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Why Email Goes to Spam: Causes, Factors & Solutions

Find Out Why You’re Landing in Spam (And How To Get Out)

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Email continues to dominate the digital landscape.

With over 300 billion emails sent every day, there’s no doubt that email is still on top.

Starting your own email newsletter is a great way to stay in touch with an audience, build relationships, and monetize your writing, but it’s hard to reap the rewards of a newsletter if your emails end up in the spam folder.

If you’re finding that your emails are landing in your subscribers’ spam folders, then you’re in a pickle.

Why Email Goes to Spam: Causes, Factors & Solutions

It doesn’t matter how great or valuable your content is if it’s not making it to your readers’ inboxes. And if your spam rates climb too high, it could be disastrous for your entire newsletter operations.

The problem is that most newsletter operators with a spam problem have no clue why it’s happening (or how to fix it).

Thankfully, I’ve got some answers for you!

In this in-depth guide, you’ll learn the most common reasons why emails end up in spam and exactly what you can do to get out of the spam folder.

Keep reading to escape the spam trap, so you can get your emails in front of your subscribers’ again.

Why Spam Matters (A Brief History)

Email matters, but so does spam.

Before spam filters and folders were a thing, commercial emails were like the Wild, Wild West.

When commercial email was introduced in the early 90s, businesses went absolutely crazy sending emails to any email address that they could get their hands on. 

There were no laws, regulations, or etiquette when it came to sending a promotional email.

If a business found an email address, they’d just send their marketing messages to them, even if they never opted in.

The result?

People started hating email.

They didn’t want to open their inbox up to hundreds of random spammers promoting the latest widget that they didn’t want.

That’s where permission marketing – coined by marketing legend Seth Godin – came in.

Why Email Goes to Spam: Causes, Factors & Solutions

It’s all about asking permission to send marketing messages to your audience.

Very quickly, email providers recognized that they needed to do something to ensure that people kept sending emails, so the spam folder was introduced.

Email providers and lawmakers took swift action to ensure that people were only seeing messages that they actually wanted from businesses.

In 2003, the CAN-SPAM Act was introduced to regulate spam emails from consumer inboxes.

Why Email Goes to Spam: Causes, Factors & Solutions

This American law set the standard for commercial email.

Within the CAN-SPAM Act, you’ll find outlines of non-compliance issues and main requirements that may get you into murky water with email.

Some key areas include honoring opt-out requests, not creating deceptive content, and including a physical address (a few of the key points that we’ll dive into in a second).

Apart from landing in the spam folder, one of the worst repercussions of violating the CAN-SPAM Act can even result in a fine of up to $41,000.

Despite the massive effort to filter out unwanted emails from inboxes worldwide, an estimated 60 billion spam emails are still sent every single day.

To this day, an estimated 60 billion spam emails are sent every day, with 8 billion of those coming from the United States alone.

Since email providers and lawmakers are doing everything in their power to crack down on spam, you need to do everything you can to avoid spam-triggering mistakes with your email strategy.

Here are the most common reasons why emails land in spam (and how you can avoid the spam folder):

Why Listen to Me? I’ve generated over $1 million with email and get over 50,000 monthly visits on two niche blogs. I also run Storey Time, a newsletter where I teach people how to become full-time digital writers.

1. You Never Got Permission To Send.

Why Email Goes to Spam: Causes, Factors & Solutions

In the early 90s, businesses worldwide took over the inbox by sending out thousands of spam emails to email addresses who never opted in.

This was the epitome of interruption marketing, as mentioned by Seth Godin in his book, Permission Marketing. This led to massive changes including the CAN-SPAM Act.

Now, if you send emails to someone who never opted-in, you’ll quickly find your emails landing in the spam folder.

You need to get permission before you send emails to your audience.

This should be a no-brainer, but businesses and individuals still break this rule every single day.

You need to be very careful if you’re “renting lists” or “buying lists” from people.

You can’t just scrape email addresses and start sending your newsletter to them.

Make sure you’re only sending your emails to people who have directly opted-in to receiving your emails.

You might make a quick buck here or there if you do otherwise, but you’ll end up in the spam folder. 

Worse yet, you’ll eventually destroy your business and your reputation in the long run if you continue to send messages to people who never asked for them.

