Help! My E-mail Is Being Flagged As Spam

Unfortunately, this is a big topic with many complex issues, but read on for some tips on preventing your e-mails as being marked as spam.  Highlighted sections below are especially important areas to consider.

The Short Version:

  1. Create an @rams e-mail account for testing to help check that the message is actually being “junked” (or sorted into the Promotions folder).  Be sure you enable Gmail’s default inbox type (under Settings –> Inbox –> Inbox Type) to see the Promotions folder.  If your e-mails are being sorted into Gmail’s Promotions folder, I’d highly recommend sending a plain text e-mail instead.
  2. Please take a look at http://www.mail-tester.com, as it’s an excellent free tool to help you pinpoint the source of the problem with your e-mail (it’s fairly easy for a non-techie to understand).  Detailed reports (perhaps more useful to web devs) are also available for free from isnotspam.com.

 

The Long Version:

If you are using the Student Affairs bulk e-mailer tool, you may notice that occasionally your e-mails are never actually being delivered to the intended recipient.  More specifically, the tool is sending the e-mail, but the e-mail is either being quarantined by Proofpoint (ACNS’s spam canner service), or it just ends up in the recipient’s Junk Mail box.  This tends to more frequently happen to e-mails sent to students (ie, those with @rams e-mail accounts), rather than staff.  

Here are some tips to ensure that your e-mails are more likely to make it to the recipient’s inbox

 

Create an @rams e-mail account for testing to help check that the message is actually being “junked”

  • First off, it’s recommended that you create your own @rams account (it’s free) for testing.  Alternatively, you could find a student who doesn’t mind receiving your test e-mails.  If your test e-mails are delivered successfully to the @rams account, then there’s a very good chance it will also be delivered to other students.  Just go to http://mail.rams.colostate.edu to both set up and later access your free account.
  • Note:  It’s highly recommended that you configure your Inbox to Gmail’s default layout (under Settings –> Inbox –> Inbox Type) instead of Priority Inbox.  Also be sure that the checkboxes for Social / Promotions are checked (which should be by default).  If in your tests your e-mails are winding up in your recipients Promotions folder, please see this MailChimp article or How to Land Your Emails in the Gmail “Primary” Tab Every Time for workarounds.
  • Speaking of testing, I highly advise you send test e-mails to all of the following before sending out any mass e-mail (in order of priority)
    • first.last@rams.colostate.edu
    • first.last@colostate.edu
    • somename@gmail.com
    • any other providers you specifically include in your mailing list (eg, hotmail, yahoo)

Ensure that your content isn’t the source of the problem

If your e-mails are being flagged as spam, there’s a good chance that the content of the e-mail is the source of the problem.  To find out, you can check the message headers in Outlook and Gmail to find the message’s spam score.  Here’s how:

Outlook

  • Open the particular email in a new window by double-clicking on the message (ie, it’s not enough to be looking at the message in the “reading pane”)
  • Follow the menu File / Info / Properties
  • Look for a text area labeled “Internet headers” (see screen shot below)Message Headers
  • If you wish to make the text more readable, select and copy the text to a text editor like Word.  However you view it, you need to find the following text: X-Proofpoint-Spam-Details.  It will look something like the following:

X-Proofpoint-Spam-Details: rule=quarantine-eid_notspam policy=quarantine-eid score=0 spamscore=0 suspectscore=97 phishscore=0 adultscore=0 bulkscore=4 classifier=spam adjust=0 reason=mlxscancount=1 engine=7.0.1-1402240000 definitions=main-1503170040

  • Looking at the text, note each of the scores, especially the suspectscore.  If any of them are above 50, you run the risk of the message not being delivered to the recipient’s inbox and you will need to adjust your message (also see these tips – eg, removing links, sending a plain text e-mail, removing market-ese or other language that may be causing the e-mail to be flagged).

Gmail

  • Open the message in Gmail
  • Click the more options down arrow to review additional actions you can take regarding the message.
  • Select “Show Original” and search once again for X-Proofpoint-Spam-Details (see above info under Outlook for what the numbers mean)

Ensure that your recipient doesn’t have an elevated junk mail setting.

Sometimes mail that would normally make it to most users is blocked by a given user, because they have done one of the following:

  • Under Junk E-mail Options in Outlook, the user has selected something other than the default value of No Automatic filtering.  Eg, if the user selects High  or Safe Lists only, your message has a much higher chance of being flagged by Outlook as spam.Junk E-mail Options
  • The user has manually added you to their block senders list
  • The user has manually created some rule that would catch your e-mail and automatically delete it

If any of the above are occurring, there is no workaround, except to contact the person directly and ask them to change their Outlook settings so that your e-mail can be delivered.

 

Still have no idea why your e-mail is being flagged as spam?

Please take a look at http://www.mail-tester.com, as it’s an excellent free tool to help you pinpoint the source of the problem (it’s fairly easy for a non-techie to understand).  Detailed reports (perhaps more useful to web devs) are also available for free from isnotspam.com

 

Tips for Developers

Here are a couple of good links for developers to look at regarding spam: