Home Blog WordPress Management How to Stop WordPress Email Going to Spam & Why it Happens

How to Stop WordPress Email Going to Spam & Why it Happens

 WordPress emails going to spam is a common issue faced by WordPress administrators.

It’s not just extremely annoying – it can also prevent your WordPress users and email subscribers from seeing important emails. This can lead to complaints, bad reviews and lost revenue, among other things.

In this post, I’ll show you how to stop WordPress emails from going to spam, ensuring they hit the recipient’s normal inbox instead.

But first, let’s take a look at some of the potential reasons why spam filters mark your WordPress emails as spam.

Dealing with similar issues with your WooCommerce site? Check out our post on how to prevent WooCommerce emails from going to spam for potential solutions tailored specifically to WooCommerce.

Common reasons for WordPress emails landing in the spam folder

There are many reasons why your WordPress emails may end up in the spam folder. Although we can’t list every single factor that might trigger spam filters, below are some of the most important ones.

Server reputation

A poor server reputation, often caused by using a shared hosting solution, is a common reason for WordPress emails to be marked as spam.

Lack of authentication

A lack of authentication protocols like SPF, DKIM, and DMARC records can cause issues with WordPress email deliverability.

Content containing trigger words/phrases

Trigger words and phrases as well as overuse of sales language is another common reason for emails to be flagged as spam since its content matches the content commonly seen in spam emails.

Incorrect email setup

Using spammy-looking “from” email addresses or sending emails from subdomains can increase the chances of your email being flagged as spam, as well as increase the chances of users marking the email as spam accidentally.

Links and attachments can trigger spam filtering technology if they seem suspicious. This is because they’re a common way for bad actors to deliver malware. A high image-to-text ratio can also trigger spam filters.

Formatting/design issues

Incorrect formatting or poor responsive design, like using designs that aren’t mobile-friendly or sending emails with HTML errors, can impact user engagement negatively. This can affect your spam score.

Inconsistent or suspicious sending patterns

Spam filtering technology looks at past behavior as well as common sending patterns used by spammers. Sudden increases in email volume can cause spam filters to start sending emails to a recipient’s spam box.

Too many bounced emails

Bounced emails are caused by trying to send emails to non-existent email addresses. Since some spammers may guess email addresses and spam them all in the hopes that some of them are active, a spam filter tends to filter out emails when the sender sends a large percentage of emails to bounced email addresses.

Recipients marking your emails as spam

This is an obvious one, but if many of your recipients mark your emails as spam, it can cause your emails to be sent to the spam folder automatically.

Non-compliant emailing practices

When emails don’t follow data protection and anti-spam laws, like the CAN-SPAM Act and the GDPR, they can be filtered out by spam filters. For example, if your automated emails do not include an “unsubscribe” option.

Poor user engagement

Poor user engagement, meaning a very large percentage of people who don’t interact with your email (open it, scroll, click a link etc), can be a clear indication that your emails are unwanted.

Testing Your WordPress Email Functionality

Before you start making changes to your email setup, it’s important to thoroughly test your email functionality. This ensures you address the right issue. There are a couple of steps you can follow to do this.

Step 1: Set up a logging tool

Email testing/logging tools are a great way of logging email activity, clearly showing you if emails are being sent and if anything goes wrong. This isn’t just useful when initially testing your email setup to see if it’s working correctly; it’s also very useful for monitoring your emails afterward.

WP Activity Log is a great plugin you can use for this purpose. It will not only log your email activity but also other changes being made on your site.

You can check event ID 6061 for an overview of emails your WordPress website sends. This will give you an idea of how/when your site sends emails. Best of all, this can be done with the free plan, so you won’t have to pay a dime unless you want to benefit from some of the premium features.

Bear in mind that this only confirms that WordPress has sent the email to the server correctly. In order to troubleshoot the rest of the path, you can check the SMTP server logs. If you don’t know how to do this or it seems too complicated, you can contact your web host.

Step 2: Install an email testing plugin

Next, install an email testing plugin like WP Test Email that allows you to send test emails.

Step 3: Create accounts at different email providers

Once you have your logging and email testing plugin installed, create a number of different test accounts with different email providers. The best ones to use are Apple, Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo! Mail, as these are the four most used email clients worldwide.

Step 4: Send test emails to your test accounts and check the results

Next, send a number of test emails to your different test accounts. After doing so, check your login plugin to see if the emails were sent correctly and if there were any errors.