Why Email Goes to Spam: Causes, Factors & Solutions

Make sure to include email opt-in forms on your website to capture email addresses.

Not only does this limit your odds of landing in the spam folder, but it also ensures that you’re sending emails to people who actually want them.

When people have opted in, you’ll have much higher engagement rates, and you’ll be able to monetize your list easier.

2. Your Sender Information Isn’t Accurate.

Within the CAN-SPAM Act, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has laid out what it means to have inaccurate “sender information.”

If you want to maintain accurate information, you need to include these in every email:

  • “From” name/email address

  • “To” name/email address

  • “Reply to” name/email address

  • Your routing information (domain name and email address)

If any of these are not accurate or if they don’t align with your domain name and email on file, then you are breaking CAN-SPAM and could be triggering the spam folder with your emails.

You need to clearly state who your emails are coming from (or what your company name is) when sending your emails. Otherwise, you’ll be seen as misleading people.

Why Email Goes to Spam: Causes, Factors & Solutions

For example, in my newsletter, Storey Time, my sender name is my full name, “Brandon Storey.”

So when my email lands in my subscribers’ inboxes, they’ll see that the newsletter is coming directly from me.

You can use your:

  • First name

  • Full name

  • Newsletter name

  • Business name

No matter what you do, just make sure that it’s accurate and aligns with the information on your website.

3. There’s No Physical Address in Your Email.

One thing that many newbies to the newsletter game overlook is including a physical address.

As mentioned above, the CAN-SPAM Act states that you must include a physical address in every single email you send.

They state: “Your message must include your valid physical postal address. This can be your current street address, a post office box you’ve registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox you’ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations.”

If you don’t include a physical address, you could be triggering the spam folder.

The easiest way to subtly include your physical address in your newsletter without being distracting is by simply placing it at the bottom of each email.

Why Email Goes to Spam: Causes, Factors & Solutions

When you use beehiiv to send your emails, they automatically place their address on the bottom of every single email that you send to avoid triggering the spam folder.

You can update this to your own business address or keep it as is.

4. There Are Too Many Spam Trigger Words.

Over the years, email providers have picked up on certain keywords that spammers use in the inbox.

These words are used in a database; and if you use them too much, it can raise red flags with providers, which could send your email to the spam folders.

Spam filters look at the content in your subject lines to see whether or not it should get sent to the spam folder in your readers’ inbox.

There’s a pretty good chance that you’re going to get some unwanted attention from the spam filters if you say things like “You Win!” or “Double Your Income!”

Even if you have good intentions, using certain words and phrases can land your email in spam filters, no matter how good your reputation has been over the years.

Here are a few examples of spam trigger words and phrases that you should avoid in your subject lines to ensure that you don’t end up in the spam folder:

  • Exclusive deal

  • Dear Friend

  • Jackpot

  • For only $X amount

  • Hurry!

  • Act immediately

  • Please read

  • Congratulations!

  • FREE

  • Eliminate your debt

  • Limited time offer

  • Claim your discount NOW!

  • 100% FREE

Here are some other symbols and writing nuances that you should try to avoid in your subject lines:

  • Exclamation marks!!!


  • Repeated symbols or numbers (i.e., 333, $$$, 0% risk)

While some of these words or phrases could be useful to get a message across, just be very careful and don’t overuse them.

You should always try to find an alternative word or phrase when crafting your subject lines.

Just remember, your end goal is to land in the inbox, not the spam folder.

If you want a complete list of words to avoid in the subject line, check out our list of 200+ spam words.

5. You Added Too Many Attachments.

If you want to avoid the spam folder, then you need to avoid attachments like the plague.

Why Email Goes to Spam: Causes, Factors & Solutions

Here are two main reasons:

1. They trigger spam filters quickly.

Your emails won’t end up in front of your readers since spam filters will think that there is a crazy virus just waiting to take over an unsuspecting victim’s computer.

2. They drastically slow down your email load time.

Not only will an attachment likely trigger the spam filter, but your email is going to take a long time to load in someone’s inbox. This is because there’s a ton of extra data that has to load due to the attachment, dampening the user experience.

You should rarely ever have to send an attachment in your newsletter.

If you want to include some kind of document or media, you should insert it as a picture, copy and paste the text, or link out to an external site where the media is hosted.

