You’ve Got Spam… Or, Not?

Gmail spam filters are the best out there for free email service. Sometimes, they are so good, they’re bad. That is, sometimes Gmail filters out email messages that are legitimate, and wind up in your Spam folder.

Why is this happening to me? I missed a very important email the other day that cost me a new account!

Gmail is not perfect. Nor is it human. But, it can make mistakes as any human does. Think of it like your Postal Carrier. How many times have they delivered the neighbor’s mail to you? And, how many times have you missed receiving one of your monthly magazine subscriptions? It happens to the best of us – and will continue to happen unless you are aware of Gmail’s perfection or imperfection in this case.

If you are expecting a very important email message that a Client swears up and down that they sent hours ago but you don’t see it in your inbox, then by all means, check your Spam folder before freaking out. It’s more than likely that it was filtered for Spam.

Why are legitimate Gmail messages winding up in my Spam folder?

Gmail works continually to improve its products and services. But, so do Spammers.

There is a laundry list of suspect keywords that Gmail uses in its filtering algorithms. Words like: “click here”, “download now”, “order today”, “money back guarantee”, “save”, “no obligation”, “free”, and the ever-so infamous keyword, “viagra”.

These words, among many others help Gmail to distinguish spam, phishing, solicitation, or otherwise suspicious emails before they land in your inbox.

Spammers know this information and do everything in their arsenal to get through to your inbox but, seldom do thanks to Gmail’s filters.

Then, there are the occasional legitimate messages that don’t make it through. They even include messages from Gmail conversations that are all of a sudden labeled as spam. As frustrating as it may be, it still happens.

So, why does this happen?

It is more than likely that the message fits the characteristics of a spam message.

Does the Sender’s email message look like spam?

If the Sender’s email even so much as looks like spam, then it will most likely wind up in the spam folder. This is especially the case if they’ve never emailed you before or they are not in your Contact List.

Is the Sender utilizing the subject line of the email message properly?

By leaving the subject line completely blank or without a distinct subject, the message may be filtered as spam. Additionally, responses with “RE:” in the subject line will sometimes be filtered for spam as Spammers use this technique to look legit.

Is the Sender sending a blank message with only a file attachment?

If the file is anything other than a .pdf, or .jpg, it’s likely that this message will end up in the spam folder. Especially if it’s an .exe (executable) file and the message area is left blank. Sometimes, a simple, “Please see attached.” in the body of message will help. There aren’t many reasons why someone should even be sending executable files through email. They should be filtered and sent directly to the trash and never opened. Especially if they come from a friend or colleague.

Gmail has determined that similar messages are spam.

Gmail’s spam filtering algorithms have been trained to detect spam and the message falls into this category for one reason or another. (“get rich quick” schemes, fake “bounced message”, messages from suspect IP addresses, learned behavior from other Gmail users that reported the email address as a Spammer, suspicious keywords, attachments, formatting patterns, and different languages.

You have inadvertently marked previous messages as spam.

You previously marked messages as spam by clicking the “Report spam” or “Report phishing” button. Both actions will send the message to your Spam folder and remove it from your Inbox.

Help Gmail help you!

As smart as Gmail is, you need to help it learn what emails are not spam as well as which ones are. Simply deleting a spam message will not make similar ones go away for good. And the same goes for the contrary. If you have legitimate emails winding up in your spam folder, simply moving them to your inbox will not help Gmail learn that they are not spam and will continue to mistake them as such.

What can I do to prevent legitimate Gmail messages from going into my Spam folder?

Visit your Spam folder on a regular basis. At least once a week.

Many of our Clients use mail programs such as Outlook, and Mac Mail with IMAP set up, so they rarely login to Gmail directly. Some even forget they are actually using Gmail since they have adapted so well to their mail program. But, in order to utilize Gmail’s settings, labels, and filtering, it is necessary to login to adjust and view the Spam folder.

To view your Spam folder in Gmail, follow these instructions:

  1. Login to Gmail
  2. Navigate to the menu in the top left-hand side of Gmail
  3. Click on More
  4. Click on Spam

To ALWAYS view your Spam folder in Gmail, follow these instructions:

  1. Login to Gmail
  2. Click on the gear icon in the top right-hand side of Gmail
  3. Click on Settings
  4. Click on Labels tab (top)
  5. Click on “show” in “Show in label list” column next to Spam

Browse through the Spam folder and look for any messages that you would consider legitimate. Some of these messages may be from individuals or companies that you subscribed to receive messages from.

To mark messages in your Spam folder in Gmail as Not spam, follow these instructions:

  1. Navigate to the Spam folder
  2. Check the square box (to the left) of the message(s) you wish to mark as “Not spam”
  3. Click Not spam button (top)

or you can open individual messages and click “Not spam” button at top.

Add Senders to your Contact list.

For trusted friends, Clients, and Customers, add them to your Contact list right away. This will help Gmail learn that you do in fact wish to send and receive messages with these contacts and it will prevent them from ending up in your Spam folder.

Create custom Labels and Filters of your own for more control over incoming messages.

By creating custom labels and filters, you can control how an incoming message is handled by Gmail. They also help you to organize your Gmail and sort out the important messages from the less important ones.

To create a custom Label in Gmail, follow these instructions:

  1. Click on the gear icon on the top right-hand side of Gmail
  2. Click on Settings
  3. Click on the Labels tab (top)
  4. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Create new label”
  5. Enter new label name

To create a custom Filter in Gmail, follow these instructions:

  1. Click on the gear icon on the top right-hand side of Gmail
  2. Click on Settings
  3. Click on the Filters tab (top)
  4. Scroll to the bottom middle of page and click “Create a new filter”
  5. Enter the information you would like to filter

Alternatively, you can create a filter while viewing a message by using the drop-down button to the right of the message or in the right-hand side menu More > Create new label.

With a little bit of human intervention and understanding, you can make Gmail work [better] for you.