your emails must include a clear unsubscribe link, too (you’d rather they just unsubscribe than mark you as spam).
Otherwise, there are some best practices to consider. One is better targeting by reducing the number of contacts in your list. Another is improving interest by only sending to those that can genuinely be interested in what you’re sending. It might seem silly to send to fewer people, but sending to only the most interested and engaged contacts can really improve your inbox placement.
You haven’t set up email authentication
If you have a custom domain and haven't set up email authentication, your email can go to the spam folder. This is because unauthenticated email is more likely to be spoofed or sent from a hacked account.
Email authentication helps protect your recipients by verifying that your messages are coming from a legitimate source.
To set up email authentication, you'll need to include two records in your DNS settings: an SPF record and a DKIM record.
- SPF stands for "Sender Policy Framework" and it helps to prevent email spoofing by verifying that the email is coming from a legitimate source.
- DKIM stands for "DomainKeys Identified Mail" and it adds an extra layer of security by verifying that the email hasn't been tampered with in transit.
After these are set up, you can add a DMARC policy to tell ISPs what you want to do with emails that fail this authentication. There’s also BIMI, but this doesn’t affect delivery and is reserved for larger brands for now.
Once you've set up email authentication, your emails will be more likely to reach the inbox instead of the spam folder.
You’re sending too many emails from a recent account
If you’ve just created your account, it’s important not to send out too many emails too early. Spam accounts often create new accounts and send high volumes of emails immediately; this could also show that your account was taken over. ISPs are proactive to block new accounts from sending out too many emails in the beginning.
When you create a Gmail account, you’ll have a lower sending quota than normal. This has less to do with your content, but it’s best to ease into sending marketing messages from new accounts. You can increase your limit simply by using your account as normal for a bit.
Your content has triggered spam filters
If your emails contain spam trigger words or phrases, they are more likely to be caught by spam filters and sent to recipients' spam folders. To avoid this, it's important to know which words and phrases are most likely to trigger spam filters. Using any of these phrases in your email subject line or body is likely to result in your message being caught by spam filters.
In addition to avoiding spam trigger words, it's important to edit your email content for typos, misleading subject lines, words in ALL CAPS, and grammatical errors. These can also trigger spam filters.
The biggest trigger for spam filters is having a “bit.ly” anywhere in your email content. URL shorteners are severely blacklisted because phishers use them to hide the destination of the link. If you want your emails to be successful, never use an URL shortener.
You’ve included too many images
An image-heavy email with little text will likely be marked as spam by mailbox providers. This is because spammers frequently use images instead of text to avoid filters, and mailbox providers are aware of this fact.
So, if you want to avoid the spam folder, make sure your emails contain a reasonable amount of text along with any images. Text to image ratio should be 60:40. The key is to keep a balance between images and text in your email.
Too many images will send your email to spam, but too much text will make it difficult to read. The best way to avoid this is to include one image for every 500 characters of text. This way, your email will be easy to read and engaging, without being too heavy on either images or text.
You’ve included attachments
Attachments can also trigger spam filters. When you include attachments in your email, there is a greater chance that your email will go to spam because attachments can often contain viruses or other malicious code that can harm the recipient's computer. Attachments also negatively affect the load time of an email and can increase the bounce rate.
Many email providers have strict limits on the size of attachments that can be sent, and larger attachments are more likely to be blocked or filtered as spam.
There are some file formats that should be avoided: ZIP, XLS, DOC, PPT, EXE, and others that aren’t an image or PDF. It’s usually best to avoid sending attachments in email unless you are absolutely sure that the recipient wants or needs them. If you need to, it’s best to personalize the attachment with a mail merge like YAMM.
Your emails are too generalized
When you create an email campaign, you're likely focused on getting your message in front of as many people as possible. But what you may not realize is that by casting too wide a net, you could be doing your campaign a disservice.
If your emails are too generalized and don't offer recipients something specific, chances are they'll quickly lose interest and either unsubscribe from your list or, worse, mark your message as spam.
The best way to avoid this outcome is to personalize your email content as much as possible. By tailoring your message to specific groups of people, you're more likely to keep their attention and encourage them to engage with your campaign.
However, personalizing mass emails can be a daunting task, especially if you don't have the right tools in place. That's where YAMM comes in. YAMM allows you to send highly personalized emails to each recipient on your list. You can customize the subject line, the body of the email, and even the sender name for each recipient.
You might have a low delivery rate
Your delivery rate might be causing emails to be marked as spam. A high delivery rate means that your emails are getting through to recipients, while a low delivery rate indicates that your messages are bouncing.
A bounce is when your email isn’t delivered at all. There are two types of bounces: soft bounces and hard bounces.
- Soft bounces are temporary and usually due to an issue on the recipient's end, such as a full mailbox or a down server.
- Hard bounces are permanent and usually indicate an invalid email address.
Bounced emails affect inbox placement, as they’re essentially blocked messages. If your emails bounce a lot, it tells ISPs you don’t follow best practices of list management, and they compensate by sending more emails to the spam folder. Having a low bounce rate (around 2% or lower) will improve your sender reputation.
If you see a 95% and higher delivery rate, that's a good sign. If your delivery rate is lower than 95%, you should take a closer look at why your emails are bouncing. It’s best to remove addresses that bounce on a regular basis.
Other common reasons why emails are going to spam
There are a couple of other reasons why emails can be sent to the spam folder.
You might’ve sent your emails to fake accounts. If you don’t verify your contacts before sending to them, you won’t know which addresses are real and which aren’t. To avoid this issue, verify your list regularly to remove any accounts that are fake or risky.
You’ll almost certainly fall into a spam trap if you’ve purchased an email list—purchased email lists are usually full of risky addresses. Never, never, never purchase a list, no exceptions. It’s a very bad decision for the future of your email campaigns.
Personalize and track your email campaigns with YAMM!
We hope this article has helped you understand how to avoid your email campaigns from going to spam and how to personalize and track them.
Have you tried out YAMM yet? It's a great tool for managing your email marketing efforts and it's free! YAMM is the best tool to personalize your messages, as well as track your open rates and other email deliverability metrics.
YAMM helps a lot with your deliverability. All your emails will be sent through Google servers, so you never need to worry about authentication being incompatible, unless an SPF record is present and not properly set up. We’ll even let you know if there are any problems with your SPF record before you send out your emails. Also, with personalization, your emails are more likely to be opened and engaged with, which improves deliverability.
Even if you’re excited to start sending out mass emails, remember not to send out too many at one time, especially from a new account!Sign up for a free trial of YAMM today to see how easy it is to personalize your email campaigns and improve your deliverability rates.