Have you noticed a sudden drop in your open rates for Gmail audience? Lower deliverability metrics often leave marketers frustrated, since email marketing aims to convert and communicate to potential customers, desired results and conversions cannot be achieved if you can’t get your messages in front of your users.
One possible reason for lower open rates is that Gmail might be blocking your emails. In this blog, we’ll unravel some of the reasons that can influence Gmail’s decision to block your emails or label them as spam.
Major ISPs like Gmail use sending reputations placed on domains and IPs as a way to determine the trustworthiness of a sender. Reputation is built over time based on several factors like authentication, user engagement, abuse complaints, bounce rates and more. As email deliver algorithms become more and more sophisticated, the sender’s reputation can contribute greatly to inbox placement.
Maintaining a good reputation can ensure that the majority of your emails reach the intended recipients. However, the opposite is also true. Poor reputation is a surefire way to be flagged or blocked by Gmail. In other words, your emails may end up in the junk folder or, worse, not delivered at all, negatively impacting your campaign performance. While improving your sender reputation can take time and effort, the rewards are well worth it in the long run.
Inboxable Tip: Your sender reputation can be held on both a domain and IP level, which means if you are sharing IPs and other senders are not meeting the same list quality and sending standards, it is possible your emails will be impacted from someone else’s dirty work.
Another reason emails are not being delivered can be in part due to rapid fluctuations in sending volume. Gmail closely monitors sending volume and past IP behavior when determining inbox placement. Any unusual sending behavior can raise red flags and falsely identify your emails as spam, affecting your ability to land in the inbox.
Gmail set volume expectations based on previous send data to anticipate what you may be sending. This has been implemented to combat any phishing or spoofing attempts against brands. If you do anticipate that you will have large variances in deployment volumes, it’s recommended to segment your list and send emails over a period of time to maintain consistency in your sending patterns. Besides, be mindful not to overwhelm your audience with sudden changes in volume and cadence, as this can lead to email fatigue. Finding the right email frequency is vital to preserve subscribers’ interest.
Bounce rates refer to the percentage of emails that go undelivered and are returned to the sender by the mailbox provider. Emails bounce back when the recipient’s mailbox provider cannot accept the message, whether because the account address is full, invalid or blocklisted.
Consistently high bounce rates can be the cause of IPs and domains being flagged as a marketer who does not follow best practices, thus lowering the reputation. Therefore, updating your email list regularly by removing aged and stagnant accounts is essential to avoid hurting your reputation. Use a double opt-in process to verify email addresses before you add them to your database. This will help you build high-quality leads and reduce the chances of adding spam and bot addresses to your list.
The ultimate goal of any email marketing is to build brand awareness, communicate with recipients and drives sales. Unfortunately, if your email program is not delivering the conversion rates you want, it can dramatically impact your ROI.
Irrelevant content can create a poor user experience, resulting in low engagement. Hence, Gmail monitors engagement levels to filter out unwanted messages; lack of engagement can cause deliverability challenges, including spam placement.
To make a good first impression, personalize your subject line to entice users to open your emails. Create content that resonates with your subscribers’ interests to promote positive engagement. And make sure any links you add to your emails offer value to your audience.
Inboxable tip: Having a preference center allows senders to understand what kind of emails your recipients would like to receive and how often. Implementing this kind of two-way communication allows email senders to ensure they are meeting their subscribers’ expectations and providing the most relevant content.
A spam complaint is a direct signal to mailbox providers like Gmail that you are sending unwanted messages. Too many spam complaints can severely hurt your reputation and send your messages to the spam folder. This also means that your well-crafted emails won’t be delivered to those who want to receive them.
There are several reasons why users may mark emails as spam — sending emails too frequently, irrelevant content, misleading subject lines, opt-out link not present, etc. If your spam rate is high, it’s time to review your metrics and current sending practices to make appropriate changes.
Besides, keeping a low spam rate is now a requirement, according to Gmail and Yahoo’s recent announcement. Starting February 2024, Gmail will require bulk senders (those who send 5K messages daily) to keep their spam rate below 0.1%. This means senders with a high spam rate may end up on the Gmail blocklist. Keeping a low spam rate is crucial to protect your reputation and achieve good deliverability.
Email authentication allows mailbox providers to verify the authenticity of a message. Implementing strong authentication improves email security and boosts recipients’ trust. For years, mailbox providers like Gmail have been promoting industry standards such as SPF, DKIM, and DMARC as best practices to protect their users from malicious content.
Without DMARC, domains are vulnerable to spoofing and phishing attacks putting email recipients at the risk of revealing sensitive information. Therefore, Gmail will enforce email authentication (SPF, DKIM, and DMARC) as part of their new requirements for bulk senders starting February 2024. Unauthenticated emails might be flagged as spam or rejected with a 5.7.26 error. If your emails are not authenticated yet, the first step is to reach out to your ESP or deliverability partner for guidance. You can read more about email authentication here.
Inboxable tip: Inboxable has full DMARC monitoring built in to our platform. Our deliverability analysts are here to assist with policy creation, set up and monitoring, making the process of authenticated emails straight forward.
Now that we have covered the possible reasons that can lead to Gmail blocks, let’s delve into some best practices to avoid that.
If you plan on scaling up your email volume, we recommend doing it gradually and starting with your most engaged audiences. Sending emails at a consistent rate can mimic the daily volume Gmail is anticipating and avoid any blocking issues.
Before you email your audience, run your list through a hygiene process to purge any risky address such as spam traps, bots, and disposable addresses. Poor list hygiene can lead to deliverability issues including spam filtering and blocks.
Reach out to your ESP to understand soft and hard bounce rules in order to remove invalid email addresses. Sending too many messages to invalid emails can hurt your reputation.
Implementing email authentication can help (SPF, DKIM, and DMARC) protect your reputation and increase the chances of your messages landing in the inbox. Without authentication, spammers can impersonate your brand and erode your subscribers’ trust.
Ensure your emails are expected, relevant and engaging for your target audience. Segment your email list and personalize your content based on subscribers’ interests and past interactions. Avoid misleading subject lines; instead, clearly outline what to expect from opening your message.
Using an opt-in strategy to build your mailing list is imperative to maintain good reputation. This means you are sending messages to users who signed up for your emails and are less likely to mark them as spam.
Avoid users’ frustration by offering an easy way to opt out. Make the unsubscribe link visible and easy to find. It’s better to part ways with unengaged users than to have them mark your emails as spam.
Enable a one-click unsubscribe to comply with Gmail’s new requirements. And ensure all unsubscribe requests are processed within two days. You can read more about Gmail’s new requirements here.
Fixing Gmail issues requires a comprehensive approach, as it involves identifying and addressing the root cause of the problem. Remember that following best practices can prevent Gmail blocks and help maintain a positive reputation. If you fail to prioritize these practices, you are putting your email program at risk, which can lead to missed opportunities and lost revenue.
If you need additional support resolving the Gmail block, contact our deliverability experts at Inboxable. Our experts have years of experience and are dedicated to helping senders achieve email marketing success.
Hiba Khaleel is a deliverability analyst on the Inboxable team. Hiba brings her years of experience in client management and data-driven solutions to her current role, where she helps her clients achieve email marketing success. Her passion is optimizing deliverability rates for maximum impact. Hiba specializes in monitoring and optimizing email campaigns, authentication protocols, data analysis and mitigating risks related to email deliverability. She enjoys spending her free time on long walks and road trips with her family.