Why Your Emails Land in Spam and How to Prevent It

Why Your Emails Land in Spam and How to Prevent It

1 in every 6 emails goes to spam. Email going to spam means loss of profit, revenue, and mainly the brand reputation.

You should take care of email delivery spam, as it can degrade your email reputation gradually and make it challenging to run email campaigns in the future.

In this detailed post, I will explain all the factors involved in sending email to spams and how you can prevent it from happening.

But first, let me tell you why email goes to spam.

Why my email going to spam?

Email account providers such as Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook do not want their users to encounter any spam email. If the user gets spam emails, they may blame the service provider for this shortcoming.

Email account providers offers spam filtering services free of cost, so the person keeps using their email service.

There is no centralized spam filter. Every email service has its spam filters. And whichever technology they use, the premise is to protect the user from spam emails.

Spam filters take multiple security factors and evaluate the emails on those factors. These factors are created by studying and analyzing many emails that were marked spam by real users.

The spam filters are backed by a data and machine learning process. Every time you flag an email as spam, you are teaching the spam filter that this email is spam.

The spam filter will learn from it and send the email that is similar to the marked email directly to the spam folder next time.

How to stop your email from going to the spam folder?

First of all, there is no way an email can avoid email spam filters.

If you are sending an email, it will go through the spam filter, and the filter will decide if the email should go to inbox or spam.

All you can do is ensure that the email does not trigger the email spam filter. 

You have to remove all the cues and have to follow the best email practices, so the email spam filter does not associate the email with the spammers.

Let’s see the major factors that affect email delivery, trigger email spam filters, and what you should do instead.

Factors to look out for:

I divided the factors into 4 categories, as the email process can be divided into these 4 steps.

We will explore each one, one by one.

  • Email Sender
  • Email Receiver
  • Email Content
  • Email Technology

Email Sender

A spam filter can be triggered if the email sender information is not proper or accurate.

It is critical for spam filters to know who is sending the email. Suspicious sender information alarms spam filters.

  • Sender Name
  • ‘From’ Information
  • Physical Address
  • Unexpected Emails
  • Domain Age
  • Blacklisted Email

Sender name

42% of consumers look at the sender’s name while deciding whether to open an email. The sender’s name is one of the most critical factors determining whether the recipients will open the email or not. 

Why Your Emails Land in Spam and How to Prevent It image1

The sender’s name that tells you nothing about the sender is always suspicious.

The ideal practice is to use the actual person’s name, instead of a generic term, like [email protected] or [email protected].

You should also mention the brand name, because people typically remember brands more than the people.

But you have to run a few tests to find the ideal scenario for you. Is it a brand people recognize, or people associate more with the person.

There are many ways you can show sender’s name:

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However, illegible and weird sender names can trigger email spam. Also, the recipients might not open the email.

From information

From information to or reply to, tells the recipient who will receive the reply.

Incorrect ‘From’ information is not only a reason email goes to spam but it is also illegal. Using incorrect From information or impersonating someone influential is a crime.

The ‘From’ or ‘Reply to’ information should be clear and consistent.

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The email in ‘Reply to’ should be working and active. If subscribers are emailing you back, you should have a way to communicate with them via this email address.

The more emails go and forth between you and your email subscriber, the more chances your email address will get whitelisted automatically.

What to do:

Check your ‘From’ information and fix it. Add the website email address there.

Physical address

The CAN-SPAM Act requires that a valid physical address must appear in every email. If your email is to find out without it, you may be fined up to $40,654. 

The law is not global and only for the US. But if you are using the email service provider or have an email list with US emails, you have to follow the CAN-SPAM.

Most of the ESPs scan the emails, analyzing for elements that are essential according to law. If they are not there, they send the emails to spam to protect the sender from any heavy penalty.

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If you are working from home or have a small business and do not want to share your physical address, there are alternatives you can use.

  • PO Box
  • Ask a friend with a business
  • Try your co-working space

What to do:

Must add the physical address to the emails. Use your personal, or go with the alternative method.

