You fell in love with Flodesk. In a creative flow of energy you created the perfect marketing campaign email. You added the last finishing touches to your welcome email series for new subscribers. You hit the send / publish button. And then the most dreaded thing happens.
You receive word that your email landed in your recipients’ spam folder. How did that happen?! And most importantly: How can you make sure your emails don’t go to spam in future?
Don’t panic if an email lands in the spam folder
As you are well aware and surely have gotten some yourself over the years, malicious and phishing emails (true spam emails) are an existing problem. Every webmail provider – be it Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook etc. – applies different spam filtering criteria to guard the inboxes of their users. And they rarely give detailed information about their filtering methods so that you would know exactly what to do – or not to do – in future to avoid the spam trap.
Unfortunately it’s not black and white! Some things have a higher chance of triggering spam, but there’s no single source of truth for it.
I know it’s not what you wanted to hear from me. But while you can’t completely avoid your emails to go to spam occasionally if you’re using email marketing to promote your services and products, (and it rarely has anything to do with the provider you’re using, and happens regardless of whether you’re on Flodesk, ActiveCampaign, CK, or Mailchimp), it’s good to know and to understand why this happens at all.
Let’s dive in!
Why do emails go to spam?
I’ve collected the most common reasons below why emails go to spam, and how you can make sure they don’t. Or at least how you can minimize the chances.
Lack of permission and consent to get promotional emails
As simple as that. If they never opted in to your email list, the chances are high they will mark your emails as spam. Which means all following emails of yours will land in their spam folder, too.
But I know you.
You’re an honest and ethical entrepreneur and would never ever buy a list of email addresses, would you? Even if you’re starting out with a small list, and you may be tempted to jump start your email list building efforts, you know that using a bought, cold audience who may not even be your ideal clients is not only counterproductive but violates the law and may be subject to penalties.
So let’s see another common scenario. You’re attending a networking event or a conference. You make new connections, potential clients and customers. You may even exchange business cards and contact details. You might think that as they’ve given their contact information freely, there’s no harm in adding them to your list and start sending them emails. But as they haven’t given you permission for this, you go against the law.
What you can and should do instead is to follow up with them with a personal email, and give them chance (and the link) to your newsletter opt-in. And once you have their consent, you can include them into your marketing emails.
If you want to grow your email list fast make it easy and worthy for your website visitors to join your email list. This can be as simple as making the subscribe button easily accessible on your web pages. Or offering a practical and valuable lead magnet for joining. No matter how you do it, building your list organically will undoubtedly help your emails land in their inbox.
Your IP address was flagged as spam
This could happen if someone using the same email marketing service as you, sends spam emails. The good news is that by selecting a reliable and reputable email service provider, you can eliminate this problem right away.
As Flodesk has strict procedures and regulations in place to prevent this from happening, you don’t need to worry about this.
Your emails have low engagement rates
If your emails don’t get much love and engagement from your subscribers, that could be a spam flag.
Put yourself in the shoes of webmail providers for a second. If Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo sees that your marketing campaign emails are not opened and are deleted right away, they will interpret it as a sign that the email was not wanted. And what will they do? They will try to filter them out in future to provide a better experience for their users.
On the other hand positive engagements like
- opening your email,
- clicking on links in your email,
- forwarding it, and even
- responding to it,
all help drive up your sender reputation. And the higher it gets, the more of your emails will be delivered in the main inbox instead of the junk folder.
So as you can see, low open and read rates could be a potential risk.
Your subscribers don’t remember you
They can’t recall when and why they subscribed to your email list and genuinely feel that your email is spam and they mark it as such. Any time this happens, and regardless if your email was actually a spam or not, such spam complaints get recorded. And could have consequences for the receipt of your future emails.
The easiest way to avoid this is to regularly email your subscribers. After they sign up for your lead magnet offer, make sure to send them a welcome sequence. This should introduce you and your brand, and you can set expectations for how often and about what topics and offers you will pop into their inboxes.
Additional things to consider are:
- Make branding in your emails memorable and match it to your website.
- Add your business logo to your email campaigns.
- Use similar or the same colours and fonts in your emails as you have them on your website.
- Imagery and the tone of voice and vocabulary of your email copy should be in line with your website copy.
- And always add an unsubscribe link to your emails.
You're sending emails to inactive/dormant email accounts
What is an inactive email account? An inactive email account is an account that hasn’t been used for a long time or is very rarely ever used.
If you keep emailing to such addresses, that’s a possible flag for spam filters. The best practice here is to clean up your email list regularly and to remove subscribers who haven’t opened and read your emails for a while.
