Why Are My Emails Going to Spam?

February 08, 2023
Written by
Jesse Sumrak
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own
Reviewed by
Ayanna Julien
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own

Why Are My Emails Going to Spam?

Why are my emails going to spam? That's a question we hear a lot—and for good reason.

Getting into the inbox should be a sender’s number one priority. After all, campaigns and emails can’t be effective if the intended recipients never see them. Still, at times, you may wonder: “Why are my emails going to spam? Wouldn’t customers want to see my high-quality offers?”

Even the most experienced senders occasionally run into inboxing issues. That’s why as email changes and evolves as a communication channel, senders must change and evolve with it. Knowing how to keep your emails out of spam folders makes the best use of the power of email.

There are numerous reasons emails get directed to the spam folder and equally just as many solutions. But there are some common tricks to stop emails from going to clutter. Whether it’s fixing misleading language or taking steps to improve a poor sending reputation, the following best practices outline how to avoid getting marked as spam.

Why are my emails going to spam?

While there are many reasons your email could be landing in the spam folder, we're going to highlight the 5 most common reasons here. Whether it's your email marketing campaigns or transactional messages, the reason they're ending up in the spam folder is likely below.

 1. CAN-SPAM compliance

Senders must comply with the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 or CAN-SPAM, which restricts unsolicited emails and sets the standard for sending commercial email. CAN-SPAM is a primary determinant of which emails reach the inbox.

Under CAN-SPAM, senders must comply with numerous rules regarding email content, including: 
  1. Don’t use misleading or false information in email headers
  2. Don’t use deceptive language in email subjects
  3. Identify advertising messaging clearly and conspicuously
  4. Inform recipients of your business’ location
  5. Tell recipients how to opt out of future communications
  6. Respect opt-out requests and handle them quickly
  7. Be cognizant of what third parties or others do on your business’ behalf
Complying with these rules is, of course, a legal obligation. But doing so is also best practice for ensuring your emails don’t end up in spam folders. Sending messages that are clear, truthful, and easy to navigate can help to improve your sender reputation and your recipients’ experience.

2. Sender reputation

A huge factor in email delivering to the inbox is your sending reputation. Your sending reputation is an indication to inbox service providers (ISPs) of how recipients respond to your messages, including how often they delete or send your messages to spam. It’s dependent on a few metrics, namely spam reports, engagement and open rates, and block rates. Learn more about checking your reputation.

Although it may seem like an easy solution, hiding an unsubscribe link or preference center is bad for your sender reputation. By providing better access to downgrading and unsubscribing, recipients are less likely to delete your messages or report them as spam. And fewer spam reports means a better sending reputation. 

Not to mention, making list-unsubscribe easily available or providing accessible and clear links to preference centers also improves the customer experience. Sometimes, recipients just don’t want to receive your mail anymore. And that’s okay! You want engaged recipients on your list. So keeping a lean, self-cleaning list is a good thing.

3. List cleanliness and spam traps

Cleaning your lists may seem counterintuitive at first, but it can really improve your ability to land in the inbox. By manually cleaning and monitoring your email engagement, you prevent spam traps and ensure the highest possible engagement.

Spam traps are email addresses that ISPs and other organizations use to identify and catch spammers. These addresses can read like failed deliveries or low engagement rates and tell ISPs that you don’t follow email collection best practices. Maintaining your email list regularly helps you to avoid any duplicate addresses and resolve any typos or mistakes in manually entered addresses.

Your emails may also go to spam because your recipients receive more email than they signed up for or anticipated. Consider offering recipients the chance to tell you their email preferences during opt-in. Our 2019 Email Benchmark and Engagement Study found that recipients overwhelmingly prefer to give their subscription preferences at opt-in than any other time. By respecting your recipients’ preferences from the start, you’re more likely to have high engagement rates and stop emails from going to clutter. 

When it feels like you’ve done everything possible to ensure inbox delivery, the content of your messages should be next on the list for review.

4. Subject lines

Subject lines are the only chance you’ll get to make a first impression with recipients. So every message you send is a new opportunity to increase open and engagement rates.

And effective subject lines aren’t just an art but a science. The best email subject lines grab your attention, preview your content, and make promises that you immediately deliver upon in the message.

Generally, powerful subject lines do the following:
  • Get to the point: The shorter the subject line, the better. Brevity is crucial to ensure your subjects don’t get cut off and that recipients stay interested.
  • Avoid clickbait: Language that sounds overly sensational will send your messages to the spam folder and light up your block rates faster than anything. Remember CAN-SPAM Act and use clear language—avoid spam trigger words. 
  • Use emojis sparingly: Although tempting to use emojis in every subject line, these can alienate some recipient groups and make others think it's a spam email. Use them sparingly and with purpose.
  • Demonstrate creativity: Every email brings the opportunity to experiment and try new ideas. Segment your audience and use A/B testing to see what resonates with particular target groups to get the best results.
These guidelines are best practices, but there are exceptions to every rule. Experiment with new copy and language to determine what encourages audience response with your recipients.

