Why Are Emails Going to Spam? The Reasons and Ways to Escape Spam Filters

Anton Shabatov - April 16, 2018 - 0 comments

what is spam email and how to escape spam filters
If you are a hardworking email marketer, you put a lot of efforts to create a perfect (according to your goals and views) campaign. But even the experts face difficulties sometimes. There is nothing weird about asking yourself something like why my email is going to spam and how to reach better deliverability sometimes. This means you are in search of improvements for your work. In this article, we will discuss the main reasons for getting into “junk” folders and how to fix them.

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What are Spam Emails and Filters?

What is spam email?

Basically, spam emails are the ones that are sent without receiver’s permission. Some marketers buy email lists from other organizations in order to deliver their letters with offers and promotions to the people who might be interested in them. This approach is meant to find real prospects. However, since you did not ask these people whether they want to get your messages, you may be considered as a spammer. It increases the chances your letters will be marked as “junk”.

This is possible due to the appearance of the spam filters – programs designed to identify unwelcomed emails and prevent getting to inboxes Big ISPs have built-in filters and processes in order to provide their users with quality email selection. Main criteria for sorting emails are the following:

  • IP and domain reputation;
  • subject line, content, links, and images in the letter;
  • the ratio of text, links, and images in the email;
  • presence of alt text version;
  • relationships with receivers.

The receivers’ reactions are the most important issue here. Filters react on:

  • the number of opens of the emails;
  • red flag and “spam” marks;
  • whether the receiver forwards the letter;
  • what tags and folders people use for these emails.

However, it is a much more complicated process which is constantly being improved. Moreover, filters are not 100% accurate. That is why sometimes even good campaigns may be considered as spammy.

Why Some Emails Eventually End Up in Spam Folder?

As far as spam filters’ activity becomes more advanced, we cannot control all aspect of their sorting. But studying the most common reasons for getting into spam will help you to avoid such situations.

1. You are emailing to the person without permission

This is the first rule in email marketing that some people break. They buy ready-made email lists and start using them for their outreach campaigns. However, it is a great violation of the CAN-SPAM Act and leads to the penalties up to $16,000. To avoid such situations, do not buy lists. Add the opt-in option to your website or blog and be sure that your subscribers allowed you to send newsletters to them. Also do not add addresses manually that you have collected during some business events.

2. IP address you use was engaged in spam activity

You may not be engaged in spamming, however, if you use the ESPs with doubtful reputation, your emails will likely mark as spam as well. This is because even one bad customer of your provider can spoil the server’s reputation and harm your deliverability. So you need to check the provider before using it for your campaign. The reputable ESPs have strict procedures to prevent unwelcomed email activity.

3. Emails can go to spam because of low open rates

Spam filters often consider open rates in their detective activity. They check how many emails are deleted unopened and use the received data for making decisions. This factor effect 26% of cases of getting “junk” marks. So this aspect is about the quality of your campaign in general. To avoid this do the following:

  • use the proper subject line;
  • segment your list;
  • set a suitable schedule;
  • clean your email lists from inactive addresses.

4. Spam complaints

You may not be a spammer, but you still can get bad results due to this reason. The thing is that your subscribers simply do not remember you or do not understand who the particular email is from. They have opted in for your letters once, but the frequency of your emails is too low, or you do not have a proper schedule. Or maybe your emails are not unique and blend with spammy ones. To prevent this:

  • be memorable;
  • stick to the branding design;
  • use recognizable name and addresses.

5. Many inactive emails on your list

This is one more common reason because filtering algorithms analyze the number of active and inactive addresses in your list. They can consider being inactive the emails that have not been used at all and been created for sign up purposes or the abandoned ones. So email marketers should watch the quality of their base and exclude such addresses.

6. False subject line of email is a way to spam filter

If you intentionally mislead your receivers in order to make them open your email, you violate the CAN-SPAM Act. When people eventually open such letters, they may feel tricked as they see that in reality, this is the promotional email. There are four really bad examples of such lines:

  1. Did I leave the phone at your office? (like the receiver know the sender);
  2. Re: Office (like a work-related letter);
  3. Urgent informational update (without any urgent matters);
  4. Thank you for the order (but you did not order anything).