Next, log into your different test email accounts and check to see if the emails arrived and, if so, what folder they ended up in.

Step 5: Send your email to a mail spam testing service

There are many email spam testing services that calculate your email spam score. These services can give you a good idea of what might be the cause of your emails going to spam.

Mail Genius is a good option for this as it will not just calculate a spam score for your email but also show you what you can do to improve.

You can use this checklist to quickly navigate to the section of this blog post relevant to you in order to improve your score.

Optimize your technical setup

One of the first steps you should take when trying to prevent WordPress emails from going to spam is to optimize your technical setup. This is because there are a number of common technical issues related to WordPress’s standard email setup that can cause your emails to end up in the spam folder.

Understanding the basics of WordPress email

WordPress has a very simple email setup out of the box, which is both a blessing and a curse. At its core, WordPress uses the wp_mail() function to send emails. This function handles email delivery, whether that’s password reset emails or emails about updates or notifications.

WordPress email is functional out-of-the-box and doesn’t require any complex configuration. However, this level of simplicity also has its downsides when it comes to deliverability.

Since wp_mail() sends emails directly from your web server, your server’s reputation plays an important role in email deliverability. If a lot of spam is sent from your server, then emails have a high likelihood of being flagged as spam.

And since many WordPress sites are hosted on shared hosting accounts, where there could be hundreds of different companies/individuals sending emails from the same server, it’s common for the server’s reputation to get tarnished.

Luckily, there are a few things you can do to avoid this from causing issues, like using an email delivery service.

Use an email delivery service/SMTP plugin

Utilizing an email delivery service/SMTP plugin is by far the easiest way for WordPress administrators to deal with the above-mentioned issue.

SMTP stands for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol and is the standard protocol used to send emails. By switching to SMTP instead of WordPress’s standard setup, which uses PHP, you can alleviate many of the problems caused by the standard WordPress email setup.

Although you can use an SMTP plugin like WP Mail SMTP, the easiest way of making this switch is by using an email delivery service. Email delivery services use their own SMTP server to send emails, which is far more effective than using a shared web server. They also actively work to improve email deliverability and diligently vet their users before they can start sending emails.

All of this ensures that delivery rates are as high as possible. Some good email delivery services for WordPress include Brevo and SendGrid.

Send emails from your own domain

If you’re not already, it’s important to send your emails from your own domain and not from standard email providers like Gmail and Outlook. If you’re using an email delivery service, this should already be the case. But if not, it’s an important step to take.

Sending large volumes of emails from standard email accounts like Gmail and Outlook will pretty much always lead to your emails being flagged as spam. As such, it’s important to set up your WordPress email to be sent using your own custom domain name.

Yahoo’s and Google’s new sender requirements actually mandate this for those that send more than 5000 emails per day to Google/Yahoo. These new requirements came into effect in February of 2024 and cover a range of important requirements beyond just sending emails from our own domain.

The new Gmail email requirements for all senders:

The new Gmail email requirements for those sending over 5000 emails to Gmail users per day:

Maintaining your email list

Maintaining a clean email list is one of the most important steps you can take to improve your engagement metrics. It’s also one of the easiest. This section will cover a number of the most important things you can do to keep your email list in good shape.

Adding CAPTCHA to your forms

Before doing anything else, it’s a good idea to add CAPTCHA to your forms. Although this might seem like an arbitrary step that has very little to do with email deliverability, it can actually help you maintain a clean email list.

Spam form submissions are often done by bots, and they will commonly use fake email addresses when doing so. This can result in a large number of fake accounts, orders, or messages being created/sent, each of which could potentially result in one or multiple bounced emails. Invalid addresses that cause bounced emails hurt your deliverability for “real” emails as it increases your spam score.

CAPTCHA 4WP is a great plugin for implementing CAPTCHA on your registration and contact forms. It not only provides a lot of features and customization options, but it also allows you to choose between multiple different types of CAPTCHA, including reCAPTCHA v2/v3, hCAPTCHA, and Cloudflare Turnstile.

Check out our guide titled “Getting Started with CAPTCHA 4WP” to learn how to set up CAPTCHA on your WordPress site.

Use a double opt-in

When it comes to your marketing newsletters and account registration, using a double opt-in is another way of ensuring that only real email addresses are added to your mailing list.

