Email Marketing · Marketing

Why are my business emails going to spam and how can I improve my email open rate?

Samofalov Aleksey QA Specialist at Luxoft

February 8th, 2017

I'm hoping to uncover some action items to improve email deliverability.

This week, we hired a consultant to look at our engagement/open rate on emails. He found that we are only receiving a 10% open rate, which is well below the industry standard of 20%-30%. During this process, the consultant also told us that many of our emails are going to spam because our IP isn't recognized as trustworthy.

Every day we send a lot of emails. In the past few years, email has been driving a large portion of our traction and momentum. At the moment, we are using the usual suspects to send emails to our users: HubSpot for all marketing emails and SendWithUs/Mailgun for system emails. Those emails are either newsletters from our company or notifications of user interactions.

Questions for the CoFoundersLab Community:

1. Do you think getting a new dedicated IP will help solve our spam/open rate issues?

2. Are there any quality guidelines that you can point me towards that can help us?

3. Within unopened emails, how can I see which ones wind up in spam and which ones recipients choose not to open?

4. What else are we missing?

Thank you so much in advance!

Josh Levitan Product & Marketing Guy

February 8th, 2017

Hi, Alexey,

You're talking about two different things, open rates and deliverability. Open rates are how many people open an email. Deliverability is what percentage of your emails go to the inbox (versus spam).

Shortish version on how to improve both here. If you want to talk through the longer version, ping me and we can set something up.

1. Make sure you have accounts with all the major free email providers -- MSN/Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo, etc. Do your signup process for receiving email with each address, and check to see if you get the emails or if they go to your junk/spam folder. Check those addresses regularly.

2. New IP addresses can help, but only if you use them properly. If you verify that your emails are going to spam, you can improve open rates and general deliverability by having two sets of IPs for each of your marketing emails and what you call your system emails. You use a lower quality IP to send to all email addresses in your system and all new signups. And then you can set some quality criteria -- say anyone who opens at least one email out of four emails or something -- and move that to a separate list of good, engaged email addresses. You then keep emailing those email addresses from your higher-quality email address/IP. The higher-quality email address/IPs should have substantially higher deliverability rates.

3. Prune your email lists. Anybody that doesn't engage with your emails, e.g. someone who never opened an email, is a bad address and not worth keeping. Even people that get moved to the lists for your higher-quality IPs should get dropped if they don't engage.

4. If you're still getting blocked, you can check with various spamlists and blocklists to see if your IP addresses show up there. You can usually appeal those decisions, and you can appeal to providers like Gmail as well.

5. Make sure your IPs are setup with DKIM and SPF.

6. Make sure you're sending marketing emails with some kind of cadence. If you only irregularly send out content, particularly with very long gaps, it's likely people won't open and/or flag you as spam.

7. Consider triggering system and marketing emails with double opt-in. People sign up, then click a link in an email you send to confirm their email addresses. Anybody that doesn't double opt-in gets dropped.

8. Make sure you're warming up new IP addresses -- send a couple hundred emails to start, if those get through, up it to a thousand, and so on. If you hit your entire list at once, it's very likely to get flagged as spam.

9. Your email software should tell you what % of your emails are spam and what % of emails are opened. You can then calculate the un-opened rate vs. spam rate. Open rates are improved by having relevant content, double opt-in, and by using appealing subject lines. You can A/B/n test different subject lines to a subset of your lists, then use the winner to send to the bulk of the lists.

Ismail Yenigül Project Management and Team Lead

February 8th, 2017

First of all, I assume that there is no problem with newsletter over mailgun/sendwithus.

1. New dedicated IP will help you but not enough. Before choosing new IP, check reputation of this IP from RBL servers or other IP reputation system. You can use for RBL lookup.

2. Read email marketing solutions best practices such as

3. There is no way to know whether your email was blocked by antispam or user did no open it yet. Your mail server simply delivery emails to remote mail gateway. If the policy is deny(no reject), You don't know whether your email was delivered to user inbox or not. But If your IP is in RBL or blacklist, you may get get a reply with a reject reason.

