Has your business become an accidental spammer?

One day, when I was checking my Google Gmail’s spam folder I noticed one very striking ‘spam’ email. Guess who sent that ‘spam’?


It seems that Google’s spam filtering technology is so sensitive that it flagged its own emails as spam! If Google can’t even save its own emails from its own spam filter, what about the emails sent by your business?

This question is especially pertinent to your marketing emails. In the heat of your sales enthusiasm, it is extremely easy to craft copy that looks like spam to the spam filter. As I wrote before in “Why is it a bad idea to send mass marketing emails yourself?”, the executive whom I advised learnt this lesson the hard way.

So, how do you save your emails from the clutches of the spam filter? To answer this question, I’ll first give you some insights into how Google’s spam filters work.

Google has the best spam filtering technology. It achieves that through an artificial intelligence technique called Bayesian filtering. Each time a user clicks on the “Report Spam” button in Gmail, it teaches Google to recognise that email as spam. Since Google has hundreds of millions of Gmail users, it has the feedback of all these hundreds of millions of people to learn how to recognise spam.

What is the implication? If your business sends mass marketing email indiscriminately, resulting in mass spam complaints, Google will soon learn to recognise these emails as spam. If your business does it consistently, very soon more and more of your emails will end up in the spam folder of every Gmail users. That means your email campaign will be less and less effective, even to the point of becoming totally useless, because it will not get opened in the first place. If you do it persistently, eventually emails from your business will be blacklisted by spam filters.

So, these are the guidelines I always advise my clients:

  1. Sent to whom your business already has a relationship with.
  2. Email recipients must explicitly give permission to opt into the email list and preferably reminded that they have done so.
  3. You must allow recipients to unsubscribe from your email list.
  4. Your email must preferably address the name of the recipient—that makes the email more personal and less likely to be reported as spam.

One more thing to take note: In my experience, I find that email users can be very indiscriminate when it comes to pressing the “Report Spam” button. Sometimes, they click on that button because they personally don’t like your emails, not because they objectively deem them as spam. For example, if you send emails about your delicious steak restaurant to die-hard vegetarians, you run a great risk of losing lots of brownie points in the eyes of Google’s spam filter!

So, don’t forget to check that your marketing emails don’t get flushed into the spam folder!

About the author

I am a Technology Consultant, whose passion is to help small businesses reach their full potential through mastery of digital technologies, strategies and marketing.