Why is mail I send to other people treated as “spam”?

Occasionally customers tell us that email they send to other people ends up in a recipient’s “spam folder”.

If this happens to you, keep in mind that each receiving email company (like Gmail or Yahoo) has their own independent spam filtering. (They don’t share the rules with senders, or with us, and we can’t control their rules, of course.) If you get reports of this happening at one company, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s happening at other companies, too.

You should try to find if it’s happening just at one company (such as Gmail), or at multiple companies. Then get one of the customers of those companies to try to find why the message is being put in the spam folder. If you can do that, you’ll know what to focus on and can probably solve it.

What if it’s happening at Gmail?

Because Gmail is the most popular free email service nowadays, people most commonly report it happening with Gmail. If so, the recipient should look at one of those messages when it’s still in the Gmail spam folder (or ask one of the recipients to do that for you). At the top of the message, Gmail will say why they put it in the spam folder. It might look like this, for example:

Message in Gmail spam folder

Once you know why it’s happening, it’s easier to fix the problem. We’ll be happy to give advice if you can tell us what it says.

That said, if Gmail says that the message is similar to other messages identified as spam, as in the example above, all you can do is try to change the content of your message so it looks less like other messages that people are reporting as “spam” to Google.

What about other services?

Other services often show similar messages, or the recipient can ask their mail provider why the message was classified as spam. One thing to remember is that many ISPs will put mail in the spam folder for all their customers if some of their customers mark it as spam or unwanted mail. It doesn’t matter whether you (or we) consider it spam or not: What matters is whether recipients are marking it that way. You need to make sure that doesn’t happen. If you send any kind of bulk mail, this page shows our guidelines for avoiding this problem. It’s pretty strict, but it’s what receiving mail companies tell us is necessary to prevent your domain name from getting a poor reputation and being treated as spam.

In any case, large mail companies have thousands of different “rules” they use that might put a message in the spam folder. Finding exactly why it’s happening is the key to knowing how to fix it... but you can only find that from the recipient’s mail service. So if this is happening to you, try to find the exact reason from a recipient as a first step. (The recipient should want to work with you to solve this — their mail provider is making a mistake that’s causing them to miss mail, and the same problem is likely happening with other mail they receive, too.)