My suggestions:

1. Create SPF,DKIM and DMARC for your domain. This is very important and mandatory step

2. Do not send too many email at the same time. If you send more than 250 email in a few seconds to yahoo,gmail your connections will be delayed. If your are sending high volume email to the same remote domains(especially yahoo,gmail,hotmail), you must minimize the concurrent connections.

3. Process returned/undelivered emails because of invalid or non-existent recipients. Do not send email those addresses again. Otherwise your domain will be considered as spammer.

4. If you are sending auto-generated emails, be sure that you are sending RFC-compliance email. You can test your sample emails using or

Tristan Denyer Front-end Developer and Software Engineer (former UX Designer) at OneMarket

February 9th, 2017

Could be a few things causing this.

One is being marked as spam by recipients. A past email may have caused them to hit the spam button. Sometimes if the 'unsubscribe' link is hard to find, they hit the spam as a nuclear option. This can cause spam filters to be a bit touchy about future emails you send.

Another could be that your text/copy triggered spam filters. Using lots (more than 2 or 3) exclamation points (!!), bold text, lots of colored text and spammy words can trigger the filter. Each infraction in an email is added up and you get a score. If it crosses the threshold you go in to the junk folder. So a few ! + some spammy words + using lots of bold and colored text + an excessive amount of links = your spam score. This is all kept secret, but some googling can net you a helpful list of words to avoid/

I think it may be the DMARC Policy, DKIM Configuration, and or the SPF Configuration on your server that handles your MX Records. You can read up on some of that here on Zoho's site: though you will want to check your specific email provider for details on how to set up your server to be recognized as legit. This happened to me when I moved servers, and was pretty simple to fix using the instructions from my hosting company and Zoho. I am going to guess this may be your problem. Seems like these settings are becoming more important lately.

Purvak Pathak 6+ years of tech expertize in Mobile Apps & IoT

February 9th, 2017

Hi Samofalov,

Many people have provided you quality answers so I am also in line with the same however I would like to answer you for the following:

What else are we missing?

- According to me and per observation, when you are having any hyperlink, any message at bottom of your signature with a picture/logo, in your signature - if you mention your microsites/company logo/some additional links to your accounts i.e. twitter/linkedin or so, there are chances that it may go to spam

Ideally there should not be more than 3 hyperlinks in email body. Also, your subject line also needs to be such that it doesn't depict any marketing activity which people generally mark as spam.

Hope this helps!



Steve Owens

February 8th, 2017

We have been working on this issue for a long time. The spam filter are out of control. My emails go to the spam folders of my own employees. We have had a lot of "experts" work on it. Seems to help in the short term, but it always comes back.

Bary Wilkinson Founder of

Last updated on February 8th, 2017

We have the same problem! We send activation emails to people and those seem to be caught by filters most likely due to the links (?).

We too have noticed that our emails going to customers don't seem to make it to their inbox. We eventually discover they went to spam.

Even working with some colleagues, they tell us our email are going to spam.

We have always operated "above the board". This is a HUGE problem for us too!

AWS (Amazon Web Services) is who hosts our email server. I wonder if this is a problem.

I found this:

Before you can fix the situation, you need to first determine the reason that your mail is getting labeled as spam.One likely reason is that another website, with whom you are sharing an IP address (for outgoing mail) on your shared server, is sending spam, and this has caused your shared IP address to get blacklisted.You can check if your mail server IP address is blacklisted or not using a tool such as this:

Daniel Zucker Entrepreneur disrupts Legal Sports Betting Market

February 8th, 2017

Email providers should provide in-depth detail on spam and bouncebacks. You can dig into results in your email accounts. Are you sending photos or logos in the emails - this is a big contributor to blocks and spam.

Subject titles are also important. Words to avoid are money related, sale related, etc...Also keep subjects short. Less words less hassle.

Have you tried changing the "from" line so as to not always be the same sender?

Amy Zwagerman Founder, The Launch Box

February 8th, 2017

Let me see if I can help.