Your "Sending From" information is inaccurate
When you’re sending email marketing campaigns, always make sure to use a proper “sending from” address. And I don’t just mean to use your domain email address versus a generic gmail address. But also include an actual name to the “from” field.
This can be your first name, or full name. You can use your brand name, too. Or even a combination of the two. Then make sure you use it consistently in all your marketing emails.
As a best practice your sender information must clearly state who you are (or who your company is) and not include any inaccurate information that could mislead someone.
In Flodesk you can set the sending email address and name in your Account settings panel under Email setup.
Your subject lines are misleading (and weak)
Subject lines are gold. They are the first few words someone sees from your email in their inbox. Use them wisely.
If your recipients feel cheated, tricked or deceived into opening your promotional email because of a misleading subject line, you jeopardize being reported as spam.
The easiest way to test your subject line is you.
- How would YOU feel if you received your own email with that subject line?
- Is there any way someone could think it’s a spam?
- If yes, give it more time and rephrase it until it feels right.
And if you need a bit more re-assurance, you can use CoSchedule’s Email Subject Line tester.
Your email contains spam trigger words
As you’ve guessed webmail providers also scan emails for certain words that are considered spammy. This includes both the subject line of your email and the email body.
Sometimes these words seem harmless, but as they have been often misused in true spam emails, you may need to avoid them and find alternatives for your email campaigns.
If you’re looking for an ultimate list of spam trigger words, I have two sources for you:
- Check out either this list from Automation with 450+ keywords to better avoid in your marketing emails.
- Or hop over to Hubspot and browse through their exhaustive list of spam words.
As additional help use Mail-Tester, a free tool which scores your emails on a scale of 10 for spamminess, and gives you a list showing what’s good and where you could improve.
You didn’t add your physical address to your email
If you’re sending marketing emails you’re required by law to add a valid, physical address to every email you send out. This has to be either your current business address or a registered post office box.
If you’ve received a true spam email recently and have’t deleted it yet from your spam folder, go and check it. It won’t have any physical address in the footer. Or anywhere in the email for that matter. A clear spam flag!
There’s no "unsubscribe" link or it’s difficult to find
While we’re talking about missing things, a clear red flag is also if there’s no unsubscribe link or button included into your marketing email. If you have the unsubscribe link included, make sure that it’s not buried and hidden in your email with a hard to read font and font colour.
In fact it’s better to make it clearly visible to stand out. Making easy for people to find your unsubscribe list helps to maintain a healthy email list.
Your email doesn't follow design best practices
If you don’t want to send just plain text emails, I don’t blame you, especially as Flodesk has a range of gorgeous templates to make it easy to design eye-catching and wow-worthy emails.
But if you want to spice up your marketing emails here and there with images and branded elements, consider below guidelines to avoid being marked as spam.
#1 Keep a healthy image-text ratio
Always make sure that your email isn’t just made of images. Your written copy has to be the core element of your email. Remember that filter programs cannot properly “read” images, so if your email is a large image with minimal to no text based content, that’s a red flag for them being spam.
Try to stick to 60-70 % text and 30-40% images and you’re good to go.
By the way if you’re using the layout blocks in Flodesk be aware that they get converted to an image when sent. So you’d want to avoid to design an email that’s basically made up of various layout blocks!
#2 Optimize your images and emails for mobile and desktop
When you add images to your workflow emails or email marketing campaigns, you need to ensure that they are formatted for web usage. This includes proper sizing and saving them for web use (and not for high quality printing).
To display them perfectly no matter where the emails get read – on smart phones or on laptop – Flodesk does the heavy lifting for you. Their proprietary technology ensures that that your emails will render beautifully in every inbox.
#3 Use fonts that work across platforms
Not everyone’s browser can display custom fonts. So even if you’d choose your favorite or branded font, there’s no guarantee that your recipient would see it. Their device and browser may turn that to one of the default web fonts.
Yes, it’s a huge disappointment because all your design efforts could have been in vain. And I haven’t mentioned yet the licensing issues.
On the other hand Flodesk has a wide selection of non-standard web fonts that are at your disposal, and their patent pending technology guarantees they will look just perfect everywhere.
#4 Make your email copy easy to read
The text in your email should be simple, to-the-point, and easily consumable for quick readers. You can do that by
- keeping your paragraphs sweet and short,
- adding bullet points instead of lengthy chunks of text,
- highlighting with bold and italics where it makes sense, and
- breaking up your text with sub-headlines, call-to-actions, and images.
Your email has attachments
You should avoid adding attachments to your emails. If you want to deliver your lead magnet via an automated email, always add it as downloadable link.
