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Why emails land in spam and what to do about it

Why emails land in the spam folder and what you can do to avoid it. Best practices and tips for better inbox placement.

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What are spam traps and why your emails get caught in them.

There is nothing worse than spending time, energy and resources to create that perfect email campaign and then your messages landing in spam. The famed 300% ROI of email marketing does not matter at all if your emails don’t get into your subscriber inbox. 

With over 333 billion emails sent and received worldwide, it’s the most popular marketing mechanism out there and as it is with any popular channel, email is no stranger to abuse. To keep spammers and other malicious message senders at bay, email platforms like tinyEmail and inbox providers like Gmail and Yahoo work together to make it a safer place. 

Anti-spam algorithms scan your messages at various stages of your email’s journey from you to your subscribers’ inboxes. If you have experienced low open rates, it could be that your emails are going to the dreaded spam folder. There are several reasons why this happens. Let’s find out the reasons why emails land in spam and what you can do about it. 

Percentage of spam among all emails sent worldwide:

Why do emails land in spam?

Knowing your enemy is half the battle won. Understanding why emails land in the spam folder in the first place, what are the triggers and signals that anti-spam algorithms look for in messages will give you clues towards knowing if you are doing something wrong and how you can things differently. Steering clear of bad practices and doing the optimal things will not only improve your chances to reach your subscribers’ inbox but also help you build trust engagement with your audience. Here are the main reasons why emails land in spam.

You do not have permission to send emails to your list.

Emails addresses are very personal to individuals. While even phone numbers tend to change relatively frequently, email addresses often stay with people for a very long time. This is especially true if it is a personal email address. Understandably so, we are protective towards our personal space which extends to our inbox. 

If you did not seek permission to send to your list, chances are very strong that people will mark your emails as spam no matter how relevant you think your message is to them. 

Further, there are laws that protect the end-user against such spam messages. If the people you are sending emails to never signed up to receive them, not only are you infringing on their privacy, you are breaking a decent number of laws while at it, such as the CAN-SPAM Act, CASL and GDPR. Obtaining double-opt-in is a step further and generally recommended.

What you should do instead

Your subject line is deceptive or a click-bait.

Deceiving your readers by using deceptive subject lines which incite a false sense of urgency, emergency or celebration is a big no-no and almost certain to get caught by anti-spam moderation. If your messages do get past automated systems, readers are very likely to report such emails as spam. The same goes for clickbait headlines like “You won’t believe this deal is even possible” or “This Is Why You’re Losing Money”.

What you should do instead

Be honest and straightforward with your messaging. Give your readers exactly what they want to receive from you. Be completely transparent about the contents of your email by using succinct subject lines and preheader text. It doesn’t mean you can’t get creative with your subject lines. You can. You can use emojis, humour and make them curious, but only when your content is aligned with it.

You have a bad sender reputation.

If you followed bad sending behaviour in the past and had complaints made against your emails, chances are that your domain and IP address is marked with a poor reputation among inbox providers. Fixing a bad reputation is the same as mending a strained relationship — you have to take it slow and build trust back with your readers.

What you should do instead

Speak to your email marketing service provider. Reliable providers often have deliverability experts who can guide your wat to a better reputation. But it often comes down to fixing your sending habits. It may come down to starting with a fresh subscriber list, reducing your frequency, forcing double-opt-in or in extreme cases, changing your sending IP or domain.

You are targeting the wrong audience.

One of the main reasons subscribers do not engage with emails or spam-complain is because the messages they receive are not relevant to them. Often businesses sacrifice relevancy in favour of getting a large subscriber list quickly. For instance, if you are a general-purpose eCommerce business but ran an email-collection campaign using only the fashion theme but later send stationary emails, the mismatch of audience interest will be unavoidable and spam complaints will often follow.

What you should do instead

Create separate lists or segment your audience based on interest, demographics, location and any other relevant data point you have. 

You are using spam words or inadvertently triggering spam traps.

Even when you have the best intentions while crafting emails and follow the best practices for subscriber growth, you may inadvertently get caught in spam filters. These are words and phrases automated algorithms scan for in emails and when found, mark the emails as spam. Some of these words are:

  • * Amazing
  • * Cancel at any time
  • * Check or money order
  • * Click here
  • * Congratulations
  • * Dear friend
  • * For only ($)
  • * Free or toll-free
  • * Great offer
  • * Guarantee
  • * Increase sales
  • * Order now
  • * Promise you
  • * Risk-free
  • * Special promotion
  • * This is not spam
  • * Winner

These are not the only words. In fact, we have compiled over 200 such spam words and phrases you should avoid in your emails and subject lines. Download it free below.

Other reasons why your email might get tagged as spam are spelling and grammatical errors, using too many or broken links and using URL shortening services.

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Download a list of 200+ spam words you should avoid.

You have not authenticated your sending domain.

Although not strictly necessary, it is always recommended to authenticate your email sending domain so that there’s an extra layer of security. Authenticating your domain with SPF, DKIM and DMARC allow you to safeguard your domain from spoofing and phishing attacks. It also helps in proving your authenticity to inbox providers which in turn increases your chances of landing in the inbox. Note that you can only authenticate custom domains you own and not free email addresses like Gmail or Yahoo.

What you should do instead

Set up your email domain authentication by speaking your email service provider. Depending on which platform you use, setting up the right authentication settings can be relatively simple as long as you have access to your domain registration provider like GoDaddy and Namecheap.

You do not practice "list hygiene".

Maintaining “list hygiene” means scrubbing your audience from time to time and removing your inactive subscribers, bounces and people who marked your emails as spam in the past. tinyEmail automatically suppresses such addresses with bounce and spam complaints so you do not email them.

What you should do instead

Pay attention to your subscriber behaviour and periodically clean your audience. Speak with your email marketing provider to understand how they handle bounces and spam complaints. Ensure you are sending to these email addresses without you being aware of it.

You are not using the right “from-name”

From-names or as we call it in tinyEmail, your sender identity, is an often overlooked thing that can either work against you or for you. Your sender identity helps your subscriber connect with your brand at a personal level. Such as “Amy from tinyEmail” or even “Hello tinyEmail” reads way better than just “”. Further to this, certain from-names may even sound suspicious to spam filters like [email protected] or [email protected]

What you should do instead

 It is best to use the name of your company along with a human name that your subscribers will recognize or can relate to. If you need to, use easily understandable email addresses relevant to the contents of your email such as [email protected] or [email protected].

Recall how we started by stating that an email address is an extension of a person’s personal space? Avoiding the spam folder is less about tactics and more about your intent, clarity of messaging and respecting that personal space. Good marketing never needs to be cloaked. Be consistent with your messaging, follow these best practices and your subscribers will reward you with their trust and positive engagement with your brand.

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