1. Do you think getting a new dedicated IP will help solve our spam/open rate issues?

I did a little digging online and one step you can take before moving to a dedicated IP is to look at what Google thinks about your site (you will need to subscribe to Google Webmaster Tools). If it looks like your website seems to be located in a ‘bad neighborhood’ (i.e., it's mixed in with a lot of spammy websites), the suggested solve is to migrate to a new host vs. relying on a dedicated IP to solve the problem.

The other thing I will say is there are no real "cons" to moving to dedicated IP outside of the incremental cost (and the time it takes to do it). On the flip side, a dedicated IP will provide you with more flexibility as you grow, faster load speeds and credibility via the SSL certificate.

2. Are there any quality guidelines that you can point me towards that can help us?

The number one thing I would look at is the source of your email list. Are all the names and addresses verified / qualified? Did they opt in to receive messaging or did you just start emailing them? The idea here is that you want to be communicating with the people who want to hear from you and, in the case of business development, qualified business leads.

Once you have your list under control, you can test different subject lines to see what delivers the highest open rate. You can also test different email content (i.e., graphics, text, video links) to see what generates the highest engagement. (Note - You need to isolate each test to one element or you won't have clear results - i.e., either test subject lines or test content.)

Additionally, a quick Google search will get you a host of articles with tricks and tips on how to avoid spam filters.

3. Within unopened emails, how can I see which ones wind up in spam and which ones recipients choose not to open?

One way to see if an email is classified as spam is do a test to see how it shows up on the other side (i.e., set up emails on different servers and see what happens when you send the message). Any email server can classify an incoming email as "spam" or "not spam" or "slightly spammish" based on their own criteria and the criteria changes quickly because there are so many fraudulent spammers out there, so there is no cut and dry answer .

4. What else are we missing?

When you interact with customers, you should be asking them to flag your email address as trusted.

Susan Jarema Agile Marketing, SEO, Strategic Web Development

February 8th, 2017

Josh gave some very good advice below and we've tried all of it to some success.

Many of our clients are experiencing reduced deliverability. Frequently keywords in the content are caught by spam filters by the email hosts and we have no control over the recipient email host. They actually are quarantined without any notification. No one even knows where it is. This is getting worse all the time. Our clients with financial and Africa related content have the most problems and of course attachments get caught more often. I lost a big project because the client was not getting our emails. I now am following up with text messages when we send out something important.

Improving engagement is strategic and you can control this well. Cleaning up your list, good content, an enticing subject line and timing all help. Using a marketing automation tool to personalize messages can make them more relevant to the audience. We all are getting way too much information these days and it takes skill to stand out. You need to create value in your email marketing.

Brian Riback

February 8th, 2017

Samofalov - I'd love to help. Please reach out should you wish to discuss further. Some of the statements you have made leave me to believe there is a bit of confusion on your side as to what impacts/helps deliver-ability. There are also a lot of open questions I would need to get answers to, with respect to your list size, its health, the recency of data, frequency of send, messaging, creatives etc.

With that said, allow me to answer your specific questions:

1. A dedicated IP needs to be "warmed" in that, before you start sending daily, you need to ramp up to build the reputation of the IP (e.g. Gmail isn't surprised to receive email from it, daily). But, if the list itself isn't healthy, you will only cause your new IP to go bad, as well. IP's don't just go bad. There has to be some motivating factor. The goal is to identify it, fix it, and then introduce a new IP (which isn't always necessary, as you can often improve the reputation of your existing).

2. There are a ton of guidelines...Here's a link to my eBook that includes a few. But, the only way to really appreciate what can help you improve your email marketing efforts is to really dig in and study your, specific program and its corresponding data.

3. You can't determine which ones wind up in spam. It can't be done. But, as weird as this may seem, it also doesn't matter. When managed correctly, your emails should simply never fall into the SPAM folder (although it does happen, occasionally, with even the best of programs).

4. It is hard to determine what else you're missing without learning more. I look forward to helping in any way I can.