Attachments are bad because they
- slow down the email load time (especially if the attachment is not optimized and of a huge size), and
- could potentially carry virus and therefore are often filtered out right away as risky and land in the junk folder.
You forgot to spell check your email before sending
Most phishing and scam emails show a high number of grammatical and spelling errors. It’s often due to the fact that non-native speaking spammers and hacker use translating tools to convert their text to English or German or Hungarian. As an end result these translations often sound strange.
It’s one thing that spam filters are looking for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors but if you neglect to spell check your email before sending, you can be seen as unprofessional, or even an illegitimate business in the eyes of your email recipients.
Make it a best practice to re-read your emails several times before sending. And it doesn’t hurt to use tools like Grammarly for extra help.
The wording of your signup form is unclear (or misleading)
You want to grow your email list. And you may want to do it fast. But in your haste don’t forget to make sure that your opt-in / sign-up forms be crystal clear.
I mean with that to explicitly tell them that by signing up to receive your freebie / lead magnet offer, they also will be added to your email list and will start getting your email newsletters, sales promotions, offers etc.
If your message is clear and straightforward
- in your sign-up form,
- on the thank you page, if you use one, and
- in your first freebie delivery or welcome email,
this all helps to build a strong and trustworthy relationship from the start. And reduces the likelihood that your emails will be marked as spam.
The below image shows the exact wording I use on one of my lead magnet opt-in forms. Click the image itself to see it live and sign up to my email list to get your copy of this website traffic booster e-book.
You're linking to dubious websites in your emails
GetResponse highlights the fact that many email marketers don’t realize that links in their emails are also checked by spam filters.
To improve email deliverability and to avoid the junk folder make sure to:
- link to websites with a high reputation,
- have a healthy text-to-link ratio, and
- avoid suspicious link shorteners, also links that redirect users too many times, and last but not least
- avoid linking to too many different domains.
You're sending email marketing campaigns from a freemail address
Like Gmail. Or Yahoo. Or I could mention Hotmail as well. Using freemail domains when you start out seems to be a straightforward choice. You want to keep your operational costs low. But as your list grows this could lead to more and more of your emails landing in spam.
This happens because Inbox Service Providers (ISPs) prefer to see domains that have been registered by an individual sender, whom they can trackback. Which is rarely the case with freemail accounts.
Now you have it all. I’ve listed 16 common reasons above why emails go to the junk folder instead of the main inbox. But you need to keep in mind that it’s not a guarantee for success even if you avoid all these traps. The sad truth is that spam filters are constantly changing to adapt to new techniques and types of spam messages, so what lands in the Inbox today could be filtered out as spam tomorrow.
You may be wondering now if there’s then anything at all that you can do to increase the chances of your emails getting delivered to your email subscribers’ main inbox.
Actually, there are a few additional things to consider.
What can you do today to avoid your marketing emails going to spam?
Some of these tips are easy to implement, others may need some technical prowess, but don’t get alarmed. There’s nothing that you won’t be able to do on your own.
Let’s see them.
#1 Tell your subscribers to whitelist your email address
The most straightforward method is to add a Thank-you page where people get re-directed after they opted in with your subscribe form. Use this Thank-you page to your advantage and
- give them a heartfelt thank you message for joining your list,
- tell them a bit more about your lead magnet that they will receive via email. Or you can add a direct download link on the Thank you page itself. It’s up to you, but I still would encourage you to send them a welcome email as well with the download link.
- let them know to whitelist your email address and if the welcome email isn’t in their inbox in let’s say 15 minutes, then to check their spam/junk folder (and if not there either to report it to you immediately).
Then in your very first email where you deliver the lead magnet remind them to whitelist your email. You can also ask them to send you a short feedback about the lead magnet that they have received. Remember, when they reply to you, that’s a signal for their webmail provider that the email – your email – is important to them. And a reply email also boosts your email engagement rate.
#2 Know your audience and provide real value
It goes without saying that you need to know your audience. Create content and lead magnets with your ideal customers and clients in mind and then segment your email list based on interest. Whenever you email them, always send different, highly valuable, engaging and relevant content to each of those segments.
If you keep sending the very same emails to everyone on your list regardless of their initial interests you will see a high number of unsubscribes and potential spam flags.
#3 Authenticate your domain
This is a bit tech-y but well worth it. Setting up the DKIM records in Flodesk will make you recognizable for the Inbox Service Providers, meaning they’ll be sure you’re not impersonating anyone else.
It will also help you increase your reputation and make all the good things you do “stick” to your brand. To learn how you can authenticate your domain using the DKIM, read this detailed help guide from the Flodesk help center.
