What creators need to know about ever-changing spam filters

3 min read

In the last few weeks, we’ve seen some adjustments in the deliverability world.

For some senders, messages that normally go to the inbox were going to the spam folder, especially for their Gmail subscribers. Even when checking my own spam folder, I found emails from some of my favorite creators and businesses, all using a wide variety of ESPs (email service providers) to send their messages. So, what’s going on?

Spammers have been targeting Gmail’s spam filtering system

While this isn’t a new tactic, spammers have recently started a large-scale attack that targets the way Gmail filters messages. These spammers have been utilizing many different ESPs to send a single message, then forward the message on to large lists of recipients (outside of the ESP’s system). This allowed spammers to piggyback off the healthy domain reputation of the ESP and get their spam into Gmail inboxes. Our friends at Socketlabs published a great article with more details here.

How this impacted regular senders

Since this spam was often making it into the inbox, Gmail had to adjust their filtering system in order to prevent these spammers from being successful. While no one outside of Gmail can speak to how their algorithms work exactly, it was clear from the rise in good email being sent to the spam folder that an adjustment had been made.

It looked like Gmail was being more cautious than they normally would have been with any messages that were sent from the receiver to the recipient for the first time, such as signup confirmation emails.

As I write this, we have already seen Gmail’s algorithms seem to correct themselves. We’re seeing less false positives (good email sent to the spam folder) both for ConvertKit-originating emails and messages sent from other ESPs.

What creators can learn from this

This is a great opportunity to learn more about email and spam filtering. It’s an unfortunate reality that email is a heavily-abused communication channel and it’s the mailbox providers’ (Gmail, Microsoft, etc.) top priority to keep their customers safe from spam and phishing attacks. According to Spamnlaws, over 85% of all emails are spam.

When spammers implement new tactics, spam filters typically have to shift to prevent the spam from reaching the inbox. Those shifts can lead to changes that negatively impact good email, but the change is typically pretty short-lived. Mailbox providers like Gmail use signals from subscribers to adjust their algorithms, so when your subscribers mark your message as “not spam”, they’re doing important work to re-train the spam filters.

Here are some best practices creators should keep in mind to keep their inbox placement consistent:

  • Only email subscribers who have opted-in to receive your emails and utilize double opt-in to keep your list clean from bot signups.
  • Send at a consistent cadence. This helps mailbox providers know when to expect your messages and keep your inbox placement steady.
  • Keep your content quality high. Of course this is easier said than done, but make sure you’re sending emails that will provide value to your subscribers so that they’ll be more likely to engage with your messages.
  • If you have a DMARC record on your domain, you’ll need to have a verified sending domain in place to reach the inbox.
  • Be careful with the links you include in your email. The links in your email carry a reputation, and if you include a link with poor reputation, your message might land in spam or bounce. For example, link shorteners often have reputation issues.

For more deliverability best practices, listen to the Deliverability Defined podcast.

We’re here to help

As we’ve learned from the recent changes in open tracking, email is ever-evolving. It’s important for email senders to stay up-to-date and flexible when mailbox providers make adjustments. As long as you stay focused on sending emails that your audience loves, your messages will find their way back to the inbox.

As always, if you’re experiencing any deliverability issues, you can always reach out to our deliverability team at ConvertKit. We’d love to dive in and help!

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Alyssa Dulin

Alyssa is a Deliverability Lead located in Nashville, TN. She loves helping senders reach the inbox of their subscribers. Outside of work, Alyssa enjoys traveling, indoor cycling, and spending time with family.

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