Why Do My Emails Go to Spam? The Role of Engagement

How to Send Email to Inbox: the Role of Engagement

What ISP look at engagement?

Recipient engagement is becoming more and more important in your ability to deliver email to an Inbox though there is only one ISP that looks at an email engagement at a high level. It's Google.

There is a couple of others that do it as well – primary Microsoft and Yahoo. As to all other global and regional providers, they don't look at email engagement when making Inbox or spam decisions. There are a few reasons why:

1) They are too far behind on spam filtering technology to build their own solution. Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo are very large networks and have a clutter of data at their disposal to make very informed decisions.

2) It takes a lot of financial and technical resources to build something and do it correctly at that scale.

3) They end up using third party filtering solutions like Cloudmark, Barracuda, Spam Experts etc. So, essentially they are outsourcing their spam filtering technologies.

When it comes to engagement, Google is by far the most advanced ISP. They look at many data points to decipher whether the message should go to an Inbox or to a spam folder.

They look how often a user logs into their mailbox, how much time they spend there, how they navigate between the different tabs and folders.

After Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are taking engagement signals into consideration but they are not as advanced as Google yet. They are largely focused on "spam/not spam" signals from the receivers for the Inbox placement.

How can I send my marketing emails to the Gmail's Primary tab?

The most popular question email marketers used to ask is: how can I send my sales emails to the Gmail's Primary tab? Is there any trick?

The answer is really NO. Google algorithms are very advanced and tricking them is no in a marketer's benefit. If people signup to receive marketing emails, they really expect marketing emails to go to the Promotions tab. This is where they are looking to buy something. The Promotions tab is also Inbox.

When emails go to where they belong, the engagement is higher. When marketing emails go to the Primary tab and attack people to re-purchase, that is going to backfire and damage your IP/domain reputation.

However, if your regular newsletters or transactional emails regularly go to the Promotions tab where they are lost in a crowd of marketing material and never get read, you can try to get them delivered to the Primary tab instead.

Here are good case studies that will help you figure out how you can change your newsletter so that Gmail places it under the Primary inbox:

How I Got Out Of Gmail’s “Promotions Tab Jail”
A Practical Guide On How to Get Out of Gmail’s Promotions Tab

What ISP can and can't see?

There is a big misconception in terms of what ISP can and can't see. For example, it was a big surprise to marketers that ISP cannot see clicks. Some other things that ISP cannot see are: replies, stars, if a user folders a message, how long a message had been in a user's Inbox before they deleted it.

Read:  On the Way to Inbox: Email Authentication and Infrastructure

It's really important to understand what ISP can and can't see so that you can implement the proper strategy and maintain your Inbox placement.

ISP have one major responsibility – protect their end users. They want their experience to be as positive as possible. They want them to spend more time in their email client.

Although Gmail has the more complex exception policy and they look at so many different data points, they have the least false positive. It’s a good idea to sign up for a Google postmaster account and see how they rate you. You will get access to several dashboards:
Spam Rate Dashboard, Domain and IP Reputation Dashboard, Feedback Loop Dashboard (only for senders who implemented the Gmail Spam Feedback Loop), Authentication Dashboard, Delivery Errors Dashboard.

Certain ISPs like Microsoft through their Microsoft’s Smart Network Data Services (SNDS) platform are able to show you spam trap hits. Well the first question that the marketer has is what is the spam trap address. Obviously, Microsoft is not going to tell you that because that’s a level of defense that they use on their filtering algorithms and they can’t just share that information because most people would just suppress those addresses. And if you’re not really fixing the problem you’re still going to have other spam traps on your list.

Microsoft is smart enough to know if you are just suppressing addresses (spam traps) to as opposed to fixing the problem with your list acquisition. What they want to see you do is fix the problem and send email to people who have asked for it and want to receive it.

It's not about volume, it's about sending targeted personalized relevant messages.

It's the responsibility of an email marketer to do the right thing, to send email to the people who have asked for it, to look at the engagement signals and to take that into consideration to shape their future campaigns.

It's highly recommended that email marketers remove inactive users from their future campaigns. There is no point in sending email to the people who are not engaged. It really affects the IP/domain reputation and damages future mailings.

Mailbox providers are forced to introduce filters and blacklists to protect their users from unsolicited emails. Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and other providers maintain blacklists of IPs seen to send spam to their users. IP blacklisting is often the real problem that prevents your emails from reaching target recipients.

Below are good guides you’ll want to check to learn how to find out if your sending IP is blacklisted and how to request the removal:

How to Remove Your IP Address from Gmail’s Blacklist
How to Remove Your IP Address from the Hotmail/Outlook’s Blacklist
How to Remove Your IP Address from the Yahoo!’s Blacklist

Why warm up a new IP/domain?

