Why Your Emails Go in the Spam Box
Why Emails Go to Spam Instead of Inbox
Globally, email has an inbox placement rate of about 83%, which is OK. That means roughly 1 in 6 emails get sent to spam or blocked for your subscribers’ inbox altogether.
And you may think 83% is pretty good. But here’s a question:
Would you be OK with only achieving 83% of your earning potential? If you knew that you could make $100,000 this year, would you be OK with bringing in $83,000?
Because when we talk about your emails going to spam, we’re really talking about something else:
You’re losing out on profits you could have earned had your emails gone to your customers’ inbox.
So you really need to pay attention to why emails go to spam in the first place. Otherwise, you’re leaving revenue needlessly on the table.
One of the big reasons that your emails go to spam is that spam filtering has become more rigorous over the last few years.
Email service providers like Google and Yahoo are cracking down on spam to better serve their customers. The problem is that the filtering process isn’t 100% perfect. Which means that sometimes legit emails go to spam, too.
But there’s another side to this story that you need to be aware of:
Subscriber engagement plays a huge role in email deliverability. Your email service providers look at your engagement levels and recipient behavior when deciding which emails make it to the inbox, and which go to spam.
We’ll explain all of these factors in detail so you can avoid getting flagged and stop your emails from going to spam.
First, let’s start with all the reasons why emails go to spam in the first place. Then, we’ll dive headfirst into some actionable solutions to get your emails back in your subscribers’ inbox where they belong.
12 Reasons Why Emails Go to Spam
Many things go into whether or not your emails get delivered to the inbox. Let’s dive into the 12 reasons why your emails aren’t getting past the spam filters.
1. You Aren’t Targeting the Right Audience
Remember how earlier we mentioned that subscriber engagement plays a role in email deliverability?
When your emails are inaccurately marked as spam, it could be because you have low engagement rates. One of the tell-tale causes of low engagement rates is having the wrong audience on your email list in the first place.
Now, we know that every marketer is trying to grow their email list to be as large as possible. And considering the importance of email marketing, they should be trying to improve their email list as much as they can.
But rather than simply getting more subscribers, marketers need to focus on getting the right kind of subscribers. How can they do that?
By using targeted Email Firm campaigns with Email Firm:
Email Firm allows you to create Email Firm campaigns that target exactly the audience you’re looking for. Because we offer so many different targeting options, you don’t need to blindly cast out a net to get leads.
Instead, you can set up various display settings and triggers to make sure you’re only adding people who fit your buyer persona.
As a result, your engagement rates will rise, and your emails will be sorted to the right place.
2. You Don’t Have Permission to Email Subscribers
The #1 rule of email marketing is to get permission to email first. Never buy a list of email addresses, or you risk violating the CAN-SPAM Act and may be subject to penalties of up to $16,000. Oh, and that’s $16,000 per email:
That means if you’ve been sending an automated email series to people who haven’t given you permission, you’re looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
To get permission, you’ll need an Email Firm form on your site that makes it perfectly clear that your visitors are subscribing to your email list.
Here’s an example of Email Firm’s sidebar Email Firm form:
When a user fills out this Email Firm form, it’s crystal clear that they’ll be joining Email Firm’s email list.
Another way that marketers harm their email campaigns is by manually adding emails that they get from business cards collected at a conference or from social media.
Let’s be clear on this: Don’t do that.
While you may think that they would appreciate your newsletter, sending emails to them violates the CAN-SPAM Act because they did not give you permission.
Instead, you should send those leads personalized emails rather than templated newsletters. Follow up with a separate drip campaign, personal email, or autoresponder series designed just for those leads and give them a chance to Email Firm to your newsletter.
3. Your IP Address Is or Has Been Used for Spam
Even if you never send spam yourself, your emails could get flagged if your IP address was used for spam in the past.
If you send your campaigns through an email marketing service, your email is delivered through their servers. So if even one other customer sends spam, it could affect your deliverability as well.
Note, however, that every email marketing service we recommend is vigilant about keeping their reputation intact. They have strict procedures and regulations in place to prevent this type of thing.
In general, you should be fine if you stick to a reputable email service provider. And while we can’t verify every email service provider in this post, we recommend Constant Contact, Drip, and Sendinblue.
We know for a fact that these 3 providers take email deliverability seriously. Thus, they don’t let spam get connect to their server’s IP address.
