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Email Deliverability - Why Emails Go To Spam?

If your emails are ending up in users’ spam folders, there are a few best practices you can do.

Since you are providing your own SMTP, the email deliverability is outside of our control because it depends on many factors, such as 

- The IP reputation of the provided SMTP
- How well warmed up your email is
- Your content triggers spam filters.
- Missing unsubscribe link (we will add this option soon / meanwhile you can turn this on from your SMTP)

In addition, please check the following:

1. Your Recipients Marked Your Emails as Spam

The first and most obvious reason for your emails ending up in spam is because your recipients put them there.

2. You’re Not Following HTML Best Practices

While text-only emails are fairly straightforward, they might not be a viable option for some businesses like ecommerce stores as they may lead to lower engagement when compared to emails that include branding, images, and other HTML elements.

However, when including HTML in your messages, it’s important to follow some simple rules to ensure that they don’t end up in spam folders.

Here are some HTML best practices for email, according to Mailchimp:

Keep the maximum width of your email between 600 and 800 pixels.
Assume that images might be blocked by email clients so adding the links below images would help.
Keep your code as clean and light as possible, particularly CSS. In addition, avoid JavaScript and Flash entirely. These may be seen as vectors for attack by spam filters, and many email clients don’t support them anyway.
Make sure your messages are mobile-friendly. In fact, it’s generally a good idea to design everything with a mobile-first philosophy these days. That means thumb-friendly buttons, small images that won’t overload mobile networks, and email-safe fonts that are readable on small screens.
When it comes to fonts, you’ll also want to make sure the ones you choose are cross-platform and clearly legible. Arial, Verdana, and Georgia are all solid options.
Review any links added to your email signature, avoiding any websites that might be flagged as spam.

Finally, it’s a good idea to make most of your email’s content text, and minimize the amount of HTML you include. Your company branding and maybe a pop of color can do wonders for engagement, without going overboard.

3. Your Subject Lines Are Misleading or Contain Spam Triggers

Subject lines are typically the first impression a user gets of your message, so they need to grab attention and entice the reader to open the email. However, they also need to be honest. A misleading subject line isn’t just poor etiquette, it’s also against the law, according to the CAN-SPAM Act.

Over half of email respondents report feeling cheated or tricked into opening an email based on the subject line, according to Litmus. That’s a quick way to get your email tossed in the spam folder, and it may even lead some users to unsubscribe.

Messages that begin with RE: but are not replies commonly get labeled as spam

What does a misleading subject line look like? Here are some examples:

RE or FW. Don’t start your subject lines with “RE” unless you’re actually replying to something. It’s a blatant trick and a quick way to earn an unsubscribe. Similarly, using “FW” can make the person think they know you (the definition of misleading).
Personal messages or leading questions. Subjects like “Did I leave my phone at your place?” or “Did you hear about so-and-so?” may make users question whether they know the sender.
Overly sensational claims. Some subject lines aren’t necessarily lies but are still a little too over-the-top. In general, you want to make sure that your subject line matches the content the reader will find in the email.

Your subject lines should also be professional. That means no TYPING IN ALL CAPS and definitely no spelling or grammar errors. The free tool Grammarly can check your spelling, grammar, and punctuation automatically, and alert you of any issues that may alert spam filters.

Now you know what subject lines to avoid, but you still need to entice subscribers to open your messages. Hubspot has some excellent recommendations for creating strong headlines:

Start with action verbs.
Create a sense of urgency and importance (but again, don’t be misleading).
Pose an interesting or compelling question.

Finally, remember: whatever your subject line ends up being, make sure the content delivers on its promise. Otherwise, you risk damaging your reputation.

4. You Don’t Have Permission From Your Recipients

This one is simple: online privacy laws like the GDPR require that you must have express permission from recipients in order to send them emails. That means you can’t simply purchase email lists to get quick access to a bunch of contacts (this isn’t a good idea for other reasons, as well, including poor targeting).

However, it also means that even users who provide their email addresses on your site need to explicitly tell you that they want to receive emails from you, especially if they’re a citizen of the EU. This can come in the form of a disclaimer during account creation or on your contact form, or it could be a checkbox that users need to tick to indicate their willingness.

While this isn’t necessarily required in the U.S., it’s still a good practice. People get a lot of emails these days,and if your messages start suddenly appearing in someone’s inbox when they didn’t ask for them, there’s a decent chance they may be marked as spam.

5. Your Content Triggers Spam Filters

Spam filters check for certain words (or combinations of words). If an email gets enough hits or contains those words in addition to some of the other items on this list, it can end up in spam folders. Spam trigger keywords can include:

“Lowest price”
“Additional income”
“Easy money”
“No cost”
Multiple exclamation points or dollar signs in a row
Words with unnecessary spaces or punctuation
Words that are in ALL CAPS

In general, these are words that are either heavily sales-oriented or clearly designed to get around spam filters (such as the extra spaces). While using a handful of these isn’t necessarily a death sentence for your messages, using too many of them can be.

Overly ‘salesy’ language and too many keywords can trigger spam filters

Of course, some of these keywords are tough to avoid, especially if you’re sending ecommerce or financial emails. To get around this problem, you can use varied language and try to get creative about how you phrase things.

Above all, it’s smart to avoid pushy or “salesy” language and make sure you’re following proven best practices for writing email content we’re highlighting here.

Laws like CAN-SPAM in the U.S. clearly state that your emails must include a clear way to unsubscribe. Additionally, if someone does click on the unsubscribe link, you’ll need to process that request within 10 days, and you can’t force the user to jump through any hoops.

While this might seem like a bad thing (why would you want to give people the chance to unsubscribe?), it can actually have the opposite effect, provided that your content is strong. Giving people an easy way to get off your subscriber list shows that your brand is trustworthy.

On the other hand, hiding or simply not providing an unsubscribe option is a sure-fire way to frustrate people. It can also result in negative press about your newsletter (word travels fast on the internet), and generally rub people the wrong way.

7. Your ‘From’ Information Is Wrong or Misleading

A major reason that your emails may end up in spam is incorrect ‘From’ information. The ‘From’ line, the one that tells your recipients who sent the email, needs to be accurate and not misleading. In some cases, a tool on your site such as a contact form plugin might be sending ‘spoof’ emails with ‘From’ details that trigger spam alerts.

If your contact form emails are getting flagged as spam, the fix is usually pretty simple. You’ll want to make sure that the ‘From’ field in your contact form settings has the admin address for your site, rather than the email address entered into the form. If you’re having the contact form send you email notifications, also make sure the addresses used in ‘From’ and ‘To’ are different.

8. You Haven’t Set Up Email Authentication

Another common reason that your emails’ ‘From’ information may be wrong is when email authentication isn’t properly set up through a service like Mailchimp (or one of its alternatives):

Authentication authorizes the service to send emails on your behalf, so they’ll appear with your domain name attached even though they were sent by a third party. If your authentication isn’t set up properly, your emails can end up going directly to your recipients’ spam boxes.

There are a few different types of email authentication out there, with the main ones being DomainKey Identified Mail (DKIM)Sender Policy Framework (SPF), and DMARC.

DKIM provides an encryption key and digital signature to verify an email, while SPF works by verifying the IP address of the sender against a list of approved IPs. DMARC is a bit different, in that it requires the other two to be enabled and lets the sender indicate that their emails are protected by DKIM or SPF.

If you use an automated email service and you’re having problems with delivery, authentication is a good first thing to check. If you need help with this, we have a handy article detailing exactly how to set up email authentication.

Also, check out our Email Deliverability Checklist

Updated on: 02/03/2023

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