Email is a powerful marketing channel that allows businesses to reach their target audience and increase their customer base. In fact, 59% of users say marketing emails influence their purchase decisions. Plus, there are over 3 million emails sent every second. 

Unlike other forms of digital marketing, email marketing provides you an avenue to have genuine and intimate interactions. All this just proves that email marketing remains one of the most effective tools that digital marketers can use if you can keep your campaign on track.

When it comes to getting your message across very quickly you will find yourself digging into open rates and debugging deliverability but all too often tools and solutions like InboxAlly are only searched for after you end up with deliverability problems. We created InboxAlly as the Ultimate Delivery Tool based on our own experience trying to measure, test, and repair deliverability for the entire campaign lifecycle and know that there are so many reasons open rates can drop overnight and ROI of course will follow. Even if you don’t think you are ready for advanced measurement and engagement tools like InboxAlly for your current campaign, simply following some best practices will still take you a long way in your goal of staying out of spam.

So, let’s get back to the basics and the mostly common sense ways to avoid the Spam folder. If you want to know why your legitimate emails are not reaching your recipients’ inboxes and why your hard work isn’t paying off, you’ve come to the right place.

Here, we provide you the top reasons why your emails land in the spam folder instead of the inbox and some concrete steps to increase your inbox placement rate.


1. Your Recipients have marked your email as spam

sign showing shortcut to toilets

Spam emails or junk emails are more prevalent than ever and mailbox providers give recipients an easy option to manually flag those that are spam.

So, if the person you’re trying to reach out to has previously marked your email as spam, then your new emails will likely end up in their spam folder as well. Beyond that, the mailbox provider learns and generalizes this for all your emails from your sender so that other users get that email sent straight to spam as well.

Make sure you set up two-way communication and be crystal clear to recipients how they can unsubscribe. This is known as a Feedback Loop (FBL) and when your recipients have the clear option of unsubscribing it is less likely they will use the button that their mailbox provider offers. Not only should you make sure the link is present in the email, but you need to test it and make sure it actually works. It should go without saying but never use underhanded tactics, like using long unsubscribe forms or a nearly invisible font.

The “Mark as Spam” button has a lot of power in deciding the path of future emails so if recipients don’t have a clear alternative to unsubscribe this is a top reason you are landing in spam.


2. Your subject line contains spam triggers

If your email ends up in your subscriber’s spam folder, it could be that you’re using spam trigger words, especially in your subject line.

Most email service providers identify overly “salesy” language as spam. Common keywords that can trigger spam filters are those that are manipulative words or phrases, such as:

  • Act Now
  • Apply Online
  • Buy Direct
  • Limited Time
  • New Customers Only
  • Call Now
  • 100%
  • All-New
  • Bonus
  • For Instant Access
  • Bargain
  • Prize
  • Will not believe your eyes

Using related and effective subject lines can improve your sender’s reputation. Also as much as possible avoid more than 50 characters in the subject line. Studies have shown that the optimal subject line length is 41-50 characters.

And because email recipients get to decide if they open an email, ignore it or flag it as spam informed solely on the sender and subject line, it’s best if you create an eye-catching and compelling line that does not contain spam triggers and increases your open rates.


3. You bought an email list

Purchased lists are rarely a good idea and often explicitly prohibited by ESPs. It may be tempting to use a reputable agency to do lead generation, but being able to verify that the vendor followed all rules related to GDPR, CAN-SPAM, and CCPA is hard.

Purchased lists of questionable quality can often contain spam traps and this will quickly alert mailbox providers that the emails going out by this sender are suspect. Spam traps are email addresses that were either set up as a honey pot or have gone inactive and have since been converted into a spam trap. You don’t want to be sending emails to these destinations and having email addresses of unknown origin in your list will likely increase your spam rate significantly.

4. Bad email design

In the hierarchy of what’s most important in email marketing, the body content ranks the lowest as it can only be seen once the subject line and the sender name have enticed the user to open it.

However, spam filters assess everything in an incoming email, including all the visual elements, the email’s content, and the non-visual DKIM and SPF authorization headers. As a reputable sender, it is expected that your email is desktop-compatible and mobile-friendly and passes authorization checks. If not, this bad email design will be one of the reasons why your email is going to spam.

