Why are my emails going to spam? A CTO’s Perspective

Over the past few months, we’ve had a handful of customers switch to Hive after their emails started automatically going to spam with providers like Klaviyo and Mailchimp. Email deliverability strategy is something we’re working hard to shed light on at Hive - hopefully the following info we’ve learned is useful to you as you try to repair your sending reputation.

Here’s a list of things you should definitely be on top of:

1. Make sure you’re sending your marketing/transactional email off a subdomain and not off your root domain (e.g. sending your email from an address like hello@mail.hive.co). This ensures that your marketing email reputation is separate from your team’s internal email’s reputation. Bonus points if you separate your transactional (receipt/fulfillment) email and your marketing blasts onto different domains (although not a huge deal depending on volume and engagement quality).

2. If you’re not sending from a domain/subdomain specific for your email, then you should set it up! Email providers like Gmail score “sender reputation” using a combination of the sender’s domain AND the IP email is sent from. Which means that you can isolate your reputation even further from other senders by sending from a custom subdomain.

Related: 4 Things You Might Not Know About Email Deliverability

3. Make sure SPF, DKIM, and DMARC DNS records have all been set up for the subdomain you’re sending mail on. If any of these things aren’t set properly, then you should expect your deliverability to suffer. You can verify if things are set up correctly by looking at the “View Original Message” option in Gmail.

4. Do absolutely everything you can to get people engage with the emails you’re sending them. This usually means that if an email isn’t targeted to specific recipients or its content isn’t customized to those recipients, it’s better to do so than to send a poor-performing generic email blast. Segmenting your list by interest/spending history/other important metrics to your business is key (you can do this in Klaviyo and Mailchimp - we try to make this super easy at Hive.co).

Do everything you can to get people to engage with your lists, and constantly remove inactive recipients.

5. Make sure you’re always removing “inactive” recipients from your list, and only emailing inactives with explicit campaigns to re-engage them. Ideally moving inactives out of your normal list and into a re-engagement campaign that’s automated (this is a core feature of our product at Hive.co). If someone hasn’t engaged with the most recent 4 to 5+ emails you’ve sent them, re-engage them or stop emailing them altogether.

6. It goes without saying: don’t ever email someone who’s marked as spam, unsubbed, or bounced.

7. Make sure new email signups are valid and are real people who actually want to get your emails. If too many of your signups are invalid emails or there is a bot submitting garbage to your signup form, your automated welcome emails to these bad addresses will cause your overall reputation to tank. A quick look at your new subscribers should be enough to rule this out - we take care of this at Hive.co by validating emails as they come into the system.

8. Test your subject lines and email copy for bad HTML/links to blacklisted domains/spammy copy. There are tools online to do this yourself, but some email providers (e.g. Hive.co and Mailchimp) offer this inside their products. We’ve seen some of our best clients get 1/10th of their usual open rate because they ignored the “spammy subject/content” warning and sent their email anyways.

9. Make sure you’re not sending from domains/IPs on any blacklists, and you’re not sending email to “spam trap” email addresses. Ideally your ESP should keep you off blacklisted IPs - if you’re only emailing engaged users, it’s unlikely this is what’s happening (but worth double checking!).

Make sure you’re not sending from domains/IPS on any blacklists. If you’re switching ESPs, use a new custom domain instead of one you’ve used in the past (as this carries over your historical sending reputation).

10. If sending off a pool of shared IPs (usually this is true for most brands on Klaviyo and Mailchimp): if someone else on their product is sending bad emails or has a dirty list, your deliverability will suffer. It’s hard to say if that’s what’s happening without us receiving an email from you and investigating, but it’s totally possible. If you’re sending enough volume (10ks - 100ks a day) then having your own set of IPs is worth it - otherwise you’re really at the mercy of your ESP on this one. At Hive.co we automatically send good email to good recipients off a specific set of IPs - less engaging email is sent to less engaged recipients off a separate set to make sure that bad emails to inactive recipients don’t affect deliverability to the good ones (both cross-customer, and within your own email list!).

Wrap Up

If you’ve checked all of the above and your emails are still landing in spam, starting over and sending mail from a new domain and set of IPs is always an option. Depending on your daily/weekly email volume, this could be simple and quick and is the best long-term option if your current sender reputation is irreparable. We’re working on completely automating the warm-up process so that moving an existing list to Hive is easy and your sending reputation is done right from day one.

This is our bread and butter and we’re always learning more. Email deliverability is sometimes a black box, but you should be able to dig yourselves out of this one. If you have any questions, please get in touch at hello@hive.co!