Junk folders: 11 reasons why emails end up there

emails in junk folder

So you’ve taken the time to write a great marketing email. The last thing you want is for it to end up in your recipient’s junk folders or get blocked by spam filters. So why exactly does this happen and what can you do to prevent this? 

Email servers follow a fixed set of rules to regulate incoming email. Spam filters are triggered when certain factors in an email break these rules. Rules are different for every email server, so it’s not always easy to pinpoint the exact triggers. However, there are lots of standard triggers to be aware of, so that your email doesn’t automatically end up in email junk folders. 

1. Use of spam trigger words and phrases 

Email content filters analyze every word in an email to see if it has common spam words. If your email has a large amount of spam words, the server will block your email or send it to junk folders. 

There are certain words that will trigger spam filters, so it’s best to use these sparingly or avoid using them completely. 

2. Unequal text-to-image balance 

Email servers favor messages that have an equal text-to-image ratio. They don’t like emails that heavily feature images. Using more imagery than text will directly affect your email deliverability rates and make sure your messages go straight to junk folders. 

Always include at least two lines of text for every image or graphic you put in your email. All images should have Alt text, and don’t use short URLs if you’re including hyperlinks. 

3. Poor text formatting 

Stick to using one font type, one font size (below 12pt), and one font color. It’s fine to venture away from the standard black font, but don’t use multiple colors. Doing this is as bad as using spam trigger words. 

Punctuation is also key; using more than one exclamation or question mark in the subject line or body of the <h2> email is considered spam-like. 

4. Not using a legitimate “From:” email address 

It’s not recommended to use a free or personal email address like Outlook.com/Hotmail or Gmail as your “From:” address. Instead, use an email address from your organization’s domain. If you don’t want to receive lots of out-of-office replies, set up an email address specifically for marketing emails and send from this address every time. 

It’s also best to avoid using email addresses that begin with ‘info’, ‘noreply’ or ‘sales’. These are seen to be generic, so they will often end up heading straight to email junk folders. 

5. Bad HTML code 

If your code is badly written with extra tags or was designed in Microsoft Word and then copied across, spam filters will be alerted. This will affect your open rates and it’s likely your email will be blocked. 

To avoid this, you can use pre-made email templates or find an experienced designer to create a branded HTML email template with properly written code. 

6. Opt-ins and unsubscribe links 

Don’t assume that you have permission to send someone an email regardless of your connection to them. For example, if someone has bought an item off your website, have a clear opt-in or opt-out choice. 

If you can’t use the opt-in choice, make sure there’s a clear unsubscribe link in your email. This is a legal requirement under the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. All opt-out requests must be honored within 10 business days. 

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) also has strict rules around control over a user’s personal data. Failure to follow GDPR can potentially result in a fine of 4% of a company’s annual turnover or €20 million. 

7. Personalization 

If you have the ability to personalize the “To:” field with the recipient’s full name, spam filters are less likely to block your email and send it straight to junk folders. 

8. Frequency of email sends 

It’s important to be consistent with how regularly you send an email. If you only send one email every few months, your recipients may have forgotten they signed up to marketing communications from you. This can lead them to mark your messages as spam emails and ending up in junk folders. 

At the same time, don’t send them too often either. If a recipient gets bombarded with emails from your company, it might feel spammy to them. 

9. Third-party email marketing services 

Be aware that some email servers specifically block emails sent via third party email marketing services (EMS) to protect against spam. This can affect the success of your email campaigns. 

Use a reliable service provider such as MailChimp or Campaign Monitor. Then, be sure to use DKIM and SPF custom domain authentication. These services’ IP addresses are trusted among many email servers, so your messages are more likely to get through. 

10. Being blacklisted 

Before your emails are delivered to your recipient’s inbox, they’re read by the receiving email server to figure out if your IP address or domain has been blacklisted. Being blacklisted means your emails have been confirmed to be a known source of spam content so will automatically be blocked. 

If you’re worried that you may have been blacklisted, there are loads of free services available you can use to find out. They’ll also recommend how to get yourself removed from any blacklists. 

11. Not following other CAN-SPAM requirements 

We previously mentioned the CAN-SPAM Act and including an opt-out link. But there are four more requirements you must comply with, or you could face a $16,000 fine: 

  • Don’t use false or misleading header information 

  • Don’t use deceptive subject lines 

  • Mark the message as an advert 

  • Monitor what others are doing on your behalf 

Summary 

In conclusion, there’s no guarantee that your email won’t be marked as spam or end up in junk folders. But by following our recommendations, your email will be much more likely to get to your recipient’s inbox. 

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