6. Your Email Contains Large Images.

Images are one of the best ways to make your newsletters stand out.

They keep the email engaging, can help tell your story better, and bring your emails to life.

One example of a newsletter that does an awesome job including images is YASSSletter by Bengingi.

He incorporates a ton of beautiful images of his food recipes. And every now and then, he even shows off how excited his food makes him — which is great for branding.

Why Email Goes to Spam: Causes, Factors & Solutions

But if you’re not careful, images can trigger spam filters.

Images are not the worst. It’s how you include images that can harm your chances of landing in the inox.

Large images should be avoided at all costs.

This is especially true if you don’t have much text included in your email.

If an email has a lot of images, but not a lot of written text as well, it can trigger spam filters. 

The idea behind this rule is that spammers sometimes put spammy information on images so that spam filters can’t “read” the harmful content as easily, so the result is that too many images with little text in an email could land your email in the spam folders.

You should try to aim for a text-to-image ratio of at least 60/40. This means at least 60% of your content should be text while 40% or less should be images.

It’s important to ensure that your readers opt into your emails before you send a single issue to them.

But do you know what’s just as important? Giving your readers the chance to opt-out if they want.

Have you ever been in a scenario where you open up your inbox and are overwhelmed by how many emails are sitting there? Then, did you go on an unsubscribe spree?

Well, the reality is that subscribers don’t always want to stay subscribed forever.

You need to give people a chance to exit with an unsubscribe button in every email.

Why Email Goes to Spam: Causes, Factors & Solutions

If you don’t, there’s a great chance that your emails will land in spam folders.

Not only will it upset people, but guess what they’re going to do if they aren’t able to unsubscribe. They’re going to mark your email as spam. It’s as simple as that. This is one of the fastest ways that your emails will land in the spam folder.

What’s even worse is that if you don’t include an unsubscribe link in your emails, you could end up with a huge fine from the FTC.

Give your readers the option to unsubscribe.

Why would you want to keep sending emails to someone who doesn’t want them anyway? They won’t be opening or engaging with your emails, so you’ll just be harming your engagement and deliverability.

8. You Haven’t Kept Up With List Cleaning.

Why Email Goes to Spam: Causes, Factors & Solutions

Guess what happens when you send a lot of emails to people who don’t open them. Email providers will start to mark your emails as spam.

The reality is that many people will subscribe to your newsletter and love it…. for a time, but soon enough, they get bored, distracted, or their interests change.

That’s when they stop reading your emails.

While you don’t need to worry, you do need to make sure that you’re removing these subscribers from your list.

If you keep sending email after email to subscribers who aren’t opening, reading, or clicking on them, you’ll not only have low open and click rates, but email providers like Gmail and Outlook will start taking notice.

If you keep sending emails to people who don’t open them, email providers will send your emails to spam.

You need to clean your list regularly.

This means going through every month or every quarter to remove “inactive” subscribers. This could include subscribers who haven’t opened or clicked on an email in a set period of time like the last 30, 60, 90, or 120 days.

With beehiiv, you can automatically have your unengaged subscribers removed from your list, so you’re only sending to people who are actually engaging with your emails.

Part of beehiiv’s automatic list-cleaning process allows you to ask your subscribers if they want to stay on the list before you remove them yourself. This is a great way to get subscribers to re-engage who would have otherwise been gone forever.

If you’re not sure whether or not you need to clean your list, check out this article.  

9. Your Spelling & Grammar Are Off.

This one’s going to hurt…

But if you’re consistently making spelling and grammar mistakes in your emails, you could be triggering spam filters.

Why? Spelling and grammar errors are commonplace in phishing emails.

A phishing email is a scam email. It’s an email where attackers deceive readers into revealing sensitive information or by installing malware onto their devices, so spam filters are on high alert for messages with a high volume of spelling mistakes or grammatical errors.

Not only should you keep your spelling in check to maintain professionalism with your audience, but it’s an important part of keeping your emails out of your subscribers’ spam folders.

10. Your Recipient Marked Your Email as “Spam.”

What is one of the most obvious ways your emails end up in spam? Your reader marked it as spam. Simple, yet scary.