Also avoid “grey-area” subject lines, when you first promise to disclose a particular topic in your blog post, for instance, but in fact, you are just attracting their attention.

7. Inaccurate “From” info and no physical address

According to CAN-SPAM Act, you cannot mislead the receiver writing the false info in “From” line. You need to specify your name or the company name or combine a few elements. Do not change your “From” too often in order receiver remembers you.

To avoid filter detection, add the physical address of your company, with the actual street, building, registered mailbox and so on. P.O box can be suitable for a small company.

8. No “Unsubscribe” Link

Even if you are sure your campaign is valuable for your readers, provide them with a way out in any case. It can be a simple “Unsubscribe” link or another opt-out element. Otherwise, you risk getting spam complaints and wondering again why are my emails going to spam. You can ask the unsubscriber for a reason why and use the received info for improvements. Also, you need to fulfill requests to exclude the address from your lists.

9. Spam Trigger Words

Filters use a long list of words that are often used in spam subject lines and bodies. Those lists include words and phrases like “great offer”, “for only ($)”, “risk-free”, “special promotion”, “this is not spam”, “winner” and so on. Study the available full lists of trigger words and make sure you are not using them in your campaign.

How to Avoid Spam Filters and to Make the Best of Your Campaign: Quick Tips

Here are some extra tips that will help you to avoid filters’ detections and eventually reach your subscribers:

  1. Do not use bought lists.

Follow CAN-SPAM Act’s regulations, add an opt-in feature to your site or blog and make sure that every receiver allows you to send emails to them. Moreover, purchased lists often contain a lot of inactive and inaccurate addresses.

  1. Check your content.

Limit the trigger words in your subject line and body. Add secure links, stick to the balance between text and images and do not make your emails too big.

  1. Use reputable ESP.

Email Service Providers have their own reputation considering IP and domain activity of their clients. So they watch the type of emails their users send. The good credibility of the ESP can help you to avoid spam detectors and you will more likely reach the target inbox.

  1. Get Certified!

This is for the user of dedicated IPs. You need an audit fro Return Path and get a Sender Score Certified status. This will tell the receivers’ ESPs that your emails are worth accepting.

  1. “No” to dirty tricks.

They neither work nor help you to improve the sender’s reputation. So do not use hash busting (F.ree, p.r!z.e), false subject lines, misleading phrases and using images of text instead of text.

  1. Whitelisting.

As soon as you use a reputable email marketing service you can ask mail providers to whitelist your IP. Also after your subscribers opt for your emails, ask them to add yours to their address lists.

  1. Watch the “From” line.

This element is watched by mailbox providers as well and the unusual or suspicious activity can cause getting into spam as well. Do not change “From” line too often, Use clear, trustworthy names that will provide understandable info about who you are or what type of emails will be delivered from this address.

  1. Do not make your campaign look risky.

You may follow a good purpose, but doing some mistakes may spoil all the impression of your campaign. So here are some recommendations:

  • use the “sales” language carefully and avoid trigger words;
  • do not use exclamation points unless it is reasonably necessary;
  • “All CAPS” is not good, if it is necessary to emphasize something, write only one word like this.
  1. Monitor Your Deliverability.

The received data will help to maintain good rates and immediately fix the things that can damage your campaign.

  1. Decent frequency and schedule for sending emails.

You will decrease the number of spam complaints and unread emails if you stay in touch with your audience. They will remember and recognize you if you deliver emails according to a decent schedule.


It is not always easy to avoid spam-folders due to the complicated mechanisms filtering. However, if you follow the mentioned rules and minimize the number of risky elements, you raise your chances for success. Now as you know what spam email is, you can use the given list of reasons as a check-list for your campaign in order not to be marked as spam. As soon as you discovered at least one of them in your case, do your best to fix everything. Good luck!

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