Why are my emails going to spam?
According to Statista, more than half of all emails are spam.
Needless to say, email spam is a big problem on the Internet, which is why email services have gotten more aggressive with combating spam.
Most of the emails that get filtered to spam really are just spam. People would be annoyed if they had to manually filter through all of these emails, so Internet service providers (ISPs) and email services (like Gmail) set up filters to automatically block spam emails before they appear in the inbox.
However, if you make some common mistakes, your legitimate emails could also get swept up in these efforts to combat spam.
In this first section, we’ll discuss some of the most common reasons why emails end up in spam. Then, in the next section, we’ll share some tips to make sure you avoid the spam folder.
1. You haven’t set up proper authentication
One of the biggest issues with email spam is lacking proper authentication.
Think of when people call you on the phone:
- If you see it’s someone from your contacts, you’ll pick right up because you know exactly who’s calling.
- If you see a random number, you might assume it’s another robocall and just ignore it.
It’s the same with emails. There are technologies that you can use to authenticate your emails which will automatically make you look more trustworthy in the eyes of spam filters. Instead of being a random number, you’ve proven who you are and that you actually control the domain name that you’re sending from.
The biggest tactics are:
- DKIM (DomainKey Identified Mail)
- SPF (Sender Policy Framework)
- DMARC – requires you to already be using DKIM and SPF
If you’re using a custom email address and you haven’t set up these authentication methods, that’s one of the biggest reasons why your emails are going to spam. Later in this post, we’ll show you what you need to do.
2. Your sender information is inaccurate or missing
In addition to lacking technical authentication tactics like DKIM and SPF, inaccurate sender information can also cause spam issues:
- Inaccurate From/Reply-To info – make sure the email address that you’re sending from matches the sender and your authentication information.
- Lack of physical address – the FTC requires that you add a physical address to your bulk emails. This is why you’ll typically see an address at the bottom of every marketing email.
3. You’re using words or punctuation that are spam triggers
Put simply, there are just some words or punctuation patterns that seem spammy.
For example, “meet singles” or “online biz opportunity”. By themselves, these words might not be enough to land you in the spam filter. But they will attract attention and, when combined with some of the other issues on the list, can end up with your emails going to spam.
Additionally, avoid other spammy tactics like:
- ALL CAPITALS
- Lots of exclamation marks!!!!!!
- An onslaught of emojis ❤✨🔥👍🥺 (a few emojis are ok – just don’t abuse them)
Similarly, using poor grammar or misspelling words can also trigger spam filters, as many spammers use machine translation to translate their spam emails into English.
4. You’re using a bad email list
If you’re sending bulk emails to a list of subscribers, there are a few things that can get you into hot water:
- No permission – if you didn’t receive explicit opt-in from subscribers, that can lead to spam issues.
- Stale list – if your list contains lots of inactive/disabled email accounts where emails bounce, that looks spammy to filters.
- Low engagement – if your emails have very low open rates, ISPs might take this as a sign that your subscribers don’t want your emails, which can increase the list of getting marked as spam.
5. You’re linking to shady websites or using misleading links
The main purpose of most spam emails is to get you to click on some type of link, so it’s no surprise that using the wrong types of links can get you in trouble when it comes to spam.
There are two main things that can cause issues here:
First, you might be linking to a website that seems spammy for some reason. For example, maybe it’s associated with copyright infringement, has been infected with malware, or some other reason. Or, maybe it’s totally legit, but it’s very close to another domain that is spammy.
Second, you can get in trouble if the destination URL doesn’t match with the display URL. For example, if the display URL is
https://google.com but the actual link is
https://anotherwebsite.com, that can get you into trouble because this is a common tactic that spammers use to trick people into clicking links.
Similarly, using URL shorteners can also cause issues for the same reason (you might be trying to trick people into clicking links they might not otherwise click on).
6. You’re using too many images (or not enough text with images)
Images can also get you into trouble with spam filters.
There are two ways that this can happen:
First off, if you have a large image in your email and little to no text, that can trigger spam filters. This one ties to the “spam words” point from above. To avoid getting hit with spam filters for using spammy words, some spammers moved to including all of the text in a single image file, rather than as actual text.
Because of this, sending a single image looks suspicious to spam filters.
You can also run into problems in the other direction, though. If you use a lot of images and very little text, that can also get you into trouble.
Basically, using images as a replacement for text can get you into trouble, don’t do that!
7. You’re sending too many attachments
Because attachments are used for distributing malware or other malicious activities, they’re always going to attract attention from spam filters, especially certain file types (like an .exe file).
8. Your recipient marked you as spam (maybe accidentally)
In many email clients, users have an option to manually mark emails as spam.
If the person who you’re trying to email previously marked your emails as spam, new emails that you send will also likely end up in the spam folder as well.
Additionally, if you’re sending out bulk emails, too many people marking your emails as spam can negatively affect your reputation as a sender. This can increase the chances of your emails ending up in spam even when you send to people who didn’t mark you as spam.
Six tips to improve email deliverability and avoid the spam folder
Now that you know what might be going wrong, let’s get into some actionable tips you can implement to keep your emails out of the spam filter.
1. Use Mail Tester to spot issues
Mail Tester is an awesome free tool to spot technical issues with email deliverability. All you need to do is:
- Go to Mail Tester
- Send an email to the address that it gives (from the email account where you’re having spam issues). If you’re having issues with a specific email, make sure to use the same text/images/links in your email.
- Click the Then check your score button.
- View the analysis.
Mail Tester will give you an overall score along with some suggestions to improve. You can expand each section for more details:
If your score is very low, usually all you need to do is implement the suggestions to improve your deliverability.
2. Set up proper authentication
As the Internet has evolved, spam filters are putting more weight on overall sender reputation rather than just the content of your emails.
The content of your emails still matters, but someone with a sterling reputation might be able to get away with some spam-adjacent content that a sender with a poor reputation can’t.
One of the best ways to improve your reputation is to make sure you’re properly authenticating your emails with methods like DKIM and SPF.
If you’re using a free service like Gmail, you don’t need to worry about this. This only applies if you’re using a custom email address like email@example.com.
You can set up these authentication methods by adding TXT records in your domain’s DNS management.
You can get the records that you need from your email hosting service. Try searching the help documentation for “SPF” or “DKIM” or ask the support team for help if you can’t find it.
Then, you need to add those records to your domain name using the DNS editor. You’ll do this:
3. Use a dedicated sending service for your website
If you’re having spam issues with the emails that you send from your website, a great way to avoid problems is to use a dedicated email sending service (AKA SMTP provider) rather than trying to send from your host’s SMTP server.
This is especially true for WordPress sites. The default method that WordPress uses to send emails is almost certainly going to end up with your emails in spam folders a large percentage of the time.
Don’t worry! For a small site, you can find sending services that are 100% free. Usually, you’ll be fine on the free tier for up to ~300 emails per day.
We have a post that collects the best SMTP providers for websites. However, for beginners, we recommend Sendinblue because it’s super easy to set up with a WordPress website and includes a generous free plan.