Why is my email going to the spam folder?

McKenzie Gregory


There’s nothing worse than working long and hard on an email campaign, only to discover it never even made it to your recipient’s inbox.

Spam algorithms are one of the more arcane elements of the email marketing world, but it’s important to remember that despite what you might believe, ISPs (Internet Service Providers) aren’t out to get you. What they really want to do is create a great user experience by giving people the emails they expect where they expect them.

So how do you influence whether ISPs decide to place your campaign in the inbox or in the spam folder? Well, it’s important to remember that from start to finish, you’re building a relationship with each subscriber. If you get that right, you'll naturally improve your email deliverability.

Here are ten ways to get started.


1. Set clear expectations from the beginning.

Your first interactions with a new subscriber will set the tone and expectations for everything else you do down the road. During the signup process, provide clear information about why their subscription will be relevant and engaging, what they can expect in terms of email frequency, and the identity of the sender (what “from” name to expect if it’s something other than your brand name) to help to bolster engagement from the start.


2. Build the RIGHT kind of email list.

In the same vein, any collection method that doesn’t create clear expectations and context for a relationship is one you’re better off not pursuing (including purchased lists, your friend’s LinkedIn contacts, or your LinkedIn contacts). Instead, focus your efforts on building an email list full of genuinely interested prospects who have raised their hand to hear from you.


3. Consider what ISPs say about engagement.

It’s a question that’s been plaguing email marketers for years: Does subscriber engagement effect spam filtering?
The answer: Kind of.

At the 2015 Email Evolution Conference, Microsoft came out and stated that user engagement will NOT affect overall sender reputation, as did AOL and Gmail.

However, engagement WILL affect your ability to get to an individual user’s inbox. All of the major ISPs stated they don’t track clicks (mainly for privacy reasons, partially for technical reasons), but they do track opens.

There are a number of engagement metrics they track that do affect reputation and individual delivery. According to a blog post from Email Copilot

* Opens are GOOD
* Moving an email from junk to your inbox is GOOD
* Replying to an email is VERY GOOD
* Deleting without opening is BAD
* Moving from your inbox to junk is VERY BAD
* Marking something as spam is VERY BAD

Gmail also stated that there’s a higher probability that someone will click the spam button if your email is in the “Inbox” tab rather than the “Promotions” tab. The message? Don’t fight the tabs.


4. Remove (or re-engage) inactive contacts.

Sending to people who habitually don’t open won’t do your brand any good, and it certainly won’t help your email deliverability. We’d definitely recommend sending a re-engagement campaign to help win back disengaged subscribers, but if they still don’t respond, remove them from your list.


5. Only send engaging, relevant content.

While your definition of spam might be one thing (Viagra promotions or offers from Nigerian princes), your recipients’ definition of spam is another (anything they don’t care about).

They won’t hesitate to flag any promotional message that doesn’t align with their interests, even if they DID invite you into their inbox. So pay attention to their interests and send accordingly.


6. Think like a subscriber.

If you saw your own email in a crowded inbox, would you open it? Does the subject line demonstrate value and align with what’s actually inside the campaign? Put yourself in the shoes of your subscriber before you hit “send,” and think twice about firing it off if anything feels wrong about the experience.


7. Reexamine your send frequency.

Does your send frequency align with the expectations you set during signup?
Are you irritating your subscribers by sending far too often?
Are you making them forget who you are by sending far too little?

Take another look at your send frequency – and a deep dive into your response data – to ensure you’re hitting the right cadence.


8. Watch your “from” name.

Your "from" name is a fun thing to experiment with, but don’t take it too far.

We’ve seen a huge surge in the popularity of plain text, “MacMail-style” sends that look like they're from individuals (versus slick HTML sends that are clearly from a brand), and it can be an effective strategy, for sure... but only do it if you have a brand personality or figurehead you KNOW your recipients will immediately recognize.


9. Don’t use link shorteners.

This one is a simple fix: Spammers are infamous for using link shorteners like bit.ly in their messages to obscure where they’re actually sending people, so be sure to only include full links in your emails.


10. Make it VERY easy to unsubscribe.

If someone wants to leave your list, don’t make it difficult in the hopes of keeping them around. Make the path to unsubscribe crystal-clear; after all, better one lost subscriber than lasting damage to your sender reputation.



Any questions about evading the spam folder? These things are complicated, so share away in the comments, and I’ll pass them along to Emma's dedicated email deliverability experts to get the best answer possible!


About the Author

McKenzie Gregory

McKenzie Gregory is a senior content manager on Emma’s marketing team. A Nashville native, she can be found covering all things email on the Emma blog, debating hyphenation rules, and watching obscene amounts of Netflix without a trace of shame.

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