A double opt-in works by asking your user to verify that they have access to the email address they submitted. They do this by clicking a link in an email you send them. This simple action confirms it’s their email and that they want to sign up.

By asking your users to verify their email addresses, you ensure that only active email addresses are added to your mailing list.

This measure works great in combination with CAPTCHA. Although a double opt-in would technically prevent any incorrect emails from being added to your list, it won’t stop potential spammers from attempting to spam you using false emails. This would still result in you sending out many verification emails, something that a CAPTCHA implementation can help you prevent.

Cleaning your list regularly

Pruning your email list is another important step you should take periodically. By removing inactive subscribers or email addresses that bounce regularly, you can improve your engagement rates.

This step is made a lot easier when using an email delivery service. Here you’ll find more metrics/analytics available to base your decisions on.

To do this effectively, make sure to remove people who haven’t interacted with your emails in a long time. Also, remove any email addresses that are causing bounced emails to be sent.

Segment your lists

Segmenting your email lists ensures that you only send the right types of emails to the right person. A good example of this is segmenting your transactional and marketing emails. This means you have separate opt-ins for marketing emails and important emails related to a user’s account or contact form submission.

By not automatically sending marketing emails to people who create an account or submit a request on your WordPress website, you can improve your engagement rates.

There’s nothing worse than receiving unexpected marketing emails from a company. Consider segmenting your list to avoid this happening to your users.

You can also segment your email lists further, for example, based on demographics, user behavior, or engagement level. This can help you further improve your engagement rates while also giving your users a better experience.

Improving email content to avoid spam filters

Your email content plays an important role in spam filtering. There are many different things that spam filters look at when it comes to email content, and we’ll cover some of the most important ones below.

Trigger words and sales language

Trigger words are a common culprit of emails ending up in the spam folder. They include words and phrases include words commonly associated with spam messages, like “gambling,” “porn,” “Cialis,” and others.

Using a lot of sales language like “buy now,” “last chance,” or “hurry” can also be a reason for spam filters not to trust your messages.

It’s important to place your use of these words into context, though. Using a call to action like “buy now” once in your email won’t automatically result in your emails being sent to spam. Your spam score is calculated based on many different factors, so how you use these words along with other factors also plays a role here.

If you notice that you’re using trigger words or sales language in your emails, try removing it to see if this improves your delivery rate.

Text-to-image ratio

A low text-to-image ratio, meaning a large number of images and very little text, can also be a reason for your emails to go to the spam folder. When sending emails, it’s important that all of the important information is included in text form. Also ensure that any images you add to the email add value.

Aim for a text-to-image ratio of at least 60/40 to avoid triggering spam filters.

Your use of links is another important thing to consider. Malicious links are one of the most common ways for bad actors to attack your computer, for example, by automatically downloading malware after the link is clicked. This has led spam filters to be particularly suspicious of shady-looking links..

When it comes to links, there are a few important considerations:

  • Only link to secure websites using HTTPS
  • Try to limit the number of links in your email
  • Keep link URLs clean, clearly signaling where the reader will be sent if they click the link
  • Avoid shady tactics, like cloaking links or using ambiguous or manipulative anchor text
  • Ideally, stick to links pointing to the same domain as the email is being sent from whenever possible

Make it clear who sent the email

Clearly communicating who is behind the email isn’t just helpful for the reader. It’s also mandated by law in most countries. Make sure that the recipient can clearly see who sent the email based on the from address and from name, as well as by adding an address and company details to the email footer.

Also, avoid sending emails from your admin email address. This not only increases the likelihood of emails going to spam, but it can also be a security risk if this is the email you use to perform admin tasks.

By doing this, you ensure that the recipient knows who sent the email and can contact you via other means if required.

Formatting, design, and mobile friendliness

How you format and design your emails also plays a big role in your email’s deliverability. This mainly has to do with user engagement, as poorly designed emails result in poor engagement rates. Below are some things to keep in mind to ensure user engagement  is as high as possible:

  • Make sure your emails are easy to read on mobile devices
  • Use a professional-looking email signature
  • Minimize the use of HTML and CSS
  • Use web-safe fonts
  • Use alt-text for images
  • Maintain consistent branding across all your emails

Unsubscribe options

Including an unsubscribe option is mandated by law in most countries, but it can also help you to keep your email list clean. By allowing users to tell you if they want to stop receiving emails from you, they won’t have to delete your emails or, even worse, send them to spam.