Unexpected emails

Sending unexpected emails at a random time can trigger spam alarms. You can compare it with unexpected visitors. 

If you are not expecting anyone, and someone rings the bell on your front door, it will make you vary of the visitor.

That’s why sending regular emails with an interval time is critical. 

Moreover, if the recipient expects an email from you, he already recognizes you and knows when you send the email.

But then you break the pattern, the recipient may feel agitated as you were not supposed to send that mail, and they might mark it as spam.

What to do:

Try to create a habit of sending emails at a regular interval of time.

Domain age

You cannot just buy a domain and start blasting emails right away. The first thing the anti-SPAM filter check is the domain age. 

Every domain has a reputation, depending on the past email campaigns.

The new domain does not have any reputation, but the email hosting providers look at it suspiciously.

You have to be extra careful while using the new domain name, as the hosting providers are quick to block them. 

The right way to use the new domain is to interact with your trusted subscribers and warming up the email for the first few months.

With the reputation, the email deliverability will increase, and the new domain will be ready for all kinds of campaigns.

What to do:

Warm-up new domain name by sending emails to most active subscribers.

Blacklisted email

An email blacklist is a list that identifies domain names that are known to send spam emails.

Internet service providers, free mailboxes, and anti-spam vendors use these real-time lists to identify the spam emails from blacklisted domains, to restrict the spam from entering the system.

Spam complaints and high percentage of bounce emails are enough to send the domain name to the blacklist.

Check whether your Email Is Blacklisted if your emails are continuously going to spam.

If the emails are blacklisted, you have to submit the request to remove your email address from the blacklist. But first, you have to identify and remove the reason that got you on that blacklist.

What to do:

Check if your email is on the blacklist. If yes, submit a request for removal.

Email Receivers

Your email list and subscribers also play a critical role when it comes to mail delivery.

If the list has expired emails, then the email will bounce, reducing the email delivery for the correct emails.

Ways your email list can put your email into spam:

  • Inactive Members
  • Un Cleaned List
  • Non Opted Members
  • Corporate Email Addresses

Inactive members are one of the reasons for the false metrics and skewed results.

Inactive members

Inactive members mean the subscriber has ghosted your emails. He’s not interested in receiving your emails, but you keep sending them.

Sooner or later, the algorithm will see this, and start sending your email to spam. If not, these uninterested email subscribers will mark your email as spam.

The ideal way is to remove the unengaged recipients from the list. If the email subscriber has not opened your last 5 emails, it is good to remove them. 

They are not worth it to let your mail going to spam for the active subscribers.

What to do:

Find the unengaged subscribers, and remove them.

Un-cleaned list

Having an un-cleaned list is a sure way to put your email into spam risks.

Un-cleaned emails lists means:

  • Inactive email subscribers
  • Incorrect emails
  • Unsubscribed emails
  • Un-engaged audience
  • Already marked your spam

All of these email addresses not only mess up your analytics but also signals that your list is spammy. This shows that you are not obeying the spam law, and hence the emails start going to spam folders.

Moreover, having a hygiene email list lets you run your marketing campaigns only to those interested in you.

With a clean list, your campaign will see higher opening rates, fewer spam complaints, and a low bounce rate.

What to do:

Scrub Your Email Lists a couple of times a year.

Non-opted members

You can buy an email list from the Internet or download a list from any suspicious website. But do you know from where those emails arrive?

Using the unverified email list is the easiest way to ruin your email reputation and send all your future emails to the spam box.

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You should use the resources and email marketing tools to collect the website visitors’ emails and make a good email list. 

This way, the subscriber will permit you to send them marketing emails. 

What to do:

Make your email list by converting website visitors to subscribers.

Corporate email addresses

You need to remove all the generic corporate email addresses from your list.

Emails such as info@, news@, contact@, help@, etc.. are technically corporate emails, and the emails sent to these addresses go to multiple email accounts.

These email subscribers will not reply to your emails, as the good chances are that the organization-level firewall will put your email into spam.

What to do:

Remove generic corporate emails.

Email Content

The spam filter analyzes the email content to look for spammy keywords.