4. You Have Low Engagement Rates
We already discussed the importance of getting high engagement rates.
Top webmail providers have stated that they look at how many emails are opened and how many are deleted as a factor in spam filtering decisions.
So if you have low open rates or read rates, your emails are at higher risk of being flagged as spam. You need to do everything you can to increase engagement.
Other than targeting the right audience form the start, you can send your emails at the right time, perfect your subject lines, segment your list, and keep your list fresh by scrubbing it regularly.
For more detailed tips and 6 more ways to increase your open rates, read our post on 10 easy ways to improve your email open rate.
5. Your Subscribers Don’t Remember You
The second most common reason that emails never reach the inbox is spam complaints.
Every time a subscriber reports an email as spam, the complaint gets recorded by the mailbox provider regardless of whether or not the email was spam.
Once the complaints exceed a certain threshold, all future campaigns skip the inbox and get sent directly to the spam folder.
So why would a subscriber flag your email as spam if it isn’t spam?
Well, the most likely reason is that they simply don’t remember you. Even though they gave you permission to email them, they don’t remember doing it, so they think you are sending them spam.
To prevent this from happening, make sure that the branding in your emails is memorable, and matches the branding on your website. This includes any images, colors, typography, voice, etc. Also, make sure the “from” line is from a name they will recognize.
It also helps to personalize your email copy to the person you’re sending it to. Here’s an example from an Email Firm email that includes:
- Our company’s name where the recipient can see who the sender is
- Consistent branding with our website
- Personalized introduction by first name
Even if a subscriber forgot they signed up with Email Firm, we use these small cues to remind them that we’ve started the relationship.
To make sure they don’t report your as spam, you’ll want to provide an easily accessible Unsubscribe link. That way they’ll simply opt-out of your list instead of reporting you as spam:
Notice how “easily accessible” doesn’t mean you’re encouraging readers to unsubscribe. In the example above from Email Firm, our call to action (Login to Email Firm to Get Started) is what grabs attention.
Most email recipients are trained to look for the Unsubscribe button at the bottom of your email. So make sure it’s there, but don’t draw unnecessary attention to it.
Otherwise, you’ll lose subscribers who would have potentially become lifelong customers.
6. You Have Low Mailbox Usage
In their spam filtering algorithms, email service providers look at the ratio of active to inactive email accounts on your list. An inactive email account is an account that hasn’t been used for a long time or is rarely used.
If you’re mailing a campaign to a large number of email addresses that appear to be inactive, that’s a red flag to spam filters.
To prevent this, clean up your email list periodically of any subscribers who haven’t engaged with your campaigns in a while.
You can do that by sending a win-back email to increase engagement. This is a way of giving your audience one last chance to start engaging with their company before you remove them from your email list. Here’s a good example:
Notice the email copy is direct and addresses the situation head-on. Then, the call to action (Yes, Keep ‘Em Coming) encourages users to reengage.
Depending on your email service provider, you may be able to do this automatically. Some providers include a feature to automatically purge any emails from your list that look like they’re inactive.
7. Your Subject Line is Misleading
As the CAN-SPAM act states, it’s against the law to intentionally mislead someone with your subject line to induce them to view the message.
In a survey conducted by Litmus and Fluent, over 50% of participants stated that they’ve felt cheated, tricked, or deceived into opening a promotional email by a false subject line:
Here are some examples of misleading subject lines:
- Did I leave my jacket at your place? This type of subject line can be used as a trick to make it look like they know you.
- RE: CURRENTLY IN OFFICE is doubly sneaky because it can be mistaken for a reply to your email or a work-related email.
- Urgent – Update your information. If something says “urgent,” it had better be urgent.
- Thanks for your order! It’s super poor form to use a transactional subject line if the email isn’t actually transactional.
We know what you’re thinking. “Why would anybody do something like this? These are some super shady tricks.”
You’re so right. But there are also some gray areas you should avoid, too. Here’s one that recently came to our attention by Russel Brunson:
Now, don’t get us wrong. We’re big fans of Russel and the work he does with ClickFunnels. But this subject line seems conveniently misleading.
It says, bad news… I messed up ? and does a fantastic job building curiosity. The problem?
It’s clearly a sales tactic to create a sense of urgency. The idea is that there’s a big sale that you didn’t hear about because Russell “messed up.”