#4 Always test your campaign emails before sending them
In Flodesk use the paper airplane icon to send the email as a test to your selected email addresses. This way you can see first hand how your email gets displayed in your Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail account, and on your mobile vs on desktop.
If your test email lands in spam, this could be an indicator that you may need to re-design or re-write it before sending to your wider audience. If you can’t figure out why it got filtered out, you always can ask your business bestie to take a look at it and see if anything jumps out.
Also before sending the test email remember to remove the [Test] from your subject line. It’s added by default in Flodesk, but sometimes it’s why your email misses the inbox.
Remember to use also services, like the above mentioned Mail-Tester.
#5 Test your sign-up process and workflow automations
An extra way to spot issues is to test your own sign-up process and workflows. Sign up with one of your email addresses and experience first hand what your new subscribers see. Use this opportunity to check if any of your workflow emails randomly slip into spam.
- Pay attention to your wording on the sign up form. Does it make clear that they will get promotional emails, newsletters etc. from you? If not, add it now.
- If you use a Thank-you page, does it load properly? Does the web page copy give a heads-up and prepare the readers for your workflow emails?
- Does your automated welcome email arrive promptly to your inbox? If it lands in the junk folder instead, you have some work to do.
- Do any of the following emails in the workflow get delivered according to the defined automation schedule? If not, check your spam folder.
#6 Have a proper plan when switching from one ESP to the next
You may be using a different email service provider and considering to move to Flodesk. As Flodesk is still in private beta mode, it may not be suited yet to serve all your business and marketing needs. Before taking a bold step read about the exact techniques that I used before I switched to Flodesk and evaluate your current needs to make an informed business decision.
If you’ve decided to make the move and start using Flodesk in future as your preferred email marketing service provider (ESP), be aware that a sudden switch can sometimes trigger your emails being marked as spam by webmail providers.
This happens because your subscribers’ email servers see a change of how and from where your email is getting delivered. And as a safeguard they may place it to the junk folder. Once people start opening your Flodesk emails and marking them as safe, it will get back to normal.
There a few things you can do to make the switch as smooth as possible:
- if you have a smaller email list then while still at your current ESP send a notification email to your audience that you will be changing providers in the coming days. Let them know about when they can expect your first email sent via Flodesk and ask them to check their spam folders if the email doesn’t land in their inbox.
- another thing to consider is to pick a highly engaged segment on your list and to notify them first. If they start whitelisting your Flodesk emails, and even responding back to you whether the email got delivered to the inbox or junk folder, and how they find the new look and design, that signals to the webmail servers that your content is still relevant and important to them. This paves the way for the deliverability of your following emails to other segments or to your whole list.
- if you have a large email list then before you send emails through a new email provider, you’d want to warm up your IP to alert Gmail that you’re now sending through a new provider. This can really affect your first email’s performance. In case of large lists make sure that you verify the domain with the above mentioned DKIM authentication process. Then pick a highly engaged segment and send your email to them from Flodesk. The next time you would normally send your promotional email, include another segment, and build it up gradually.
A word of caution: If you start sending your emails from Flodesk and then change your mind and fall back to your previous provider – be it MailChimp or MailerLite – well, this can be interpreted as suspicious behavior. Your emails may get filtered out and put in the junk folder. I’ve seen it happening with a few businesses I’m subscribed to and who recently started using Flodesk.
Conclusion and Recap
And that’s it, folks. I know it’s a lot to digest, but I’m sure it was well worth the read and your time. There’s only one thing left to mention before I let you go:
No email service provider can guarantee your messages always land in the inbox. By now you should have a good understanding why this is a mission impossible. What they can promise – if you follow the above golden rules – is to deliver your email to your subscriber’s email server. But they don’t control the spam filters implemented on those servers and can’t be certain that Gmail, Yahoo or Outlook will place the your marketing email inside your intended recipient’s email inbox.
And of course, no one can force recipients to open what they think is junk.
Why do email marketing campaigns go to spam?
- Lack of permission and consent to get promotional emails
- The IP address is flagged as spam
- Emails have low engagement rates
- Subscribers don’t remember you
- You're sending emails to inactive/dormant email accounts
- Your "Sending From" information is inaccurate
- Subject lines are misleading and weak
- Email contains spam trigger words
- Email contains no physical address
- There’s no "unsubscribe" link or it’s difficult to find
- Your email doesn't follow design best practices
- Email has attachments
- Email shows a high number of grammatical and spelling errors
- The wording of the signup form is unclear (or misleading)
- You're linking to dubious websites
- Your email marketing campaigns are sent from a freemail address
Did you learn something useful today? Then share it with your friends on social media and leave me a comment below. It would mean the world to me.