Troubleshooting Email: Deliverability Problems
We live in a world where spam filters have to exist. But sometimes, spam filters can get in the way of legitimate correspondence. If you find some of your emails end up in your recipient's spam folder, arrive late, or sometimes don't arrive at all, this article can help you improve the deliverability of the messages you are sending.
- Problems with Email Lists, Newsletters, and Campaigns
- Problems with Personal Correspondence
- Incoming Email Filters
- Outgoing Email Filters
Bluehost email servers are designed for personal and professional correspondence, not marketing or promotional email. If you do send out to an email list, you must use an EMS (Email Marketing System) such as Constant Contact, even if it's just a small newsletter. It's risky to manage an email list manually on your own. Laws like the CAN-SPAM Act and CASL set time limits on opt-out requests and strict requirements for information disclosure and users' privacy. Violation of these laws carries heavy penalties. A simple mistake can lead to a disruption of your email services, your domain name getting blacklisted, or worse.
However, if you use an Email Marketing System like Constant Contact, the system will keep you well within the applicable laws and best practices, leaving you to promote your cause worry-free. Email Marketing Systems can give you crucial analytics so you can see how effective a campaign is, do A-B testing, and see what works while maintaining the highest possible delivery rates for your campaigns.
If your domain name is never used as part of an email marketing campaign and your emails sometimes have deliverability issues, it's possible your messages are being blocked by the incoming email filter of the recipient of an outgoing email filter.
- Check Your SPF Record - SPF is a type of DNS record that notifies the recipient's mail host which mail servers are authorized to send email from your domain name. Most modern spam filters consider the SPF record when determining if a message should be marked as spam or disregarded altogether. To find out more about SPF records and how they can be implemented at Bluehost, see SPF Records.
- Use Links Sparingly. Links increase the risk of being flagged by a spam filter. This is especially true of shortened links that are often used by spammers to hide domains or keywords that would otherwise trigger filters.
- Simple Signatures - Keep your email signatures simple. Spam filters will look for problems with HTML code, extra tags, and HTML code copied from Microsoft Word. If you choose to include an image, be sure that the most important parts of the signature (like contact information) are text-based only. Some email clients, like Gmail, don’t display images by default.
- Limit Attachments - Keep your attachment size and quantity low whenever possible. A majority of email and web communication is done via phones and mobile devices, which have limitations for bandwidth and speed. Outgoing messages can be up to 35MB in size; however, many hosts limit 25MB or fewer incoming messages. If large or many files do need to be sent via email, sometimes it’s best to upload the file to your hosting account and email a link to the files rather than attaching them to the message.
- Be Careful with Forwarders - Forwarded email is typically treated with more scrutiny than regular correspondence. It's best to use email forwarders for Bluehost hosted addresses to other Bluehost hosted addresses only. You can set up a forwarder to forward messages automatically to an external email address, but doing so is often harmful to the domain name's reputation. If any spam messages are forwarded, rather than the original sender being marked as spam, the Bluehost forwarding address would be regarded as sending the spam, which can affect your overall deliverability rates. If you are forwarding messages to a Gmail account, consider using Gmail POP3 as an alternative. If you are forwarding messages to another external email host, consider accessing your messages with an email client or webmail.
Hackers and spammers use malware and keyloggers to steal email usernames and passwords from computers and email applications. These email accounts are then used to send out as much spam as they can. One compromised email account can ruin the sending reputation of an entire domain name or even an entire email server. This can lead to a severe service interruption while we work with other hosts to remove the server from their blacklists — which can take anywhere from weeks to months.
One of the ways we protect your email accounts from this kind of attack is through outgoing spam filters. The filters we use rely on a variety of reports we receive from other hosts. If a large number of emails are marked as spam or junk by the recipient, we receive an abuse report with information about it. We also receive failure notices from emails sent to non-existent addresses. Our system will then analyze those reports to determine what content, or sender the reports have in common. Our outgoing spam filters only respond to emails with the content or a sender confirmed spam by several independent reports. This way, the filter can protect your domain name and our mail servers from blacklisting without interrupting legitimate personal correspondence.