How To Avoid Having Emails Marked As Spam

Posted bytfgnetworks_nuk3tc Posted onFebruary 23, 2023 Comments0


When sending out an email message to a large group of people within a distribution list, your goal is to make sure as many people on that list can see and choose to open your message as possible. This article covers several best practices for forming an email message in a way that mitigates recipients rejecting your message and/or marking the message as malicious or spam.




With the proliferation of spam and phishing emails in academia over the past few decades, today’s email users have much more awareness and information on what constitutes spam or malicious email and a heightened sense of security. Automated tools have also grown in complexity and may flag and emails as malicious and suppress them before they reach your intended recipient. There are quite a few factors that may cause your intended audience to instinctively reject and flag your message as spam, such as the language you use in your distribution email message, how you choose to structure your content, and how you include files in your message, among others. 

If you are tasked with sending a message out to a distribution list, your primary goal is to make sure everyone on the receives your message. Here’s some best practices you can take to meet this goal, and ensure your message gets through your audiences’ filters. 

1. Avoid the BCC Field

If you are using a mailing distribution list, put the Distribution address in the “To” field. If you end up using the “BCC” field for this, your recipients may feel that the message was sent to them accidentally, or that they are not the target for your message, and you’ll wind up with less engagement and response. You’d be much less likely to reply or take action on an email that is not addressed to you, or a group that you’re part of. It’s like getting a mailed letter addressed to “Occupant”!

2. An Effective Subject Line Matters

The quality of your subject line is extremely important, since this is what gets people to read your messages! To maximize effectiveness of your subject line: 

  • State a brief synopsis of the message. 
  • Never leave the subject blank.
  • Avoid trigger words like “New”, “Free”, or “Cancel” – these can trigger auto-spam filters (more on this later.)
  • Avoid excessive punctuation, unnecessary capitalization, and bad spelling/grammar. 

​​​​​​3. How to Handle Images

If you are using image files in your message, don’t upload them as attachments. Instead, embed them in the body of the message. If you do embed images, make sure they’re not too big and are appropriately sized for both mobile and desktop access. Also, if you embed images, add alt-text to your images, to ensure recipients who use screen readers or are unable to load images can still get the concept of what’s on the images. This also tells spam filters what the file is about! Lastly, do not send emails containing ONLY the image, even if all the information is on it. Always make sure to provide at least the synopsis of the image in the email body.

4. File Attachments

Regarding files, limit the types of files you attach to commonly known extensions, such as .pdf files. Avoid .zip, .exe, or .dmg files as those may be viewed as malicious (even if they’re not). Avoid using .pages files or other files that are specific ONLY to Macs or PCs, as your audience may not be able to open/access these files. Avoid sending movie files like .avi, .mov, or .mp4 – these are simply too big. 

If it’s a viable option, consider hosting the file in Google Drive and sharing a link to it, instead of attaching static versions for each recipient. The advantage of this is that if the file needs to be changed, instead of having to re-email everyone the new version, you can simply make the changes to the file itself on Google, and the link they all have will then point to the updated version!

5. The Spell Checker isn’t always right

Even if you use the spell check function, ALWAYS read your messages before going out. Many times, words that are not correct (but spelled correctly) may be missed! For example: 

“What we have hear is the beast way four us too move forward.”

Nothing is misspelled, but does this sentence make sense?

6. Avoid Spam Filters by Watching your Language

Some spam filters are triggered by certain words in the subject line or the body of the email. If possible, avoid using these words too often, especially in the subject line: 


7. Personalize if possible

People tend to open and follow through on email messages if they include that person’s name, or something else in the subject that assures them that the email is related to them and important. If you’re sending to a large distribution list, it may not be possible to personalize individual emails, but some distribution lists are geared to a specific group, such as “adjunct faculty”, for example. When composing a message to the distribution group such as “Adjunct faculty”, make sure to use terminology and language that members of this list associate with being an important/relevant communication to them.

If you are emailing a list of individuals (not a distribution group), consider using mail merge software – this will allow you to customize the subject and body with information relevant to the individual recipients, as well as tracking delivery and click through rates. One such tool is “Yet Another Mail Merge”, a software compatible with Google Sheets and Gmail. Click here for more information on this tool. 

In conclusion, there are a lot of factors that can prevent your email messages from being received and opened by your audience – Make sure to follow our best practices to improve the quality of your messages, and you should see your engagement and click through rates increase. 


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