How can I ensure that my emails arrive successfully at Gmail?

Gmail is one of the largest email providers for both B2B and consumer mailboxes in the Netherlands. Google manages and also offers Google Workspace for businesses. Google Workspace email addresses follow the same delivery rules as any Gmail address for consumers.

Gmail enforces a strict spam policy. Emails sent to Gmail can often end up in the spam box if you do not consider a few important points. In this article, we provide you with more insight into Gmail's spam policy and give you practical tips to ensure that your emails will be well received by your Gmail contacts.

Gmail itself has an incredibly informative guide for bulk senders called 'Prevent email from being blocked or ending up in spam for Gmail users'. In this guide, combined with this article, the fundamental principles are outlined on which you should focus to achieve good deliverability with Gmail.


This article covers the following topics:

Domain vs IP reputation

Your domain reputation is the most important factor for delivery to Gmail, and is even more important than your IP reputation. Gmail has a highly advanced, intelligent machine-learning model that tracks the activity of each domain. The history of your domain reputation is therefore crucial for your delivery to Gmail.

Because domains carry so much weight at Gmail, you should try to use as few domains as possible. This will help maintain a static, compact reputation. Therefore, avoid using a new domain whenever possible. The delivery of your emails to Gmail addresses will be subpar for at least a few weeks if you use a new domain, as it may take some time for the new domain to warm up.

In this article, we will discuss 'sender reputation', which refers to the overall domain reputation.


Why engagement from your contacts is important for your deliverability in Gmail

Engagement is the foundation for building a good reputation and achieving good deliverability in Gmail, making it the main focus point. The Gmail guide states: "Only send emails to users who choose to receive and read your messages." Gmail has hundreds of sensors that determine domain reputation. Everything you send to Gmail is analysed and contributes to your sending reputation. This means you should send messages to recipients who have opted into your list and have positive interactions with your emails. By doing this, you can build a strong domain reputation and prevent deliverability issues.

Some examples of positive interactions from contacts with your mailings are:

  • Opening emails
  • Forwarding emails
  • Replying to emails
  • Moving emails to the primary inbox when initially in the spam box
  • Marking emails with a star

These are some examples of negative interactions from contacts with your mailings:

  • Marking as spam
  • Not opening emails, or deleting an unopened email
  • Marking as phishing

Spam complaints are a very negative signal that directly impacts your domain reputation. It is best to keep your Google below 0.1%. Anything above this value is considered potential spam, and anything above 0.3% is immediately filtered as spam. We recommend setting up Google Postmaster Tools to gain insight into your spam percentage.

It is important to maintain a clear list in your MailBlue account of engaged contacts who open quickly and have positive interactions with your emails. This is known as 'list hygiene'. The worst thing you can do for your sender reputation in Gmail is to send emails to lists of contacts who do not open your messages. If you routinely send messages to old lists of unengaged users in Gmail (even if these users have opted in and were engaged at some point), your domain reputation will deteriorate. Gmail considers the email unwanted and sorts it as spam.

If contacts do not open your messages, you should unsubscribe them. When you consider a contact as unengaged depends on your business. We recommend everyone, regardless of the type of business, to stop sending emails to anyone who has not opened anything for 12 months and unsubscribe these contacts from all your mailing lists. Ideally, you would use a shorter period. Sometimes, contacts are even unsubscribed after just 30-60 days of inactivity. We would like to refer you to our article on Engagement Tagging. With these automations, you can unsubscribe contacts when they are no longer engaged with your emails to maintain a 'healthy' list of engaged contacts. If you approach this consciously and consistently, you will see that your emails will be well received by your Gmail contacts.


Personalised delivery

Gmail uses engagement to determine the placement of the inbox for each recipient. For example, your email may go to the primary inbox of one recipient and to the spam box of another recipient. This is based on the personal preferences of each unique recipient and is based on what the recipient typically reads and does not read.

A good way to test your deliverability is by creating a new Gmail account and sending your emails there. With new Gmail accounts, there is no data available about personal preferences, allowing you to gain the most objective insight possible. If you see the email in the inbox, you are in good shape. If the email ends up in spam, your sender reputation is not where it should be. Additionally, you can once again use Google Postmaster Tools to get an objective overview of your sender reputation at Gmail, as this data is not influenced by the recipient's personal preferences.

