How to avoid your email going to spam

How to avoid your email going to spam

Deliverability is a word you will quickly come across when you start investing in email marketing. Deliverability refers to the percentage of your emails that reach the recipient’s inbox.

In this section, we cover what you can do to improve deliverability so that your emails get delivered and read.

Table of contents

Maintain your email reputation

Email reputation, sender reputation, domain reputation – the name of the game – basically, it’s a rating scale that determines how trustworthy you, or rather your email sender, are in the online world. In other words, it determines whether you are a spammer or not.

This score is calculated based on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and email programs, which analyze various factors based on your behavior. In the end, you get a score between 0 and 100 which determines your sender’s reputation:

  • 0-70 – Poor. Your sender’s reputation needs repair.
  • 70-80 – Average. Continue as you are. Make some improvements.
  • 80+ – Good. Good reputation.

Reputation is determined by, among other things:

  • The number of mailings you do
  • The number of complaints (spam reports)
  • Number of bounces
  • The number of people who end up in spam
  • The number of inactive/old email addresses

As you have already guessed, a low score leads to a reduced chance of your emails reaching your recipient’s inboxes, and thus affects the success of your email marketing efforts.

Depending on your reputation, recipient servers will act differently. Either the emails go through, go to spam, or bounce altogether. In the worst case, your sender may be blocked.

Fortunately, you can influence some of these. In particular, you can influence how often your recipients will flag your spam mailings. For example, by:

  • Being clear about expectations – how often and what you will send
  • Keeping your promises – don’t start sending things the recipient is not interested in
  • Writing valuable content
  • Not buying email lists

You can do a lot to boost your reputation. Partly it’s about following the advice we’ve gone over earlier. Below we list what you need to consider to maintain and improve your reputation.

Keep your promises

We’ll do it again. As long as you send emails your recipients have signed up for and expect to receive from you, you’re on the right path. If you have an imbalance between sales and value-added emails, you risk your emails being classified as spam.

Recipients get tired of too many sales emails. So it’s all about expectations, just like in any relationship. What is it that you promised when people started subscribing to your emails? Are you delivering what you promised, or have you started to fall short?

Always ask yourself – Would I want to receive my emails? Would I appreciate the number of emails I send?

Use a custom domain

Use your domain. Send from an email address from one of the free email programs. It looks professional, builds your brand, and helps ensure your emails get to the right inbox.

Email programs such as Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, and Outlook use DMARC, a form of stamping that helps them protect themselves from spammers sending emails from their network. Unauthorized email from these programs risks ending up in the spam folder.

So they detect that mailing has been sent from an email address with “their name” but if they cannot map that it has been sent from their servers, they will stop the mailing.

Get on the email whitelist

You can ask the recipient to add you to their contact list – this is called whitelisting the recipient. By whitelisting your email address, your recipients let their mail servers and email programs know they want to receive your emails.

For example, you can write:

“To be sure you receive our emails, please add our sender [] to your contact list. By adding it, you can be sure that our messages will reach you.”

How they go about whitelisting your sender address depends on which email program they use. See the instructions below to attach some of the most common email programs. Instruct the recipient to transfer the email from the “Campaign” tab to the inbox.

Instructions for safe-listing in different email programs:


  • Log in to your account
  • Open the email in your inbox
  • Hover over the sender’s name until a window opens
  • Select “Add as contact” to save the sender to your contact list


  • Log in to your account
  • Hover over Settings and click on Settings
  • Under Settings, select Filter from the menu and click Add
  • Enter a filter name
  • Select “Contains” under Senders
  • Enter the sender’s email address in the text field
  • Select “Inbox” under Move to and click on “Save”


  • Click on Settings in the top right corner of the menu.
  • Select “Options”/”Options”
  • Select “Safe and blocked senders” and click “Safe senders”
  • Enter the email address of the sender you want to whitelist and click “Add to list”

Outlook 2003 and later

  • Right-click on the message in your inbox
  • Select “Junk mail” from the menu
  • Then click “Add sender to safe senders list”


  • Select “Mail” and then “Preferences” from the top menu
  • Go to “Rules” and click on “Add Rule”
  • Enter a name for your rule
  • Use the following settings – If any of the following conditions are met: From Contains [enter the sender’s email address]. Select Move Message to mailbox: Inbox
  • Click “OK” to save

Let go of subscribers if you don't match

You want to keep the number of people who rate your spam mailings as low as possible. That’s why you should always include as clear an unsubscribe link as possible. Instead of a subscriber who’s tired of your mailings classifying your emails as spam, they’re doing you a favor by clicking on the unsubscribe link.

I understand what you’re thinking. Including a clear unsubscribe link will mean you have to let go of subscribers, you’ve struggled to bring in. Instead of focusing on the subscribers you are losing, I would advise you to focus on your goal with your email marketing.

Maybe your goal is to sell more, create engagement, and get more traffic to your website. Subscribers who neither open nor click through on your emails are not likely to contribute to your goals regardless, so there’s no point in saving on them.

Develop the customer relationship or end it

On the same theme, it’s a good idea to proactively keep track of unengaged contacts, i.e. people who have registered a correct email address but haven’t opened or engaged with your mailings for a long time.

Most likely, their interest has changed. Perhaps they signed up to receive a specific offer, have changed email addresses, or most likely, haven’t had time to open their email. If a recipient hasn’t opened your emails for months, it may be worth taking action to either engage the contact or remove them from the list.

One idea is to segment your email lists based on activity and offer different options depending on engagement and interest. For example, you could segment them based on whether they are completely inactive, semi-inactive, or active.

You can also ask for new consent. You risk getting a lot of unsubscribes, but at the same time, you get a list of people who want your emails. And you don’t risk them flagging your mailings as spam.

Add DNS settings

SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) are two settings that you should add if you use a newsletter service. These settings help the recipients’ mail servers to understand that your emails are legitimate and that no one is trying to impersonate you (a spammer). Here is a guide on how to add these settings.

Over to you

Now you know how to avoid spam, befriend the spam filters and the subscribers. In the final part of this guide, we’ll look at the mistakes you should avoid with email marketing.

Keep reading