You cannot use clickbait headlines or trick users to click a link. Tricks, lies, and so-called hacks may improve your open rate for some time, but it affects your email reputation in the long term.

Ways and tips to follow when writing emails:

  • Misleading Headlines
  • Spammy Keywords
  • Spelling And Grammar Errors
  • Bad Links And URLs
  • Only Images
  • Non Responsive
  • Missing Key Elements
  • Unsubscribe Link
  • Whitelisting Instructions
  • Permission Reminder
  • Email Templates
  • Multiple Attachments

Misleading headlines

Email headlines are tricky. It should be short, enticing enough for visitors to open the email, but not too sleazy to turn to spammy.

The email subscribers should not feel cheated when he opens the email after reading the email. If you are saying there is an offer, there must be an offer in the email.

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Using ‘Re’ or ‘Forward’ or ‘Urgent’ tricks users to open the emails.

Click-bait email may give a high opening rate, but they also tend to increase spam reports.

Commonly used spammy, misleading subject lines:

  • Words like “free,” “money,” “help,” and “reminder” all trigger content-based email spam filters
  • Email subject lines are entirely in capital
  • Using multiple exclamation marks
  • Personal questions in subject

What to do:

Avoid misleading headlines and write an honest one.

Spammy keywords

Spam filters have learned a lot with machine learning; it is equipped with a large set of known keywords known to belong to spam emails.

If you are continuously using these keywords, the ESP might put your emails into a spam box.

Connect to your email provider, and ask for the spam triggering words.

Example of manipulative, sleazy, and shady words:

  • Free
  • Act Now
  • Exclusive for you
  • Limited time
  • Easy Money
  • Lowest
  • Guaranteed
  • Promise
  • 100%
  • Instant access

You will find that it is impossible to avoid some of the keywords while creating email copies. But you can overcome it by following other best email practices.

Like having a clean email list, proper sender information etc…

If your email subscribers are okay with such emails, then the email will not go to spam.

What to do:

Try to avoid overusing spammy keywords and making false promises.

Spelling and Grammar errors

Spelling errors and grammatical mistakes will make your email subscribers mark your mail as spam.

Single typo can be accidental, but if there are multiple typos, grammatical mistakes, and poor overall formatting, then the filter will flag it as spam.

Poor grammar and spelling mistakes are a hallmark sign that the writer is not fluent in that language. The spam filter does not allow poorly written emails to go to the primary email.

What to do:

Use Grammar Checkers, and proofread emails properly.

Bad links

If you send links in your emails, use hyperlinked words that tell what the link does once clicked. Sending raw URLs says nothing to non-technical people.

Spammers and hackers send virus and malware links to the users. That’s why it is standard advice not to click any suspicious link in the email.

You have to make your links as less suspicious as possible. You can do it by telling the subscribers what the link does. That’s why using hyperlinks is much better than raw URLs.

Similarly, using shortened URL hides the actual URL, which triggers spam, as it is an activity primarily used by hackers.

The shortened links also reduce your email reputation as the shortened email redirects the user to their domain first. That counts as an external link, which is not a spam filter’s favorite thing to do.

Another thing is the broken link. You must ensure that all the links in the email are working.

  • Link in footer
  • Unsubscribe link
  • article links, etc…

A broken link gives poor service to the recipient, and the person can flag the emails as spam.

What to do:

Avoid using Raw URLs, and don’t insert broken links in the email.

Only images

Only Image emails are highly associated with spam. It is a developed notion that machines can’t analyze the text written on an image, and spammy keywords can be inserted on images to bypass the filter.

Using only images may have been successful in bypassing spam filters in initial years, but the algorithm is much more sophisticated now. It can read and understand the text written on images.

The only images are still in use by spammers, and hence, SPAM filters simply block the emails.

Though Gmail serves the images through internal secure proxy servers, other email clients don’t. Be it security or saving bandwidth, many users keep the image turn off for their emails. 

In that case, the only image email will look like spam, and they will flag it. 

Problems with email only image:

  • No preheader text
  • No preview text
  • Slow image loading
  • Hard to find the email with keyword search

What to do:

Don’t send images, only email.

Non-responsive Emails

What will the user do if the email does not load properly on his device?

That’s what happens with non-responsive emails. Responsive emails change the dimensions, text, design, and look depending on the user’s screen size.

While non-responsive emails don’t.

If you keep sending the non-responsive email that is not rendering to the mobile phone at all, the user has to flag your email as spam.

The latest email marketing software and platform create responsive emails. But if somehow, your emails are non-responsive, you have to change your email marketing software.

Sending non-responsive email is hard no.

What to do:

Test your email on multiple devices to check the responsiveness.

Missing elements

Another sure-fire way to put the email into the spam folder is missing adding key elements in emails.

Key elements are:

  • Subject line
  • Email body
  • From information
  • Physical address
  • Reply to email
  • Branding

This information is critical to create the email. You can experiment with missing subject lines or hiding your branding, but it can increase spam complaints.

The marketing software usually notifies you if any of the key elements of the email is missing. 

What to do:

Email should have all the essential elements present.

Unsubscribe link

Giving a good and clear unsubscribe link in the email is required by CAN-SPAM law. Hiding or making it difficult for the user to delete the account or unsubscribe from your emails is poor business practice.

If the user cannot stop your email from coming to his inbox, the next option is to block your email address. And that will be bad for domain reputation and future email campaigns.

Only the people interested in your content and emails should receive your emails. Besides, keeping inactive email subscribers is not beneficial in any way.

So, giving away inactive users to unsubscribe themselves from the list reduces your email scrubbing task.

Worse than email spamming, it can lead to your organization’s negative online reputation. The user can go and complain on social media communities about the shady email practices.

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What to do:

Always insert precise and proper unsubscribe links and remove them from the list.

Whitelisting instructions

Despite being such a large part of the world, the Internet is not that old.

There are people all across the globe that are not that fluent in using email and the Internet.

Adding instructions in the email regarding whitelisting your email could help your audience to whitelist your email address. But you have to understand your demographic for this.

The ideal way to send the instructions is in your welcome email. The subscriber remembers you and has the most positive mindset towards you.

You can request whitelisting your domain so all future emails go to your inbox.

What to do:

Request whitelisting your email.

Permission reminder

There is a possibility that the subscriber might forget after subscribing.

You can kindly remind them that the reasons they are getting the emails are that they ‘Downloaded the book’ or ‘subscribe to receive these emails’.

This way, the user will know that he opts-in for the emails, and you are not spamming his inbox.

Even if he does not like your email, the user will not flag your email as spam. Instead, he will search for the unsubscribe link.

But you don’t have to overdo this. A simple reminder now and then is more than enough.

What to do:

Add a permission reminder after a few emails.

Template emails

Many email marketing platforms provide free templates. Those templates are unique and pretty, but you should only use them as inspiration.

When there 1000s of people using the same template and email copy, it triggers the email spam filters.

That’s how the triggering keyword came into existence; when lots of people start using a word for multiple email campaigns, the spam filter associates that word as spam.

Moreover, marketing is very much about personalizing your message, and you will not be able to do that with template emails.

What to do:

Avoid using template emails, and write your copy.

Multiple attachments

Email size impacts email deliverability.

The experiment has shown that email deliverability issues start to occur once the email file size is over 100KB. Emails over 100 KB went directly to spam.

Research shows multiple times that email size plays a role in deciding whether the email will pass the spam test or not.

Moreover, email attachments are not considered good when you are sending bulk emails. You can use alternatives, such as uploading to drives and then sharing the links.

Moreover, drives automatically scan the content for viruses and malware. That improves email reputation, and it gets the approval of ESPs and recipients.

What to do:

Avoid using attachments in the email, and share them via drive.

Email technology

Email technology you employ to deliver the emails plays its role in hitting the spam filter. The spam filters use various ways to ensure the emails are not distorted in the transit, sent by the right domain, and do not contain viruses.

Multiple technologies work together to create a safe environment, so the user can get the best service possible.