5. Too many attachments

The emails you send should speak for themselves without a boatload of attachments at the bottom. So when you include too many attachments, it can also trigger spam filters. Why? Because attachments disguised as innocuous files are a common method for hackers and scammers to spread malware and viruses. It’s better to avoid including email attachments altogether. 

But if you must send an attachment, ensure it’s one that customers will expect and don’t attach many to a single email. You can also often avoid triggering spam filters by uploading your files to a cloud storage service and including a link to the file in the email rather than including the file as an attachment.

How to avoid emails going to spam folder

So you’ve answered the question: “Why are my emails going to spam?” Now, you’re probably asking: “What can I do to keep my emails out of my customers’ spam folders?” Thankfully, tools and best practices can help your emails make it to the inbox. By putting these methods into practice, you can maximize engagement from your subscriber lists and maintain a strong sender reputation.

1. Use mail testers to spot issues

If you’re still in the dark, Googling “How to tell if my emails are going to spam,” then spam testing is the next logical step to know whether you need to avoid the spam filter. For Twilio SendGrid customers, spam testing is part of your email creation and editing workflow, offering insight into which issues may send your emails to spam. 

Specifically, there are tools that allow you to check how your email content stacks up against the standards of common spam filters. In some cases, you may get a specific score, while in other instances, you simply find out whether you’re likely to pass or fail the spam test. 

By testing your emails before you send them, you can ensure critical elements appear as intended. This gives you a rare chance to see things from the perspective of the customer. So instead of asking yourself, “Why do my emails go to spam?” consider the customer’s perspective by asking yourself, “If I received this email, would I keep it or put it in my spam folder?”

2. Deploy authentication tools

Email authentication verifies who you say you are, and it lets mailbox providers know that your emails are safe to direct to their clients’ inboxes. 

One of the best methods of email authentication is the Sender Policy Framework (SPF). This method helps identify the mail servers permitted to send out messages from a specific domain. It also helps ISPs to tell the difference between genuine emails and fake messages sent by phishers and scammers trying to use your domain to mislead users.

Essentially, an SPF record is a short line of text added to the TXT record stored in the Domain Name System (DNS). This text tells the receiving server whether an authorized domain sent the email. Then, the receiving server can check if the sender’s IP address is in the SPF record, and if it is, the message will pass SPF authentication.

Without an SPF record, inbox providers might red flag your messages as potential spam, leading them to block the message or send it straight to the spam folder. With SendGrid, there are tools that allow you to validate and evaluate your SPF records’ performance. These tools can also identify deliverability issues affecting your email deliverability, including identifying false entries with our Email Address Validation API.

Other methods of email authentication include DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), Domain-Based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC), and Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI). These methods each have strengths and may complement each other. For instance, DKIM can prevent domain spoofing, while BIMI leverages brand identity to make emails more readily recognizable.

3. Dedicate a sending service

Sending from your host server may seem like common sense, but it can often lead to your emails ending up in spam folders. Thankfully, there are ways to reduce this risk. Using a dedicated sending service stops emails from going to the spam folder and offers greater control over your domain reputation.

Dedicated sending services also offer the advantage of volume: you can send more emails at a time. So if you have hundreds or thousands of customers to communicate with, a dedicated email service provider (ESP) can get these messages to them—and stop those emails from ending up in spam folders.

4. Follow email best practices when sending

There are several best practices you can implement to reduce the risk of your email campaigns ending up in spam folders, with some of these practices beginning before you even draft a single email. For instance, you should carefully cultivate your lists and avoid scraping, buying, renting, or sharing email recipient lists. Your list should also consist only of customers who expressed interest in your brand and have opted into receiving your communications.

When it comes to the email messages themselves, there are several best practices to keep in mind. First, send only high-quality emails. When your emails are full of typos, grammatical errors, or poorly formatted, ISPs are more likely to send them to spam folders. Content is also key. So avoid sending irrelevant messages that irritate recipients. Instead, use segmentation to tailor your messaging to the specific interests of your recipients. And, of course, include a relevant subject line.

Lastly, before you send, perform a test to ensure your email looks good, with all links functional and all images properly rendered. This is also the time for a final proofread. That’s where you want to think about taking out elements like excessive links and attachments that could potentially lead inbox providers to mark the message as spam. With these best practices in mind, you can stop emails from going to clutter.

Dedicate your sending with Twilio SendGrid

The most important advice to remember when your emails go to spam is to stay calm and maintain a forward-looking attitude. Problems with spam complaints are totally fixable! With the help of Twilio SendGrid and a little work and adjusting on your part as a sender, you’ll be back in the inbox in no time.

Ready to start sending emails that reach the inbox? For a comprehensive guide with expert advice on getting to the inbox, check out the 2022 Email Deliverability Guide. Or get in touch with our SendGrid experts today to get started.Emails get sent to spam for various reasons, and even the most experienced senders run into occasional inboxing issues.

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