The email should likewise be on-brand so that readers can easily recognize the sender. Be mindful of the tone, images, fonts, and colors you use in your email. Good email design also focuses not just on images, but on a good image-to-text ratio. As a general guideline, a ratio of 20% images to 80% text in an email is good. 

As much as possible, use words that are easily readable for quick readers. So, the text should be to the point and simple.

5. You’re sending from an IP address with a negative reputation

Another reason why your emails are going to spam folders is that your IP address was used for spam in the past. This can happen if you’ve sent your email campaigns using an email marketing service or you are sending emails on a shared IP address with a negative IP reputation.

A shared IP or shared IP pool is an IP address or a pool of IP addresses that are collectively used by various senders or companies. While it has pros, like volume is already consistent and established, there’s a risk involved since your sending brand integrity is combined with the other brands.

Whereas if you use a dedicated IP address, no other organization or company can send from that IP. It is easier to whitelist and you are solely responsible for your brand reputation with this kind of IP. In this case, send all your emails using the same IP address and if you have to use multiple IP addresses, use different IP addresses for different types of messages. For example, you can use one IP address for sending promotions and another IP address for sending notifications.

The likelihood of IP address problems can be reduced by working only with a reputable email service provider that can assure you that their IP addresses are properly warmed. IP warming is the gradual increase of email sending volume on an IP address. Use well-maintained dedicated IP addresses or shared IP pools to achieve the best possible email deliverability.

It is not overkill to do your own IP address warm up using an email deliverability tool, like InboxAlly as you don’t want to rely on the prior history of an IP address to influence your deliverability.

6. You are not pruning your email list

If you are only adding subscribers to your list then you are missing an important step in the cycle of email marketing. There are many reasons why your list can contain inactive users. Being able to identify them and remove them will help you land in the inbox more often for the users that are more likely to be interested in your message.


7. Your “From” details are misleading

If you’re using incorrect sender information as well as the email address and domain name, it may be a cause of concern for your email campaigns. You don’t want to mislead your recipient with your “reply-to,” “from,” and routing information.

Having a bad sender name will also point you in the wrong direction of your campaign.

Contemporary spam filters use various analysis and authentication criteria for every message to determine whether your email goes to a spam folder or the inbox. Having a bad sender name will point you in the wrong direction of your campaigns.

Our suggestion is you use a relatable or interesting sender name and not just a custom domain that is the same as your website.

You may even set your sender name to the name of your newsletter, the name of your business, or your own name. To fine-tune your approach, you can split-test your email campaigns using different sender names.

Email split testing, also called A/B testing is an experiment to determine which one brings the best results.

It’s where you test the control (the original version of your email) against another version, where you change an element, such as a part of the design, the call to action (CTA), subject line, or the sender name. Use a deliverability tool like InboxAlly to measure the results.


8. You’re not observing the right email frequency

As a marketer, we understand that promotional emails are a common revenue-generating strategy. But how often you send your emails can have a significant effect, not only on your email engagement rates but also on your company revenue.

Come to think of it. Have you ever experienced receiving too many campaigns during Black Friday from the same brand or domain?

Even though you’re interested in the information, you may likely end up reporting it as spam because you felt overwhelmed by receiving so many messages.

To avoid your emails going to spam, find the right cadence and even segment your users if you can’t find one set frequency. A good approach may also vary the frequency with more quiet periods and more active periods during regular promotions.

Take note, do not exceed emailing your list once a day as there’s a thin line between being informative and helpful to being annoying.


9. You didn’t include a physical address

mailbox in front yard

If you’re doing email marketing, then your email must have a valid, physical address or post office box. This requirement is enforced by most ESPs as well. So, one way to show to your recipient that you are a valid business and your content is not spam is to have a physical postal address.

You may put this detail at the bottom of your email campaign, above the unsubscribe link.


10. Your emails have a low open rate

Is a low open rate the symptom or the problem? Actually it’s both! Email open rate measures how many recipients or subscribers viewed your email. The average email open rate is between 15 and 25%. Open rates are calculated by dividing the number of emails sent minus bounces by the number of emails opened.

Here’s the formula: Open Rate = Emails Opened / (Emails Sent – Bounces)

If you have low open rates, mailbox providers may think your email is not valuable and in the future it could end up in spam for an increasing number of recipients. Low open rates are indeed a self reinforcing death spiral for ROI. Engagement is key so try to send to your more highly engaged emails first and this will help with inbox placement throughout your entire campaign. If your open rate needs a boost consider using email seeds to increase engagement.

