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Why are my emails going to spam? 11 reasons

At some point, most business email senders face the age-old question: “Why are my emails going to spam?” Learn the biggest reasons why messages end up in users’ spam folders, and discover what you can do to get back into people’s inboxes.

Does this common email marketing loop sound familiar? You spend hours crafting an engaging email or newsletter, speaking to your audience’s interests, and offering real value. You click “send”… and wait… and wait.

Finally, you put feelers out, check your email marketing metrics, and learn that people haven’t been getting your messages. You find a spam tester online and find out your emails contain many spammy elements—that’s why they aren’t reaching your clients. Instead, they’re going straight to their spam folders, because email service providers are flagging them.

“Wait,” you think, “why are my emails going to spam? What are spammy elements?”

The good news is the reason is probably something you can fix. Here are 11 possible reasons and potential fixes to help you reach more inboxes.

Jump to:

1. People aren’t opening your emails

An email filter’s job is to keep unwanted messages out of readers’ inboxes. If readers don’t interact with your messages, filtering algorithms assume people don’t want to see those messages.

The simplest way to learn whether people are engaging with your email is to review your open and click-through rates. According to 2022 data from Campaign Monitor, email open rates average 21.5% across industries, while click-through rates average 2.5%. If your numbers are lower, it might be time to revitalize your email strategy.

Use a new newsletter template to make your email newsletter more visually engaging. Divide your email list into interest groups, also known as segments, to send the right content and offers to the right people. 

2. Recipients forget who you are

If readers don’t remember signing up for your email list, or the emails they receive aren’t as expected, it’s possible they’ll click the spam button when your messages appear. In the very least, they’ll hit delete. That tells their email filter to do the same with your future messages, and that you don’t value the messages.

Fortunately, this is a fairly easy problem to fix—it comes down to email design best practices. First, make sure all of your emails have consistent branding. Use your company name in the sender line and add your logo to the email body.  

Second, make sure you’re personalizing each message and targeting client interests. Using the person’s name in a casual greeting — “Hey Sam” instead of “Dear valued reader” — is a great start. Sending different content to different interest groups will also help build that relationship. Make sure you have a personalized email signature, too, and sign off in a personable, friendly way.

Pro tip

Make a free email signature using our email signature generator for a professional sign-off every time.

3. Your sender name is confusing or impersonal

According to research by SuperOffice, 45% of email subscribers decide to open a message based on the sender. They might send a company to the spam folder, but the chances are lower if the email comes from someone they trust.

Be that someone. Make sure all your emails have a real person’s name in the sender line, whether that person is you or someone else on your team.  

4. Your subject lines don’t match your content

A subject line is like a book cover. It hints at what’s to come and entices people to keep reading — but it shouldn’t feel like a bait-and-switch.

If you’ve ever encountered a misleading subject line, you know what that feels like. You click on an email that promises to give you “4 tips for better email marketing” or “Increase your Instagram followers with one simple trick,” only to encounter a different sales offer.

It happens more often than you think. In one study, 54% of respondents said an email subject line had tricked or deceived them into opening a message. Those subject lines may not have been intentionally misleading, but the readers didn’t feel they got what they expected.

Catching people’s attention with your subject lines is important, but don’t overdo it. Hint at what they’ll get from reading the email, then deliver what you promised. 

5. You use spam trigger words

Filtering programs scan email content for red-flag words that signal unwelcome, unsolicited content. Those trigger words are clickbait — enticing people to take action but not promising much substance. 

Scan one of the many trigger words lists online to find hundreds of examples, such as:

  • Pennies a day
  • Fantastic deal
  • Supplies limited
  • Don’t delete
  • No questions asked

Don’t worry about memorizing any of these lists—they actually vary from email service provider to email service provider. It’s almost impossible to avoid every one of them completely. Focus on offering real value in your emails. Communicate clearly and be authentic. Substance and useful information will always win out over empty words.

6. Your recipient addresses are outdated

An undeliverable email is a red flag for spam filters. Many spammers pad their subscriber lists by buying email addresses, which can be tempting even for legitimate businesses. Almost everyone wants to get the word out about their companies, but if those people didn’t sign up to hear from you, you’ll be flagged as spam. Technically, if you’re emailing people that didn’t ask to hear from you, you are spamming them.