Email technology tips to avoid spam:

  • Spammy IP Address
  • IP Blacklisted
  • Unusual Send Volumes
  • IP Warm Up
  • Dynamic IPs
  • SPF Records
  • DKIM Records
  • ESP Domains

Spammy IP Address

Maybe you are doing everything right, but the reason your emails are going to spam is your IP address. 

An IP address or Internet Protocol is a numerical address that defines the internet location.

For example: 

The IP address can be found in the header of emails. They are like a return address for the email.

IP addresses have reputation, and if the IP address has been used for the spamming, the recipient machine can detect it.

Many people use dedicated IP addresses, but typically, people use the shared IP address by email service providers for email campaigns. The IP spamming is one reason ESP cares so much and blocks the spammers from their platform, as spammers can bring down their IP reputation. 

If the ESP does not have a strict policy around spamming, their IP addresses might be used for spam.

You can check the reputation of an IP address using an online tool such as BarracudeCentral.

What to do:

Use quality ESP and research before using them.

IP blacklisted

Similar to domain blacklisting, IP addresses can also be blacklisted.

The IP can go on the blacklist because the server is not following the proper email guidelines, or there is something wrong with the server.

If you are using the shared server, the other users could be using the server for spamming. Without you knowing, the IP address can be blacklisted and affect your email deliverability.

There are also many DNS-based blacklists. If the IP is listed on any of the blacklists, it will affect the email deliverability.

To solve the issue, you have to do a reverse lookup test, and some investigation to determine what list your IP address is listed. Then you can submit a request to de-list the IP address.

Use This Tool To Check Whether Your IP Is Blacklisted Or Not.

Each DNSBL has its criteria regarding blacklisting IPs, and delisting.

What to do:

Check if your IP or DNS is on any blacklist now and then.

Must Read: How To Reduce DNS Lookups?

Unusual send volumes

Sending an unusual volume of emails is something that is associated with spammers. They collect the emails, or the list, and then use the bot scripts to send the emails in millions.

The principle of large numbers always gives results to spammers. On that criteria, the spam filter sends the emails into a spam box if they find out the IP address is suddenly firing up lots of emails. 

It is also a sign that the IP address is compromised, and hackers are using it to send many emails.

So that’s why we advise you to increase the number of emails and send emails consistently. If there is any major event coming, and you need to send many emails, you should warm up the email account.

What to do:

Avoid sending inconsistent emails and inconsistent numbers of emails.

IP warm up

The new domain name and IP address are always suspicious. You have to warm it up by sending emails to highly engaged subscribers.

The spam filters will analyze the emails and find out the IP address delivers quality emails and not spam. But this has to be done gradually.

You cannot send a large number of cold outreach or promotional emails and expect filters to accept them as genuine emails. Because again, spam filters learn the spammer’s behavior, and it is the habit of spammers to buy the new IP address and run large email campaigns.

Businesses, and organizations, send the emails slowly as their subscriber’s list grows. The email campaign growth should not look suspicious.

What to do:

Warm up the IP address first by running small email campaigns.

Dynamic IPs

Spammers typically use the dynamic address to conceal their identity. Besides spammers, hackers use dynamic IPs to remain safe while sending phishing emails.

Most modern mailbox providers can quickly identify dynamic IPs and block any emails coming from them. 

With dynamic IP addresses, the mailbox providers or ESP cannot comprehend the sender’s reputation or identity, so they try to keep the recipient safe from any unknown emails.

A business or blogger will find many more problems with dynamic IP addresses other than triggering the spam folder. Like, bounce emails, not getting a reply, as the IP address keeps changing, and the probability of someone else getting hold of the old IP address.

What to do:

Use a static IP address.

SPF Records

SPF or Sender Policy Framework is a record of servers authorized to send the email from your domain name. 

A DNS entry has to be added to the SPF in TXT format. The email sender you use will provide you the entry needed to add to the SPF records.

Making it public what DNS are allowed to send the mails on behalf of your domain will improve the email deliverability. It also reduces email spoofing, as the spammers will not pass the SPF record without adding their server to the record.

