Email from Website Going to Spam

Ever wonder why email generated from your website is ending up in your users’ spam folders?  In this article, we’ll explore the various causes of email deliverability related to your website.

Transactional Email vs. Bulk Email

First, we must define a couple of terms: transactional email and bulk email.

A transactional email is an email sent to one address, such as an order confirmation or a double opt-in confirmation message for a newsletter signup.

In contrast, a bulk email or marketing email is an email sent to a list of users.  The best example of this is a newsletter email sent out to your audience.

Both transactional and bulk emails have different requirements for dealing with spam.

Email Reputation Score

When you send an email, whether it’s a transactional email generated from your website or a bulk email, there are several factors which impact its deliverability:

  • The reputation of the sending domain (e.g. gmail.com, yahoo.com)
  • The reputation of the email address (how often the email address gets marked as spam, blocked, etc.)
  • The email content (spam keywords, spammy-looking links, too many images, and the use of url shorteners)
  • Number of recipients on the email
  • The reputation of the originating IP address
  • Authentication of your emails with SPF and DKIM keys
  • The ability for the recipient to unsubscribe.

Website Email Options

You can send transactional emails a few different ways, but here are the most common:

  • Directly from the web server
  • Through a known email user via smtp (for example, sending all website email through a gmail address that you set up)
  • Through a transactional email service like sendgrid, postmark, or mailgun.

Out of these three, a transactional email service is the most reliable.

Shared Hosting Email Spam

In general, if you are using shared hosting, your website is running on a server sharing resources with other websites.  As a result, your site could be sharing resources with a site that sends out significant amounts of spam.  Since your site is on the same server, your website’s sending reputation is influenced by the email being sent out by that server.

If you’re using a website hosting solution like GoDaddy, Bluehost, Hostgator, etc., then there’s a chance you could be facing serious email deliverability issues.

Dedicated Hosting Email Spam

If you’re on a dedicated hosting solution through a provider like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, or Rackspace, you might think you’re exempt from these issues.

While the problem is less prevalent with a dedicated server, the fact is, your web server could be using a reclaimed IP address that was previously used for spam.

Transactional Email Services

Transactional email services allow you to send all transactional emails through a central email provider.

These transactional email providers base their whole business on email and have an outstanding sending reputation, which matters because the major email providers like Google, Outlook, Yahoo, etc. base the delivery of your email on this email reputation score.

If the email has a low email reputation score, then it’s immediately penalized and might not reach the intended recipients inbox, or the email might land in the user’s spam folder.

But for a service like Sendgrid, they put a huge amount of effort into making sure their servers’ reputations are never penalized, meaning they immediately kick anyone off that uses their service for spam or anything of questionable content.

As a result, most email providers consider an email originating from sendgrid as a high quality email and pass it right through.

SPF and DKIM Keys

Once you decide to start using a transactional email service, you’ll want to enable SPF and/or DKIM keys for your website and email.  These are signatures on emails coming from your domain, telling the email providers (Google, Outlook, Yahoo, etc.) that your email is really from you.

When you sign up for a transactional email service, they’ll typically provide instructions for setting this up.

Spammy-Looking Emails

Another consideration is spammy emails.  For example, emails with certain keywords are automatically considered spammy (just look at your spam folder to get an idea of what kind of phrases tend to get flagged for spam).

Unfortunately, other tools like URL shorteners also come with penalties.  The reason is, a URL shortener typically obfuscates the original email.

Conclusion

Email deliverability is a complicated process.  However, if you just follow a few simple guidelines like using a transactional email service, you’re likely to experience much better results with your website’s transactional emails.