Unfortunately, purchased email lists are more than dishonest. They often include fake or expired email addresses, which list sellers distribute to multiple buyers. So not only will people hit “spam” if they do open your emails, the email service provider will flag you if your emails are going to outdated addresses and bouncing back.

Never buy email lists. Ensure everyone you add has opted into receiving your content, and review the list regularly to check for engagement. If you’re getting bounce-backs or notice someone hasn’t interacted with your messages in a while, consider letting them know you plan on removing them. Culling subscribers based on engagement is a way to signal to service providers that you’re providing engaging, interesting, useful content to your subscribers—and not to people who don’t want it.

7. Your domain has a bad reputation

You can be the most above-board marketer in the world, but if your email domain has a history of spamming, you’ll struggle to reach your subscribers’ inboxes.

An email domain is the portion of your address after the @ symbol, such as or Move on from these free personal domains if you haven’t already. They often trigger filters because many people have used them to spam others, and they don’t look professional.

Instead, set up and verify a custom-branded domain. Many web hosting providers also offer email hosting and domains, or you can get a personalized domain name from Google. Because no one has used this domain before, it won’t have a spam history, and you can build a positive reputation with subscribers.

8. You email people without permission

While sending unsolicited emails to U.S. recipients is technically legal, it’s risky. First, the risk is higher that they won’t recognize you and will send you directly to spam. If this happens frequently, filters will learn and will follow suit.

Also, if you accidentally send a marketing email to a European Union citizen or resident, you could run afoul of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and face high fines. 

It’s safer to use an opt-in system that signs people up when they fill out a form. You can add these forms to your websites, email invoices, and more. A double opt-in is even better. With a double opt-in, you send each new subscriber a message welcoming them and asking them to confirm their interest. This confirms their interest in their mind and starts your email relationship with an interaction.

9. You don’t have a clear unsubscribe option

Every marketing email needs to have an option for the receiver to unsubscribe. It’s the law under the CAN-SPAM Act, and if someone reports it, you could owe a $50,120 fine — and find out that algorithms have marked your emails as spam.

Even if no one takes legal action, a missing unsubscribe button can trigger spam filters and frustrate users who manually flag your messages. It may seem counterintuitive, but an easy-to-find unsubscribe option will help people and algorithms trust you more.

10. You send attachments

Attachments are also major spam triggers. Unfortunately for legitimate businesses, many scammers use email attachments to spread viruses and malware that infect computers. It’s better to offer a link to an article or landing page that features a lead magnet for download. Then, you can capture who downloads what and get an even better sense of your audience’s interests.

Your attachment might be something your subscribers will love, but if they’re not expecting it, they could easily see it as a spam red flag. The same goes for triggered spam filters, which see the attachment and automatically divert the message from readers’ inboxes.

To be on the safe side, save your attachments for one-on-one emails, for example in transactional emails. If you must send a document in a marketing email—for example, if you’ve offered a downloadable resource as an incentive for signing up for your list—redirect people to your website and have them download the document from there.

11. Your emails aren’t authenticated

When email service providers get marketing emails, they want to know if the sender is genuine. Sadly, scammers often hack into email accounts pretending to be real businesses and individuals, and it’s not always easy to tell at a glance who is who.

Email authentication solves that problem. These tools verify the source and listed address of an email so the recipient inbox can be confident it’s genuine.

Verify your email service provider uses the top three authentication tools, which are:

  • Sender Policy Framework (SPF)
  • Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM)
  • Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC) 

If you use your domain for email marketing, you’ll want to have Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI) as well. If your email host doesn’t use all four, consider switching.

Reach more inboxes with smart email practices

Avoid the above spam triggers and apply email design best practices, including the ones you’ve just learned about—using a clear subject line and listing a real person as the sender, for example.

You work hard to write great messages. Learn to prevent emails from going to spam, and about email deliverability in general, and more of your valuable clients will stay connected to your business. HoneyBook helps by automating one-on-one messages and making personalization easier, so you can build better relationships and make the most of your communications. It’s all about staying in touch.

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HoneyBook is a clientflow management platform that connects client communication with other parts of your process, like service selection, payments, and more. 

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