At some point in your career you’ve missed an email you should have received. Perhaps it was an RFP you were waiting on, an invoice you’d been looking for, or simply a hello from an industry colleague.
Likely, you found this message later in a junk folder, in quarantine, or worse, you never saw the message at all. Not only is it frustrating to miss these emails, but it can also affect your business’s bottom line.
We get it. It can be embarrassing when you realize you never responded to a colleague, and it is crushing to miss a valuable business opportunity because you actually didn’t see the memo.
In this insight, we’ll explain how and why an email client or ISP (i.e., Outlook) filters emails, and how it keeps our businesses secure. We will also discuss the top reasons that emails are flagged as spam and the steps you and your IT team can do to increase the likelihood of important emails showing up in your primary inbox.
But knowledge is power, and we want to show you what other organizations are doing to better protect themselves from cyberattacks via email, so you can take similar steps to secure your company.
HOW EMAIL FILTERING WORKS
Spam Fact: 91% of cybercrimes start with an email.
This thing we call spam, unsolicited, and unwanted junk email, accounts for more than a quarter of all email traffic. So it is essential that your ISP has tools in place to keep spam emails in check. Your ISP wants to keep your business secure and your inboxes as spam-free as possible.
Every email that arrives in your inbox goes through a filtering process that reviews it for legitimacy and any malicious cues. If the email does not pass the filtering process, it gets placed in one of two places: your junk folder or your quarantine folder if it’s malicious.
Although only one out of every hundred emails are malicious, it only takes one to send your organization spiraling into a frenzy. It’s a really good thing that most of those emails are filtered out before you ever see them!
Before reaching your inbox, each message must pass through three different sets of criteria filters with your ISP. These criteria are:
- Elements of the email – the actual contents of the email are evaluated to determine if something within the email seems illegitimate or malicious.
- The sender’s domain reputation – the score that your ISP gives the sender’s domain is based on factors like spam complaint rates and bounce rates.
- Your engagement with the message – your action or inaction with an email indicates to your ISP whether you are happy with receiving the email.
Let’s take a deeper dive into each of these filters and how the deliverability of emails is affected.
THE TOP REASON’S EMAILS ARE FLAGGED AS SPAM
1. Elements of the Email.
If you find an email in your junk folder that shouldn’t be there it very well could be because the individual email triggered one of these common triggers:
- There are too many images in the email.
- The email uses SPAM trigger words (Amazing, cancel at any time, congratulations, guarantee, etc.).
- The email does not include a physical address.
- There are too many attachments in the email.
This level of filtering essentially determines if the contents of the email are wanted or unwanted.
2. The sender’s domain reputation
Every IP address is rated by each ISP, so if that IP address has been flagged for spam, fraudulent activity, or viruses, then any email from that domain will be flagged as well.
Additionally, ISPs look at domain-level authentication to ensure that the email is actually being sent from who it says it’s being sent from. This level of review does not look at the content within the email.
3. Your engagement with the message
ISPs constantly learn from your actions — how you do and don’t interact with the emails you receive. Have you ever noticed that, if you immediately delete marketing emails from a company you are not interested in, you’ll stop seeing those emails after a while? Those emails haven’t disappeared into thin air, they’re still getting to you, but your ISP has learned that you don’t want them and placed them in your junk folder.
Common triggers for this filter are:
- Clicking the spam button on a message in the inbox
- Opening or clicking on a message
- Enabling images
- Forwarding a message
What You Can Do to Improve Email Deliverability
The primary factors for email deliverability are based on the sender’s actions and ISP setup but there are a handful of things that you and your IT team can do to improve email deliverability within your organization.
If you use Outlook, here are a few tips to ensure future deliverability from senders that are currently flagged incorrectly.
- Click “not spam” on an email in the junk folder from a trusted source or move it to the inbox.
- Add the sender’s email address to your contacts. Emails from that sender should not be marked as spam in the future.
- Add trusted senders to the “Safe senders and domains” list to prevent Outlook from ever sending emails from them to your spam filter.
- Ask your IT department how you can view quarantined emails that have been sent to you.
Your IT Department should be able to ensure that your mailboxes are set up correctly. Different mailboxes serve different needs and should be customized to meet those needs.
To make sure you get each of your mailboxes set up correctly, here are a few questions to ask your IT team:
- What is the purpose of the email stream? What business process is it supporting? Is it for support tickets, sales, marketing?
- What service or server will be sending the email?
- Will the mailbox be utilized to reply to messages, or will it be a no-reply address? Will the mailbox be shared or will it be for just one user? Is a license required?
- Does the domain need to be “mail-enabled” within the client’s primary mail platform (i.e., within exchange online)?
- Who is the main point of contact for the mail stream (particularly if the stream is hosted by a 3rd party)?
Email may never be perfect and unfortunately, we may not be able to keep every single email out of junk folders. But hopefully, the tips in this article will help you make your inboxes more efficient, so you don’t miss those really important emails!
Do you need help ensuring that your ISP is set up correctly? Speak with a Network Doctor expert today.