If you’ve ever wondered why some email campaigns slide effortlessly into Gmail inboxes, while others seem banished to the ‘Spam’ folder, then you’re going to read every line of Return Path‘s latest blog post… Twice. In their ‘Marketer’s Field Guide to Gmail Inboxes‘, they’ve covered a lot of factoids that many of us have wanted to know (but were too afraid to ask).

In particular, there are three pearls of email delivery wisdom in the Field Guide that we’d like to share – as well as how to implement them. So if you’re keen to up your chances of getting your campaigns around Gmail’s notorious spam filters, read on.

Tip #1: Be consistent, get added to your subscribers’ Contacts

If you’re actively looking for ways to battle Gmail’s spam filters, then your first port of call should be their ‘Bulk Senders Guidelines‘. Despite the Field Guide summarizing that many of these guidelines are “generic recommendations that apply to just about any ISP”, it’s a solid email marketing refresher, covering everything from permission basics to periodically sending confirmation messages. Amongst it all, two important take-aways are: 1) be consistent with your ‘From’ email address, and 2) work to get it added to your subscribers’ Gmail Contacts.

Now, the former point may seem like common sense to many, but from time to time, you may be tempted to change your From address. Gmail’s advice is to think twice about this, for the sake of developing and maintaining a good sender reputation. That said, when you’re sending both regular newsletters and autoresponders (or transactional email) it’s okay to have separate From addresses, such as and for these functions respectively.

The second part of this tip is that you should encourage your recipients to add this From email address to their Contacts list. Getting added is a solid sign to Gmail that your subscribers actually know who you are, thus improving the likelihood that your messages are solicited. For tips on how to encourage your subscribers to add you to their Contacts, check out this earlier blog post on whitelisting.

Finally, we’ve just had another tip fly in: Gmail doesn’t like receiving email with -type addresses in the ‘From’ or ‘Reply-to’ fields of the email header. You can read more about this at Thanks to Diana for the pointer!

Tip #2: Setup DKIM/DomainKeys and SPF/Sender ID records

When it comes to improving deliverability, the Field Guide is very clear on one point – email authentication is a must. Their recommendation is that:

“SPF and DKIM authentication should be implemented. Be sure that your From: domain matches the d= in your DKIM record. Senders using shared IPs at ESPs should sign DKIM with their own unique signing domain.”

We tend to agree. Thankfully, if you manage your company’s domain, or are on good terms with someone who does, then adding these records is usually a straightforward process.

Not only is it a good idea to use email authentication using DKIM/SPF to prove the authenticity of your emails to Gmail, but to your subscribers, too. Authentication helps recipients identify your campaigns as not being part of some phishing scheme and prevent a ‘via’ and sending domain from displaying in the email header, when the sender’s authenticity is in doubt. Not bad for a couple of minutes’ work, right?

Tip #3: Get your emails opened and clicked, not marked as spam

This may sound really silly – of course every email sender aims for a massive response, with minimal spam complaints. But with Gmail, there’s an even greater imperative. As the Field Guide mentions:

“…we know for sure is that their filtering is primarily based on its users’ actions.”

Although not getting marked as spam is a sure-fire way to stay on Gmail’s good side, the introduction of Gmail’s Priority Inbox has meant that getting your email clicked and opened in a timely fashion may eventually play a greater part in their algorithms, too. As any old hat to email marketing knows, sending responsive campaigns isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

For strategies and tactics to improve engagement and up response rates, swing by Email Marketing Reports for a treasure-trove of information. And of course, stay tuned to this blog!

We have the technology. You have the clever campaigns

Once you start reading into deliverability, it’s really easy to get caught up in the technical side of getting into as many inboxes as possible, but rest assured – we’ve got these bases covered. Things like ensuring our IP addresses don’t get blacklisted, handling complaints and managing unsubscribes are things which our team take very seriously and our customers can largely take for granted. However, with a little help from your end (email authentication, good content and correct permission), we can ensure your email campaigns get through to your subscribers, time and time again.

To delve into the nitty-gritty on Gmail and spam filtering, be sure to read Return Path’s ‘Marketer’s Field Guide to Gmail Inboxes‘, or dive into any of the countless articles at Email Marketing Reports. Both are sure to give you a clearer idea of what happens behind the scenes of this notoriously opaque email client and hopefully, help you send better campaigns that reach the inboxes of any email client.

  • Julian Wellings

    Excellent summary Ros. Many thanks!

  • Jonathan Cooper

    Great post, thanks. Just thought you should know that your link (in para 1) to ‘Marketer’s Field Guide to Gmail Inboxes’ is wrong. It should be:
    At the moment it goes to another one of your blog posts. Cheers.

  • Ros Hodgekiss

    Hi Jonathan, thank you so much for picking that up – I’ve updated the link. Thanks again!

  • Jonathan Cooper

    Just noticed you have the same (wrong) link in the last para, too. :-)

  • Melinda Plemel

    Thanks for re-posting this piece, I hope you are enjoying the series.

  • Julia Gulevich

    Great article, thank you for sharing.

    As an extension, I wrote a blog post with nine tips about how email marketers can improve email deliverability to their Gmail subscribers.

    I think it might be a great addition and might be interesting to the readers of this post. I hope it is fine to share a link here

    Will appreciate any feedback.

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