Why Email Goes to Spam: Causes, Factors & Solutions

You should never get to the place where your subscribers are marking your emails as spam.

Some of the most common reasons why opted-in subscribers mark emails as spam are:

  • No clear, easy-to-find “unsubscribe” button

  • Sending frequency increased dramatically quickly

  • Not sending regular emails (i.e., once every 3 months)

With the last point – yes, you can be marked as spam if you don’t send emails often enough. You’ll get marked as spam this way because people will forget about you.

If you only send an email once every few months, you’re going to be forgotten. So when you do finally send that once-a-quarter email, people honestly won’t remember ever signing up to your emails. “Who is this guy?” That’s why it’s crucial to stick to an email-sending schedule – or at least send regular emails (daily or weekly).

If you’re unsure how often you should send your emails, check out this guide.

There’s no greater signal to email providers that you have spam emails than if people keep marking them as spam.

Every month, if a large percentage of your readers are marking your emails as spam, eventually email providers will just start automatically sending your emails to spam folders.

You need to make sure that you’re only sending your emails to people who actually want them.

11. You Haven’t Authenticated Your Email.

One crucial step that you need to take when setting up your email strategy is to authenticate your email.

Authenticating your email authorizes a service to send emails on your behalf.

This means that you can send emails from your name even if you sent them through a third party. If you don’t have proper authentication set up, then your emails might be just heading directly to spam folders.

There are a few key ways you need to set up your email authentication, including:


  • Sender Policy Framework (SPF)

  • DomainKey Identified Mail (DKIM)

In 2024, it’s become increasingly important to authenticate your emails as Google and Yahoo! have implemented new guidelines for email marketers and newsletter operators.

On February 1, 2024, a new policy was created to improve deliverability and protect against spam that requires email operators to prove that they are legitimate senders by authenticating a DMARC policy.

For more information on authenticating your email, check out this guide.

And if you’re operating your newsletter with beehiiv using beehiiv’s domain (the default format), then you don’t need to set up DMARC. It’s only if you’re using a custom domain.

How To Test Your Email for Spam-Likelihood

Want to see how likely a specific email is to trigger spam filters?

There’s a neat tool you can use called Mail Tester that tests an individual email’s “spamminess.”

Why Email Goes to Spam: Causes, Factors & Solutions

Keep in mind that this tool isn’t foolproof. There are dozens of factors at play with emails that trigger spam filters. This is just one way to test whether the content within your email is spammy or not.

Here’s how Mail Tester works:

Once you’ve finished creating your email content in the beehiiv editor, copy the test email from Mail Tester.

Then, go back into the beehiiv editor and click “Send Test.”

Why Email Goes to Spam: Causes, Factors & Solutions

You’ll have an option to send a test email to your account email as well as additional email addresses.

Plug in the Mail Tester email in the “additional emails” section. Then, hit “Send.”

Why Email Goes to Spam: Causes, Factors & Solutions

Once you send the test email, go back to Mail Teste and click “Test Your Score.”

It will give you a score from 1 to 10, showing you how good this email is at avoiding the spam folder – the higher the number, the better.

Why Email Goes to Spam: Causes, Factors & Solutions

Mail Tester will also give you tips on how to improve your score, so you can reduce your odds of landing in spam folders.

Avoid the Spam Folder With beehiiv

Email is powerful. It’s the easiest way to communicate with your audience. It offers the highest return on investment of any marketing channel, and it’s one of the cheapest ways to stay in contact with your tribe.

But if you’re not careful, your emails could be nose-diving into spam folders.

If you want to ensure that you get the most out of your newsletter strategy, then you need to work on actively avoiding the spam folder.

At beehiiv, we take email deliverability seriously.

Here’s how we help you avoid the spam folder and maintain high email deliverability:

  • Best-in-class deliverability support team

  • Built-in Gmail “email clipping” warning

  • Configuration of custom sending domains (so you own your domain reputation)

  • Highest quality IP reputation per send (via custom IP infrastructure)

  • Ensure legitimate emails on your list (via integrated third-party email validation)

  • Cross-referenced suppression lists to avoid poor sending practice

Are you ready to start landing in the inbox again and take your newsletter to the next level?

Built by the same team who built and scaled Morning Brew to millions of subscribers, beehiiv is the newsletter platform for growth.

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