The reader is left feeling like they got a better deal from the error, and the subject enticed them to open the message.
This is a grey area tactic you should avoid. Instead, find a better way of creating strong subject lines that aren’t misleading and are 100% honest. Remember, Russel can afford to take that risk. He’s got millions of dollars in savings and a thriving company that could take a hit.
If you don’t have the same amount of security, playing with email subject lines simply isn’t worth the risk.
8. Your “From” Information Is Inaccurate
It’s also against the CAN-SPAM ACT to mislead anyone with your “from,” “to,” “reply-to,” and routing information.
For example, if you made your email look like it’s from the President, that would be illegal. It’s an extreme example, but you get the point.
Here’s a real-life example from a popular scam during the COVID-19 pandemic:
This email is falsely credited to the UK government. Shady practices like this are illegal and should be avoided at all costs.
As a best practice, make sure you include a name in the “from” field that your subscribers are likely to remember, and don’t change it too often. It could be the name of an individual, your company name, or a combination of the two.
Like we showed earlier, we send emails with a personal name from our employee and Email Firm’s brand name:
Whichever you choose for your own brand, shoot for memorability and consistency.
9. You Don’t Include Your Physical Address
You legally must include your physical address. That can be your current street address, a post office box that has been registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations.
This is usually just above your Unsubscribe button at the bottom of your email campaign:
You definitely need to add your own address, too. And if you don’t have one because you work from home?
You should definitely get a PO box for business purposes, so you don’t have to broadcast your home address.
10. You’re Not Learning From Your Mistakes
We already touched on the importance of adding an Unsubscribe button. But it’s such an essential concept that we need to dive deeper into why it’s crucial.
No matter how valuable you think your email campaigns are, you still need to give your subscribers a way out. If you don’t, you could get spam complaints at best, or slapped with thousands of dollars in fines at worst.
At the bottom of your emails, include an unsubscribe link or a similar opt-out feature.
But, again, you already knew that. So why are we bringing it up now?
Because you should use these unsubscribes as an opportunity to boost your engagement rates in the future.
For example, you can send an “unsubscribe confirmation” email whenever a user opts-out of your list. In that email, you can include a survey to figure out why your customer didn’t want to be on your list.
With that information, you can start customizing your email campaigns to prevent similar subscribers from leaving your newsletter. In other words, you’re simply learning more efficiently from your mistakes.
11. You’re Using Spam Trigger Words
Some spam filters are triggered by specific words in the subject line or the body of the email. Some spam trigger words are:
- Cancel at any time
- Check or money order
- Click here
- Dear friend
- For only ($)
- Free or toll-free
- Great offer
- Increase sales
- Order now
- Promise you
- Special promotion
- This is not spam
Your email provider may have a built-in tool that checks your emails for spam trigger words before sending it.
Keep in mind that the above trigger words are common examples. They may not be specific to your email service provider, however.
So be sure to contact your provider directly to see if certain words trigger spam flags. Make a list of words to avoid in your subject line as your crafting your email copy.
12. Your HTML Emails Don’t Follow Best Practices
If you’re sending text-only emails, you don’t have to worry about this. Text-only emails are the kinds that you typically send to friends and family. Here’s an example of a text-based email:
However, you may want to send HTML emails from your business. That way, you can include some branding elements that make your emails more memorable and helps with engagement.
You can include your brand name at the top:
As well as a compelling call to action button at the bottoWe’ve actually tested plain text versus branded emails with our email list and found that the branded emails actually get higher engagement.
So it’s definitely a good thing to try with your own list.
However, you need to follow some best practices for sending HTML emails, so they don’t get marked as spam:
- Use a maximum width of 600-800 pixels
- Keep your HTML code as clean and straightforward as possible
- Keep your image-to-text ratio low
- Optimize your images
- Don’t use obscure fonts
- Optimize for mobile
To give you an example, here is one of the branded, HTML emails that our subscribers love:
See how simple it is? We include our logo at the top for brand recognition, but most of the email is text.
We also use a simple visual cue, the gray box at the bottom, to highlight the “You are receiving this email because…” area.
This makes the email scannable and reminds subscribers about the benefits of being on our email list.
Alright, so all of this information has been awesome. And now you know why your emails are going directly to spam instead of to your subscribers’ inbox like they should.
But let’s turn our attention to 7 ways you can be proactive and make sure you’re getting higher engagement rates.