How To Prevent Your Emails from Going to the Spam Folder

gmail web application in browser

Now that you know why your emails are going to the spam folder, we provide you with solutions to prevent it from happening.

Get whitelisted

Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft are only some of the email platforms that work hard to make sure their spam filters don’t catch messages that come from people that are whitelisted or are within your contacts.

In short, these companies assume that if the email is coming from your contacts, then it is not spam.

So, to make sure that your emails get the same privilege treatment, you can ask your subscribers to add you to their list of “safe senders” or their “contacts.

This can be a hard thing to accomplish but is worth trying. There is also another way to show the mailbox providers that your email was valuable. Simply asking recipients to engage with your email and reply to your email may be a lot easier and the mailbox providers will also learn that your emails are important.

Team Up with a Reputable Email Provider

The ESP you team up with will impact your success in getting your emails delivered.

ESPs that ban spammers and send only solicited emails from their platforms have better IP address pools and higher credibility with mailbox providers.

Email service providers don’t like it when you immediately start sending thousands or hundreds of thousands of emails on a new sender domain or IP address. So most ESPs will quickly block high sends from new domains that don’t have a history.

A warm up schedule for your new domain that scales up the number of emails you send each day will keep you out of trouble with ESPs and mailbox providers and help develop a track record of good sending practices.

The best way to do this is to start with 100 emails the first day. Then double the number of emails you send each day until you reach your target send volume.

During your warm up you may be sending to actual recipients or seed emails provided from a deliverability tool like InboxAlly. Using seed emails can speed up the process greatly.

Run an Email Spam Test

To know the “spamminess” of your email, you can test it using a spam checker or deliverability tester. These services work slightly differently and have different benefits and capabilities.

Running an email spam test will give you an idea of the probability of your email passing through the spam filters on different mailbox providers.

Usually, the spam filter test evaluates content for issues, like spam terminology or spam words, several exclamation points used, wordy and long emails, image-only emails, subject lines that are too short or too long, any lorem ipsum text, and all text written in capital letters.

If your email fails a spam test, at least you can still troubleshoot it until you get it right.

A deliverability tester will check your actual deliverability for various mailbox providers and provide you with a report on where your emails are landing.

Monitor Your Email Deliverability

InboxAlly application panel showing email deliverability

If you truly want to maximize the chances of your emails landing in your target audiences’ main inbox, you have to monitor how your campaign is performing.

And the best way to do this is to track your email deliverability metrics. These metrics should focus on delivery rate (percentage of emails that did not bounce), inbox placement rate (percentage of emails that were delivered to the main inbox), hard bounces and soft bounces, spam placement rate, open rate, engagement rate, and complaint rate.

Use a Simple But Clear to Call-to-Action

Now that you’ve inspired your target audience to open your email and held their interest to read it, the next step is to point them towards clicking.

It would be best to use a simple call-to-action button to redirect your reader to your landing page. Avoid filters or using too many links because the email may be marked as spam.

Why use a CTA button instead of text? Well, buttons are clean and eye-catching so that it’s easy to improve conversions. Include a sense of urgency in your call-to-actions.

Even adding the word “Now” already builds some urgency for them to click your offer.

Proofread Your Email

Many spammers may not have taken the time to perfect the grammar of their email or could be non-English speakers targeting an English speaking audience. Spam filters can spot grammatical errors you may not, so make sure to proofread.

Also, if you consider email marketing a focus in your marketing strategies, you need to be careful with your spelling and tone of voice. This is especially important in B2B communication in order to appear professional to your target audience. Make sure that your email does not sound like it is written by a computer.

Scrub an Email List

Not all marketers are comfortable doing an email list cleaning because – gasp! – it involves removing email addresses from the list.

However, 1 in 1,000 people will most likely mistype their email addresses. Others are throwaway emails, spam traps, bots,catch-all addresses, inactive addresses that don’t belong on your email lists. If you don’t regularly clean your email list, it becomes bloated and may end up toxic.

Moreover, email list cleaning will increase your ROI through both increased conversions and reduced costs since ESPs often charge their clients based on list size and monthly sends.

Avoid the Spam Folder and Get The Most Out of Your Email Marketing!

Email deliverability involves multiple components. Even the most well-crafted email template cannot generate conversions if it ends up in a spam folder. We hope the tips presented here help you reach the inbox!