Why are my emails going to spam? If you’ve ever sent an email only to have it detoured to the recipient’s spam folder, you might find yourself yelling that at your computer screen from time to time.
It’s a frustrating situation – you sent an important email, but your recipient(s) probably won’t see it because, let’s be honest, how often do people really check their spam folders?
In this post, we’ll discuss some of the most likely reasons why your emails are ending up in spam. Then, we’ll share some actionable tips to make sure your emails get to your recipients’ inboxes.
These reasons and tips will apply whether you’re just a solo person sending email from your personal account or you’re dealing with deliverability issues for your marketing emails or transactional website emails (like order confirmations).
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 protected]
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:
- Via your web host’s dashboard if you’re using your host’s nameservers
- Via your domain registrar if you’re not using your host’s nameservers
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.
All you need to do is:
- Install the free Sendinblue plugin on your WordPress site.
- Register for a free Sendinblue account.
- Generate an API key via your Sendinblue account.
- Use that API key to sync the WordPress plugin with your account.
- Check the box to Activate email through Sendinblue in the Transactional emails section of the WordPress plugin’s settings.
You should also authenticate your domain name with Sendinblue to further improve deliverability, as we covered above.
4. Follow email design/copy best practices when sending emails
Once you’ve properly authenticated your emails, you’ll already be well on your way to avoiding the spam folder.
However, don’t forget the many design and copy sins that we talked about:
- Don’t abuse images – don’t rely on a single large image or lots of small images. Use text/HTML instead of including everything in images.
- Avoid spammy copy – don’t use spammy words, avoid spelling/grammar issues, and don’t abuse punctuation/emojis.
- Avoid unnecessary attachments – don’t send attachments unless they’re absolutely necessary.
- Make sure to add sender information – for marketing emails, make sure to include your physical address and accurate sender information.
- Only link to reputable sites – don’t do anything that could be construed as “tricking” people into clicking links that they didn’t intend to visit.
5. Properly maintain your subscriber lists
If you’re sending emails to lists of subscribers, you’ll also want to:
- Make sure your subscribers explicitly opt-in.
- Periodically clean your list of dead/unengaged accounts.
- Give subscribers a clear option to unsubscribe.
6. Ask recipients to whitelist your emails
Finally, if all else fails, you can always ask your recipients to whitelist your email address to avoid your emails going to spam. You’ll see even big brands asking subscribers to whitelist their emails, so this actually isn’t an uncommon strategy:
To make it easier for people, you can create a help doc that shows them how to whitelist your email address in popular clients, like Gmail.
Why are my emails going to spam? No more!
Having your emails end up in people’s spam folders is frustrating. But after reading this post, you should have the knowledge to understand why your emails are going to spam and fix the problem(s).
In most cases, the two biggest things that you can do are:
- Properly authenticate your emails.
- Use a dedicated sending service for your website’s emails (if you’re not already).
Beyond that, you’ll also want to avoid spammy copy, properly use links and images, and make sure your subscribers are engaged and opted-in.
Still have any questions about why your emails are going to spam? Let us know in the comments!
Don’t forget to join our crash course on speeding up your WordPress site. With some simple fixes, you can reduce your loading time by even 50-80%: