why emails go to spam instead of the inbox

If you are a transactional or marketing email sender, getting email to the inbox is an essential part of what you do.  Order confirmations, email receipts, password resets, promotional offers, and marketing newsletters are just a few types of email that are a highly valuable part of everyday business. Unfortunately, it’s all too common that we see perfectly legitimate email senders asking us why their email is going to the spam folder instead of the inbox.  So how can you avoid having your emails go to the spam folder?

The truth is, there is a lot that goes into successfully sending transactional and marketing email.  From managing servers, to staying on top of best practices — email sending can get very complicated, very fast.  If you’re trying to figure out why your hard work isn’t paying off and your legitimate emails aren’t reaching the inbox, you can start with this list of the top 5 reasons why your emails land in the spam folder.   

Top 5 Reasons Your Emails go to the Spam Folder Instead of the Inbox

At a very high level, your emails aren’t making to the inbox because mailbox providers have developed sophisticated anti-spam technologies that make it harder for spammers to reach the inbox. Unfortunately, even if you’re a legitimate sender, this could still affect you.  The problem is, these security measures are so smart that one small mistake as a sender could leave the majority of your email in the spam folder. So what can you do to keep your email out of spam folder?  Here are the 5 top reasons why your email might be landing in the spam folder:

1. Didn’t Get Permission from Recipients

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that email should be sent only to people who want to receive them.  This is one of the most important principles to follow because it will always help improve your deliverability.  Rather than purchasing unreliable bulk email lists, that will ruin your sender reputation and deliverability, build opt-in lists through your website or application. Make it easy and enticing for your web traffic to join your email list. This can be as simple as making the subscribe button easily accessible, or offering a reward for joining.  No matter how you do it, building these lists organically will undoubtedly help your email land in the inbox.

2. Receive Negative Engagement

One of the reasons the previous point is so important, is because when genuinely willing and interested people receive your emails, they are more likely to engage in a positive manner.  This means they will open, explore, interact with, and potentially forward your email. Positive engagement like this is closely monitored by mailbox providers and will help drive up your sender reputation.  The higher your reputation, the more emails will land in the inbox instead of the spam folder. Anything you can do as an email sender to drive wholesome, positive engagement with your mail will go a long way in landing your email in the inbox.

3. Have a Bad IP Reputation

Depending on your email sending configuration, you could be sending on a shared IP address.  While this could be the best option for you based on a number of factors, sharing an IP could have drawbacks.  If the IP address you are sending on already has a negative reputation from previous or current senders with bad habits, you have to deal with the consequences of your emails landing in spam.  While there isn’t much you can do on your own to prevent a problem like this, working with a reputable email service provider, like SocketLabs, can certainly help get you on the right track. Email service providers will do all of the necessary leg work to ensure their IP addresses are well maintained and properly warmed to promote the best possible deliverability. If you’re sending more than 100,000 emails per month, you can improve your inbox placement using a dedicated IP address. At SocketLabs, we include a dedicated IP starting in our Professional Plan.

4. No Unsubscribe Link

Having an easily visible and accessible unsubscribe link at the bottom of your email will have a great impact on your deliverability.  At face value, it probably seems like the opposite would be true, but here’s why an unsubscribe button is essential: I get it, you want people on your lists to stay on your lists, but the truth of the matter is there will always be people who wanted to receive your emails at one point, but no longer do.  These people need to have any easy option to opt-out of emails via an unsubscribe button. If they don’t, they become more likely to mark you as spam, which lowers your sender reputation — ultimately impacting your ability to reach the inbox. Having a large amount of spam complaints on your email is easily one of the most damaging factors in deliverability.

5. Bad Email Design

When designing the email that you’ll be sending to your recipients, it’s important to follow a couple best practices:

  • The email should be mobile friendly and desktop compatible
  • The email should be on-brand so people recognize you easily (This includes things like colors, fonts, images, and tone)
  • Your email should not be images only, have a good image to text ratio
  • Avoid spam trigger words such as “toll-free”, “dear friend”, “risk free”, “special offer”, etc.
  • If it’s a marketing email, the email must include a physical address to stay compliant with CAN-SPAM
  • The text in your email should be simple, to-the-point, and easily consumable for quick readers

Improving Your Email Deliverability

While these tips are a great starting point for email senders to get their emails to the inbox, there is so much more to consider.  Luckily, a reputable email service provider will be able to help ensure that you have everything you need to avoid having your emails end up in spam folders.  From authentication and IP warming, to metric tracking — a good email service provider does the hard work for you and gives you the tools and platform you need to successfully deliver email.  

If you want to learn more about email deliverability and everything that goes in to it, read our comprehensive email deliverability guide.  To master the science of reaching the inbox, sign up for a free account with SocketLabs.