Mail servers will ensure that your domain’s email message is actually from the domain, even if it is sent from the new server.

What to do:

Use SPF records when using multiple sending services.

DKIM Records

DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) is, as the name suggests, a security standard that makes sure the email has not been altered during the transit between the sender and recipient. 

It uses public-key cryptography to sign the email with the private key. On the receiver’s end, the server can use the public key to the domain’s DNS to verify the message’s source and the content of the email.

As the server verifies and approves the email, the message is considered authentic by the mailbox. This enhances the chances of email going to the primary inbox instead of spam.

An email I find in my spam folder:

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While you can send emails without passing DKIM, it secures the email content, helping prevent spoofing. It is a positive sign that the sender is taking email security seriously and maintaining the email reputation.

To enable DKIM, you have to add public keys to your DNS zone. The key will be provided by the email sending service you are using (SendGrid, Google, etc.). That key can be added as a TXT record in a special format.

What to do:

Check the email sending service if they allow DKIM records.


DMARC is an abbreviation for Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance. It is a protocol that utilizes SPF and DKIM to authenticate the email messages. 

DMARC helps the recipients and senders streamline the process of checking the email sender and email message’s legitimacy.

With DMARC, the sender can tell the receiver that SPF and DKIM protect the message and what should be done with the message if both the authentications failed.

As said earlier, every company employs a different set of rules and checks to find spam. One company can find the absence of SPF suspicious, while another checker will make it a reason to send the mail to spam. 

DMARC policy removes the guessing work from the receiver’s side and offers clear instruction.

What to do:

Add DMARC record to improve email security.

ESP Domains

All the modern and latest ESP provide all the authentication and whitelisting details (SPF/DKIM). Few don’t, so they provide their domains to send the emails.

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You will be using both the server and domain of the email service provider. The email deliverability will depend on the reputation of the ESP.

Multiple users will be using the ESP’s domain, and all these users have their way of handling email campaigns.

Sharing servers or sharing IP addresses is not good for businesses. It can affect the email deliverability if the neighbor is not following ideal practices. 

What to do:

Avoid using ESP domains.


What is a spam email?

Spam emails are created to send in large numbers without any permission of the recipients. Hackers obtain the email list through leakage or by hacking a software/website.

Anyway, they get their hands on many emails and then automate the process to send the emails.

The advanced email filter stops such emails from entering into the users’ primary inbox and sends them to spam.

If you want to see spam emails, just open the spam folder of your email account.

Why does my email go to spam?

You might not be a spammer, but the spam filter does not know it.

Spam filters use machine learning to predict whether the email is spam or not. So if any email shows any behavior that could be associated with the spammers, it will be seen as spam.

Common spammer behavior is:

  • Spammy keywords
  • Clickbait subject line
  • Multiple attachments
  • Images and raw links
  • No security certificates

How can I know if my emails have gone to spam?

A significant reduction in open email rates is an indication something is up. Emails might be going to spam, or the delivery is blocked.

There is no sure way to learn whether an email sent by you lands up in the primary box or spam folder. By comparing metrics, you can make reasonable conclusions.

How do I stop my emails from going to spam?

To stop your emails from spam, you have to audit the email campaign and find out what happened that triggered the spam filters.

It could be the email content or some technical drawbacks that cause the errors.

After the audit, you can pinpoint the spam reasons and create a plan to solve it for the next email campaign.

Are emails required to have an unsubscribe?

Having the unsubscribe button in the email gives the user an alternative to flagging the email as spam. If the recipient does not like the email, he would love to have an option to remove his email from receiving more emails from you. 

If there is no unsubscribe button, he may not have any other option besides blocking your email, and that will take a great hit on your email reputation.

Wrapping Up

Email going to spam is directly causing you loss of sales, revenue, reputation, and trust.

Whether you are inbound-minded or outbound-minded, email delivery is critical for your operation, and there is no way you can ignore it.

In this post, I mentioned all the significant reasons email goes to spam and how you can avoid it.

If I miss anything, I look forward to reading your thoughts in the comment section.

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