Avoiding The Most Dreaded Spam Label

Assuming you've mastered the art of email setup and implemented as many best practices as possible, then hopefully your weekly newsletter is in tip top shape. Yet, even if you've devoted yourself to making sure your newsletter has relevant and succinct content, there's always the possibility that The Most Dreaded will happen - your newsletter starts showing up in spam folders.

Unfortunately, there's no silver bullet to fix the issue of your newsletter getting marked as spam. Much like trust, a healthy email list is something that takes time to build and can quickly be lost. However, we do have guidance on things that are more likely to trigger your newsletter being relegated to spam, plus a section on what you can do to help get your newsletter back where it belongs - in the inboxes of your fans.

There are two main categories of reasons why your newsletter might start showing up spam folders:
  1. Newsletter content issues (words in your editorial that seem spammy, bad subject lines, strange HTML coding, etc.)
  2. Recipient issues (fishy list management, user-reported abuse, etc.)
Either of these categories can cause your email to get flagged, even when your methods are completely legitimate.

Content Reasons Why Your Newsletter Might Suddenly Be Spam

Some examples of content issues that might pop up in your newsletter and cause your email to come under suspicion:
  • Overly enthusiastic subject lines: 
    • Something like "Win Free Governor's Ball Tickets!!!!" or "BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN SHOWS ANNOUNCED" are both more likely to be sent down the path of spam. Avoid excessive use of punctuation or capitalization, since this is something spam filters key in on in determining bogus emails from worthwhile ones.
    • For more information on what makes a good subject line, check out our best practices
  • Abundant "call to action" editorial: 
    • Repeated use of phrases like "Click now to RSVP!" or "Click for free tickets!" or event things like "Tickets on sale for Conor Oberst - buy now!" will all seem suspicious. Include your best content in your newsletter and trust that it's engaging enough to get your audience to interact. Don't rely on commanding them to do so. 
  • Tons of images with very little text: 
    • Spam filters know that spammers often hide text in images so that it won't get flagged. For this reason, emails that are very heavy on images with no supporting text blocks can get blocked. If you're using one of our templates, this shouldn't be an issue, but it could affect things like one-time email blasts where you just drop in an image for an ad. In this case, as much relevant text as you can put in to support the image (your unsubscribe link, your physical office address, etc.) will help your email appear more legitimate.

Recipient-Based Reasons Why Your Newsletter Might Suddenly Be Spam

If your content is all up to snuff, it's possible that something recipient-based is causing your newsletter to come through as spam. Some issues that could cause this:

  • Adding a 3rd party email list: 
    • Various DoXXX sites have experimented with importing lists from other sources into their email list to boost their reach. This can be a great way to get more people registered and interacting with your site if they click through via your newsletter, but it also carries an element of risk. Huge leaps in the number of people your newsletter reaches can signal to an email provider to block your email from coming through. Do416 ran into this issue when importing all Toronto IP addresses on the Arts + Crafts mailing list and Field Trip Fest users, growing their email list by tenfold. Do415 has had similar issues that caused their email to be sent to spam.
  • Importing only email addresses: 
    • If you are importing a ton of email addresses, it looks less suspicious to an email provider if you have their First and Last merged with the email addresses. It's a best practice to include the name information for any emails you import if that information is available.
  • Using the phrase "You registered with a partner": Report Spam Gmail.jpg
    • Including this phrase in your email is a red flag that it's not a permission-based list. If the user is actually receiving this email because of registering with one of your partners, be more specific with your copy so as not to be blocked by spam filters that prevent emails with this phrase. "You are receiving this email due to your active account with Field Trip Festival," or something along those lines. 
  • People marking your email as spam: 
    • Users can mark your email as spam within their email provider (as seen in the image to the right), which will negatively affect the health of your email list. People that flag your email as spam via their provider will make your email more likely to show up in the spam folder of other users who use the same email provider. Any user that flags your email is automatically taken off your email list when their information is sent to their ISP, which then gets sent to MailChimp/your email marketing service.

How To Get Rid Of Your Spam Label:

***Note: most of these tactics apply to users of MailChimp only, though some will still apply to other email marketing services.
As mentioned earlier, there's unfortunately not a magic potion to fix your spam problem. That said, if you've fixed all of the above things that could be causing problems for your email, then you should try the below methods to diagnose and/or fix the issue:
  • Look at who complained in MailChimp: 
    • You can access this by viewing the report for any of your campaigns, then clicking the activity tab and choosing "complained." This will list all of the users who registered an abuse complaint for your email, as well as their ISP. In general, you should shoot for no more than 1 abuse complaint for every 1000 recipients. If you're higher than this, you've likely found your culprit as to why your email is being sent to spam folders for that respective email provider. 
  • Look at who's unsubscribing: 
    • Lots of people unsubscribing lately? This is the strongest indication that a chunk of your email list doesn't find your newsletter relevant. Cross-reference this list with any large list imports you've done to see if they're all coming from a particular source. If that's the case, then you might consider reverting back to your original list prior to the import. It's probably not worth adding a ton of new users from another source that don't find your newsletter valuable, especially if they'll damage your open rate and the health of your newsletter. 
  • Ask your friends/close associates of DoXXX to mark your email as "not spam" 
    • Just as users reporting your newsletter as spam make it more likely to show up in the spam folder for other recipients, marking email as "not spam" also has a compounding effect. If you know of people that are seeing your email show up in their spam folders, reach out to them and encourage them to mark it "not spam." Not only will this help them get all the great info your DoXXX offers, but it also helps other users not miss out on the weekly newsletter. 
  • Use Inbox Inspector/Delivery Doctor: 
    • Inbox Inspector is a service MailChimp provides to all paying customers. It enables you to test the likelihood that a campaign you either sent previously or plan to send in the future will hit spam filters. The resulting report will preview your campaign in multiple different email clients and let you see if it's functioning properly and/or seen as spam by the various clients. More information on running Inbox Inspector here
    • If you've run through Inbox Inspector and confirmed that your newsletter is having a difficult time passing certain spam filters, consider using Delivery Doctor. This is a free service for paying MailChimp customers that allows you to see which specific parts of your email are causing issues with getting past spam filters. More information on running Delivery Doctor here.
When trying to fix spam issues, it’s important to remember that it’s rare that things get fixed immediately. Your best bet is to do everything in your power to make sure your content doesn’t accidentally perpetrate anything that makes it look like spam, and that your list is as healthy as possible. Beyond that, there isn’t a lot to do other than wait a few weeks and see if the spam issue goes away. The passage of time has fixed Do416 and Do415’s respective spam problems, and will likely do the same for you.

Above all, you have great content that deserves to be in the inboxes of users each week. We’re happy to help you troubleshoot any issues, and you can try reaching out to MailChimp or your email marketing service for assistance as well.