This can improve your engagement metrics and your general email deliverability long-term. But it’s also something that spam filters can use to judge whether the email is being sent from a law-abiding company. Since it’s mandated in most countries, not including an unsubscribe link is a common reason for spam filters to send emails to the spam folder.

Compliance – CAN-SPAM & GDPR

Compliant email practices are not only important for avoiding legal consequences, but they can also help you avoid spam filters. The CAN-SPAM Act and the GDPR are the two most important pieces of legislation to be aware of.

CAN-SPAM Act

The CAN-SPAM Act is a piece of legislation that sets requirements for marketing messaging, including email. Some of the key things covered in this act include:

  • Using clear, non-deceptive subject lines and header information
  • Clearly showing where you’re located by adding a physical address to your email
  • Providing an easy opt-out
  • Honor opt-out requests promptly

You can read more about the CAN-SPAM Act here.

GDPR

The GDPR is a regulation that focuses on data privacy laws and affects every business with customers/users in the EU. Some of the key things covered in the GSPR are:

  • You must get explicit consent before collecting personal data, like customer emails
  • Users should be able to withdraw their consent (unsubscribe) at any time
  • You must clearly explain how you use data

You can read more about the GDPR here as well as in our recent guide on GDPR compliance for WordPress and WooCommerce websites.

Engage subscribers

Engaging your email subscribers plays an important role in optimizing email deliverability. Since most spam emails receive little engagement, spam filters pay close attention to engagement metrics like open rates. These metrics play a crucial role in determining whether your email lands in a recipient’s normal inbox or spam folder.

There are many different things you can do to improve subscriber engagement, some of which include:

  • Writing effective subject lines
  • Regularly testing different subject lines to improve open rates
  • Making your emails visually appealing
  • Ensuring content is clear and relevant to the reader
  • Personalization of email subject lines and content

Monitoring email sending and performance

Monitoring the emails being sent and their performance is the final step and also one of the most important ones. Spam filters are constantly changing and so are email best practices. As such, it’s important to stay on top of industry trends.

By monitoring emails being sent from your WordPress site, you can quickly discover any new technical issues that might pop up. You can then act quickly to get them fixed to ensure your spam score remains as low as possible.

WordPress emails still going to spam? – Work with an expert

If you’re still facing issues with your WordPress emails going to spam after taking the steps mentioned in this post, it might be worth working with an email deliverability expert.

An email deliverability expert can help you optimize your technical setup. They’ll also work with you to slowly improve your user engagement over time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do my WordPress emails go to spam?

There are many different reasons why WordPress emails go to spam or end up in the junk mail folder. Poorly formatted emails, spammy-looking email content, and an incorrect technical setup, are some of the most common ones. You can find a full list in the section titled “Common reasons for WordPress emails landing in the spam folder.”

Does WordPress have a spam blocker to prevent WordPress email spam?

No, WordPress doesn’t have a spam blocker built in. However, there are plenty of third-party plugins that can be used to stop spam on your website. One of the most effective methods of preventing spam registrations and email submissions is CAPTCHA, which can be implemented using a plugin like CAPTCHA 4WP.

Do email deliverability issues in WordPress affect all types of emails, including registration and password reset emails?

Yes, email deliverability issues in WordPress can affect all types of emails sent from your WordPress website. This includes registration emails, password reset requests, and general marketing emails.

Should I use a third-party email delivery service with my WordPress site to avoid spam issues?

In most cases, using an email delivery service is definitely recommended. These services can greatly improve your email deliverability and help to avoid your emails going to spam. An alternative option is to use an SMTP mail plugin that you can use to send emails from your own SMTP server instead of your hosting server’s IP. A good option is the WP Mail SMTP Plugin.

How can I check if my WordPress server’s IP address is blacklisted by an email service provider?

There are many online tools that can help you check if your WordPress server’s IP address is blacklisted, including MXToolBox and DNSBL.

What do I do if my WordPress server’s IP address is blacklisted?

If your server’s IP address is blacklisted, you can try and contact your hosting provider to get the issue resolved. However, the best solution is to use an email delivery service with a dedicated SMTP server to send emails.

Posted inWordPress Management
Bram Vergouwen
Bram Vergouwen

Bram is a freelance copywriter and (technical) SEO with experience in various web development technologies, including WordPress. When he’s not writing content or working on websites, you’ll find Bram enjoying time in nature or meeting up with friends. You can reach Bram at bram@melapress.com


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