When we talk about the warm-up process, it’s important to understand that warming up is necessary if you have are going to send a high volume of emails at a regular basis, for example, 500,000 per month or more. In this scenario, it makes sense to get a dedicated IP and warm it up together with your domain or subdomain.

Read:  14 Tips to Avoid the Spam Folder

If you are a low volume sender and/or send inconsistently, then you should better stay on shared IPs which already have the reputation because inconsistent sending will do more harm to your reputation than good.

When you switch an email service provider (ESP), you need to start it slow and start building the reputation on the new IP, domain or subdomain.

Start with 10,000 or 20,000 emails per day and double the traffic throughout the first 30 days. To make Gmail, Yahoo and Microsoft apply the proper reputation to your IP/domain, you need to warm up your whole company.

How to Warm up an IP Address

Read this 11-page whitepaper to learn why and how to warm up your new IP
and make sure you’re doing it right.

 Download PDF

Marketers should take positive and negative signals into consideration. The positive signals would be open rate, click rate, replies. The negative signals would be complaint rate, bounce rate, unsubscribe rate.

If any of those goes out of order or you see an increase in your complaint rate or combinational complaint rate and hard bounce rate on whatever campaign that you are doing, it probably means adjustments and modification.

No signal is a signal too. If you are not seeing enough opens, clicks, unsubscribes, that could mean that a lot of your emails is already going to the spam folder and that's why you are not seeing those things.

On the other hand, if opens and clicks are high, that shows that you are on the right track and should keep doing what you are doing because at the end of the day the people who are engaged are the ones who provide revenue for your brand. The more engaged people you have, the better reputation the ISP will assign to your IP/domain.

If you have different mail streams like marketing, transactional messages, and newsletters, separate them on different IP or assign a different domain or subdomain to each stream. Typically a different reputation is assigned to the IP/domain sending marketing emails versus transactional emails.

How to Stop Emails Going to Spam

Deliverability is in equal parts science and art.

To get to an Inbox, you should ensure a combination of things: permission from the recipients, relevant messages, good email service provider that will set all the technical part for you.

But there are so many things that an ESP cannot control. They are not in control of how you acquire email addresses, what expectations you set for those folks, what messages and content you send to them. This is the direct responsibility of the sender. It's important that email marketers understand their place in an email ecosystem and who is responsible for what as the messages get transmitted and received.

If you deliver emails directly or for your customers, you know that it’s become increasingly complex to get emails to the Inbox reliably. Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail have secret algorithms that determine what content goes where, and they change almost hourly.

Read:  Key Metrics to Monitor for Proactive Email Marketing

Even the best senders, with the best email reputation, have issues like everyone else. When the things go wrong, it can crush your bottom line until resolved.

It’s hard enough to know when you’ve got a problem, but figuring out the root cause requires tremendous effort and knowledge, and it’s challenging to know how to fix issues quickly.

That’s where GlockApps comes in. We watch everything.

Our mission is to provide that advanced level of analytics to help you know the gap between your email service provider and receiving ISP.

At GlockApps, we provide a suite of tools to increase your Inbox and open rates by giving campaigns the best possible chance to reach the Inbox through spam testing.

These tools include: seed list tests, spam filters tests, IP Reputation Monitor, Bounce Monitor.

The seed list tests allow you to accomplish a pre-flight monitoring of your email placement, email spam score, and overall reputation. You can determine deliverability issues and fix them before you shoot the entire email campaign.

How to Send Email to Inbox

The Bounce Monitor gives you the maximum visibility into how your emails are going after you clicked that Send button. Normally, it might take you hours or days to identify a problem. GlockApps Bounce Monitor handles all of this in real time.

It READS your bounce emails and tells you WHY you received them. It breaks down bounces by the sender email address and domain so that you can see which senders have major issues with their campaigns.

How to Send Email to Inbox

It also shows you spikes in your bounce rate over time in the graphic diagram.

How to Send Email to Inbox

The Bounce Monitor Analytics allows you to identify the root cause of deliverability failure and answers the most vital questions for email marketers such as:

Why is my content or IP blocked by Gmail, Yahoo!, or other ISPs?
What do I do with these bounce messages?
Did I end up on a blacklist?
How do I fix these problems?

We look at the data from the ISP or Mailbox Provider's mouth. So we know when you're having problems, we perform root cause analysis and provide suggestions on how to solve problems. This happens in real-time and automatically.

GlockApps helps you become better sender quicker resulting in better Inbox placement, and better revenue at better price.

GlockApps Spam Testing for Marketers and Agencies

GlockApps Spam Testing

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Julia Gulevich is an email marketing expert and customer support professional at GlockSoft LLC with more than 15 years of experience. Author of numerous blog posts, publications, and articles about email marketing and deliverability.