3 Reasons Your Emails Are Going to SPAM (& What You Can Do About It)

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So you have a plan and an email list - pretty basic stuff.

You have spent hours or days getting your campaign ready and loaded. The hard part is done! 

And then, you hit SEND. 

After that, you go about your workday for a few hours.... You have some coffee or a frappuccino before sitting back down and checking on your campaign metrics. 

As you look through the stats, you notice that a curious trend of lower opens and clicks has shown up in your campaign reports. People are not opening your messages! Why?!

Does this sound familiar? 

If not, great! But be vigilant. 

If so, you’re not alone! Many large and small companies alike, as well as well-known brands, have been in your shoes. So what’s going on? Is there something or someone to blame here? 

Well, if your email strategy has been stagnant lately, there’s a chance that your email lists are too - - and they are going straight to SPAM. 

Queue the entirely appropriate Michael Scott reaction ☝

I know, right? 

Okay, so now that we’ve pointed at the elephant in the room, we want to help you nail down why this may be happening and what you can do to… you know… stop it.

Before we go further, let’s define what “Deliverability” is. Deliverability is the ability to get your email message into the inbox consistently. Sounds simple right? Well…

These 3 Reasons Could Be Why Your Emails Are Going To Spam

Successful eCommerce Email Marketing starts with the solid foundation of Best Practices for Deliverability. 

It doesn’t matter how well written your subject line or headline is...  or how many hours you spent getting the call-to-action just right... no matter how great the design of the email content is... If your deliverability stinks - it will not go to the inbox.

There are many simple things you can do to improve your deliverability — many of which we cover in our 2020 Deliverability Guide.

With this article, we want to dive a bit deeper into some technical sides of why emails go to the SPAM folder to help you troubleshoot this essential part of improving the deliverability of your emails.   

1. You’re Using Email “Curse Words”

Words. /plural, noun/ (wɜːdz)

They make up 99.9% of an email. That’s why inbox providers, known as ISP’s (i.e. Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, etc.), use little bots that carefully read the content of your email before deciding which folder it should land in. In gmail’s case they go a step further- Gmail checks to see if these are the same types of words that were in an email that the recipient has opened before.

And if you’re using a lot of what has been deemed “Bad Words” in your subject line, preview copy, and email content… you have yourself a bit of an issue.  ISP’s call it the “Sniff Test” - if it looks or sounds spammy, it probably is. 

Luckily, this is fixable! 

It starts by knowing which words ISPs tend to flag as undesirable. And thanks to poorly conceived and executed (and let’s face it — spammy) marketing... there are A LOT of them. 

So to help y'all out, we put together a constantly updated database of Email Curse Words that may  trigger a spam filter. 

We cover every word from A to Z. (Well, not Z but we do mention “Xanax” so kind of Z.)  

Sometimes some of these words — like the word “free” — might be a necessary part of your email copy. 

Just remember to use them sparingly and to watch your metrics or email sends. You can even do a multivariate test to see if something as simple as a change in the word you use is affecting opens and clicks.

Some SPAM issues go deeper than words, though. 

2. Your Current ESP Doesn’t Help You With Your Deliverability

Okay, I'm about to drop a knowledge bomb, so prep yo' self.


A lot of email marketing platforms don’t own their infrastructure and outsource their deliverability to a third-party.

To put it plainly: 

Many ESPs don’t send your emails. They rely on someone else to do that. And that’s bad for a lot of reasons!

If they use a third-party to send your emails…

  • They can’t help you improve deliverability because it’s not something they own and execute.
  • They can’t take full responsibility for your deliverability because they have no hand in it.
  • They really aren’t deliverability experts. And when deliverability is so important, you want experts on your side to help. 
  • In summary, once you hit send that’s it. If you have a bad mailbox or blocked at an ISP it’s simply just not their problem.

Yeah, no joke.

A closer look at your email marketing platform may indicate if they're outsourcing this or not. 

If you use Sendlane, you’ll be happy to know that we own our infrastructure. So we 100% own our deliverability, and that comes with perks like:

  • Access to premium IP addresses with an awesome reputation. IP addresses all have a reputation. We work with our customers to make sure everyone maintains a good sender reputation. In turn, that keeps our IP address in good standing, which is one of the many reasons we have such a good deliverability rate. Some customers have switched to us and seen as much as a 39% increase to their deliverability! That led to an instant 22.5% increase in email driven revenue. 
  • We’re a bunch of deliverability experts. This isn’t a “toot your own horn” thing as much as it is the truth. Our customer service team and developers are heads down in email deliverability every single day. So if you need help here, we know what we’re talking about and how to help you. 

If your current email service provider owns their infrastructure, there could be other issues to contend with. 

From a technical perspective, emails send using both a domain and IP address — both of which relate back to that reputation thing we touched on earlier. 

New IP addresses and domains need to be warmed up, and their reputation built. If that’s the case, you need to start slow with email volume and focus on getting good opens and clicks to build a good reputation. 

If you’re doing everything right on your end and still having issues with email deliverability, then it’s time for a good hard look at the IP address your email marketing service has been sending you through. 

A site like SenderScore can help you figure this out. 

If the issue is with the IP address, it may be time to switch to another email marketing platform with proven high-quality IPs. (Like us *cough, cough*)

There are other areas for troubleshooting deliverability issues. 

3. You Haven’t Kept A Clean Email List 

You’ve read this before, I’m sure. 

But having an email list full of highly engaged subscribers will help your deliverability and revenue waaaaay more than having a massive list with low engagement. 

This part of your email marketing is crucial for staying out of SPAM. 

For instance, if you have a large list with low engagement, that would mean people aren’t opening, they’re not clicking, and they could be marking your emails as spam. 

All of that hurts your reputation and your deliverability and lands you in, you guessed it, SPAM. Digging yourself out of that hole is a lot harder than you’d think.  

On the other hand…

If you have a list of only highly engaged subscribers who open, click, and share your emails, you’re sending all the right signals. Not only will each inbox provider start picking up the fact that you send emails their users want to read, but the individual’s personal account will also make those emails land where they need to — in the inbox, front and center. 

If you haven’t cleaned your list in the last year or longer, now is the time to do it. 

But who should you remove from your email list and when?


Well, keep in mind that someone who is unengaged isn’t the same as someone who is entirely inactive. Someone who hasn’t been actively opening your emails in the past 3-9 months should be put into a win-back funnel to try and ignite that love they had for you at first. 

If that doesn’t work or you’re getting hard bounces from an email address, then it’s time to scrub your list clean. 

You can create a segment of inactive subscribers and go into that list to remove them as needed. 

Or you can automate the process. (

You Can’t Control Everything, But Your Actions Do Impact Your Success

Yes, it’s true that in the realms of deliverability, there is a lot that is out of your control. 

However, what you do or don’t do can still have a profound impact on whether or not your emails hit that fatal SPAM folder. 

The words you use and basic list hygiene are a few easy and very, very powerful ways to improve where your emails land. And as many of our customers have found, simply making a switch to a different email marketing platform was more than enough to do the trick. 

If you’re worried about landing in SPAM, give these areas of your marketing some exploration. 

Curious about Sendlane and want a piece of your awesome deliverability pie? We’re happy to share!

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