open rate

Low Open Rate? Your Emails Could Be Going to Spam — Here’s What You Should Do

Email conversion copywriter Chanteuse Marie explains why emails could be going to spam and how you can prevent it.

You just hit send on your best email yet.

Killer subject line that’s sure to catch attention? Check.
Body copy that’ll make Ogilvy cheer in his grave? Checkity check.
Email design to make your subscribers go whoaaa? Cool, cool.

Meanwhile, in your customer’s inbox: silence.

D’oh! Despite your best efforts, there’s about a 20% chance your email could tumble past your customer’s inbox and shoot straight for the spam folder. And if your email doesn’t make it to the inbox, it’s essentially a useless ball of tumbleweed — and rolling away with it is your potential high open rate, stronger customer relationship, and increased revenue.

Worst, your email might not even go to junk at all. (Pssst, your email could be blocked.)

Based on the 2018 Deliverability Benchmark, messages sent to US subscribers reached the inbox an average of 83% of the time, which is below the global average of 85%. 

emails are landing in spam

10% of the time, emails go missing in nowhere island. 7% of the time, they’re banished to spamland.

Today, we’re gonna focus on how to reduce that 7% spam placement rate.

How to prevent emails from going to spam

But first, Monty Python wants to interrupt this article to annoy you and make things generally more irritating. What does a British surreal comedy group have to do with email spam? Watch and learn.

You’d better believe it. The term SPAM (to mean junk email) originated from a Monty Python sketch about luncheon meat.

Sooo… with this spammy etymology out of the way, let’s now look at proven ways to improve your email’s chances of landing in the inbox.

#1: Keep a clean email list

Bigger is not always better. 

Sure, you have tens or hundreds of thousands of subscribers. The question is: Are all their email addresses valid? Are all your subscribers highly engaged? How many of them have clicked on the dreaded spam button?

Bounce rate, open rate, spam complaints — all these and more are being factored in by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) when scoring your sender reputation. Suffice it to say that a bad rep will get your emails thrown into spam jail.

How do you keep your list in tip-top shape to prevent a poor reputation?

A. Do not buy an email list. Ever.

Corey Wainright of HubSpot explained:

“If you purchase a list, you have no way of confirming how often those email addresses have been emailed, whether the email addresses on that list have been scrubbed for hard bounces to prevent identifying you as a spammer, or from where those email addresses originated.”

B. Remove hard bounces before you send a brand new email marketing campaign.

The industry standard bounce rate hovers around 2%. You can use an email verification service like ZeroBounce to help ensure you stay below that benchmark.

C. Prune your list on the regular.

Filter out inactive subscribers who have not opened or clicked your emails for a set period. Remember: A smaller, more engaged email list trumps a bigger list made up of dead weight.

#2: Observe proper opt-in & opt-out practices

Double opt-in for the win

You don’t want to attract spambots, spam complaints, and spam traps like bees to honey, do you?

Yes, up to 20% of initial subscribers will not complete the final confirmation step for various reasons, according to Campaign Monitor. But don’t be afraid to lose a percentage of would-be subscribers. That extra step in confirming a person’s intent to subscribe reduces the risk of attacks from bots and complaints from non-bots.

And just as important, be unafraid to lose current subscribers by providing a frictionless way to unsubscribe. 


A joint Litmus-Fluent research found that 50% of subscribers have marked emails as spam because they couldn’t easily figure out how to unsubscribe.

emails going to spam folder

#3: Use a trustworthy sender information

First impressions matter in getting into the inbox, and it’s not all about the subject line. We’ll tackle that next. But for now, let’s discuss another important aspect of your email.

Your From Name

Studies show that the sender name is a major factor in open rates and spam complaint rates — both of which drive email deliverability

Whether you use your name or your company’s name or both, the key is to use it consistently to build familiarity.

Julie Niedlinger of CoSchedule said:

“Whatever you fill the “from” line with, be sure to keep it the same as much as possible. This trains your reader and spam filters to expect the email from the same sender.”

Your Email Address

You still have a Yahoo email address? Whyyy? And you’re using it to send your email campaigns? Stop!

Sending marketing emails from a free domain will get your emails automatically marked as spam by Yahoo, Gmail, and other ISPs. 

Moreover, if you’re sending ALL types of emails from the same email address, don’t do this, too, as it may land your emails anywhere but the primary inbox. 

Gmail’s Bulk Senders Guidelines recommend separating your emails by purpose to increase the chances of getting important emails to your recipients. You can do this in two ways:

  • Use separate email addresses
  • Send mail from different domains and/or IP addresses

#4: Avoid a spammy subject line & body copy

If you’re a Nigerian prince who needs money urgently, it’s probably not a good idea to use email to request for an electronic funds transfer assistance. That’s just asking for an express ticket to the spam folder. 

You’re likely to set off filters by using spam trigger words

Pete Thompson of Automational added a caveat, however:

“There are certain spam words that immediately raise suspicion. Then there are milder words that are hit and miss. There really is no one size fits all solution to effective email marketing. The main thing to remember when composing an email is to do so from a position of value.”

Other most common spam filter triggers to avoid like the plague:

SUBJECT: Excessive exclamation points, capital letters, and special characters


  • IMAGES: Always strive for balance, be it the oft-recommended 60/40 or 80/20 text to image ratio.
  • URL SHORTENERS: Avoid using redirectors, especially these top 10 blacklisted link shorteners.
  • ATTACHMENTS: Don’t attach any files to your emails (lest you want to come across as a potential security threat).

#5: Stick to a consistent email send schedule

Don’t be all over the map as if you’re Dora The Explorer. Erratic sending patterns can appear suspicious to the spam police.

Return Path suggested maintaining a consistent sending volume:

“Spammers tend to mail huge numbers of addresses at one time, so dramatic increases in email volume may incur a higher level of scrutiny. When your volume must go over your typical cycle, ramp up slowly and distribute the new emails over a period of time rather than sending all at once.”

Furthermore, Corina Leslie of ZeroBounce recommended keeping a consistent sending frequency:

“Sending your emails on the same day every week/month matters because people can easily forget about you. If you send them a couple of emails and then take a long break, it’s very likely that some of them will unsubscribe from your list. And maybe even mark your email as Spam before they do that.”

Put simply, find the best send schedule that works for you and stick with it. 

Email marketing works like gangbusters — only if your emails don’t end up in the spam folder

Mailchimp reported an average open rate of 20.81% for all industries they analyzed. If your open rate is way below that percentage, it’s time to sound the alarm and inspect what could be pulling down your numbers. A good place to start is at the very foundation of email marketing that is often overlooked.

Addressing the following questions goes a long way in keeping your emails away from the junk folder.
  1. Do you have a healthy email list?
  2. Are you implementing opt-in and opt-out best practices?
  3. Do you have a reputable sender information?
  4. Are your email subject line and content triggering spam filters?
  5. Do you have a consistent send schedule?

There are more ways you can improve your inbox placement, including DKIM, DMARC, MX, SPF, TLS. You can learn about this email marketing alphabet here or you can get in touch with an expert team to help prevent spam issues before they even begin.

Because tell me this:

If your emails didn’t reach the inbox, did they ever even exist?


Chanteuse Marie is an email conversion copywriter. Follow her on Instagram for daily email marketing tips!