Email Verification (DNS)

Where previously setting up your own email verification was not mandatory (but always recommended if you were experiencing deliverability issues), setting up your own email verification, including DKIM and DMARC, will be mandatory starting from early February 2024. Gmail and Yahoo are launching a new policy regarding email authentication in February 2024.

What does this entail exactly? When you create a MailBlue account, you need to link and authenticate your sending domain, indicating that you are indeed the one sending campaigns. You can think of it as a digital signature. By authenticating your sending domain, you enhance the deliverability of your campaigns.

To set this up, you need to make one-time settings in the DNS records with your hosting provider. You can learn how to do this here: How do I link my sending domain to MailBlue? (DNS)

Setting up DKIM will not only contribute to good deliverability, but it will also ensure that the 'via' header disappears:

Gradually Increase Your Sending Volume

When you start sending, you need to gradually warm up your IP. Gmail considers peak sending without sufficient warming as spam. If Gmail detects such spam behaviour, your messages will be slowed down, and your sender reputation will suffer. Our shared IP addresses are very warm, but if you want to send to large contact numbers, you will need to handle this gradually.

Consistently Send Your Emails

It is important to avoid large spikes in sending. For example, if you have a large list of monthly newsletters, you can divide the list into smaller segments and send the email to each segment over multiple days instead of sending to the entire list all at once each month. The more consistent the sending volume, so the fewer 'spikes', the better.

As a rule of thumb, this "spike" in sending volume is particularly dangerous if it is too abrupt. If you suddenly go from sending to 10,000 contacts to sending to 20,000 contacts, it is already questionable whether this will go well. If you usually send to 25,000 contacts and plan to suddenly send to 100,000 contacts, that will definitely cause problems.

What You Should Definitely Avoid

  • Do not send messages that resemble standard phishing practices
    Ensure that the URLs in your emails match. Mismatched URLs can make your email messages appear to be a phishing attempt. For example, if you include the text '' in your email, the hyperlink behind this text should also link to, and not to a different website.
  • Ensure users opt in to receive emails from you
    This means you should not send messages to a user for a company they have not explicitly signed up for. This also means that all forms of buying lists, adding lists, scrubbing lists, and trading/brokering lists should be avoided, as they will certainly undermine your deliverability at Gmail, and because it is simply not legal. For more information, read this article
  • Avoid opt-in forms that are pre-checked and automatically subscribe users
    You must obtain explicit consent through your subscription forms. You may not pre-check the sign-up box in advance and may not add fine print about sending marketing messages. You may only email contacts if they have explicitly signed up to receive emails from the company you are sending for.
  • Be cautious with affiliate marketing
    Gmail is very wary when it comes to affiliate marketing because spammers often abuse affiliate marketing programs. If your company is associated with marketing spam, your other emails may also be marked as spam. All affiliate links you use must be embedded in the context of a genuine, valuable brand and engaging content. If you only distribute offers to get clicks on partner links, deliverability at Gmail will quickly decline.
  • Ensure your domain is not listed on an unsafe list with Google Safe Browsing

What about the Gmail Promotions tab?

Research shows that the Gmail Promotions tab does not have a negative effect on open rates and engagement with your messages. Messages that end up in this tab are read at a healthy, normal pace. Some sectors even see higher conversion rates on messages that enter the Promotions tab, as this is a convenient way for end users to categorise marketing messages. It is important to note that there is no quick way or method to deceive Gmail to avoid the Promotions tab, even if you wanted to.

For more information on this topic, you can refer to the following help article: Unveiling the truth behind Gmail tabs


Additional tips for good deliverability to Gmail addresses

Here are some additional tips that can help ensure good deliverability to Gmail:

  • Use Google Postmaster Tools to monitor your domain reputation
  • Confirm the email address of each recipient before subscribing them to your list
    This can be done with a double opt-in. If possible, we also recommend using a captcha to prevent bots from filling out your forms. You can find more information about this in these articles:
  • Ensure that your unsubscribe links are prominently displayed and easy to find
    It is better for contacts to unsubscribe from your emails via the unsubscribe link rather than marking emails as spam or becoming unengaged subscribers who never open your emails, thus affecting the sender's reputation.
  • Use a consistent 'from' email address as much as possible
    Additionally, ask your recipients to add this email address to their contact list. Gmail states: "Messages from a 'from' email address that is in the recipient's contact list are less likely to be marked as spam."

Warnings you may encounter

Phishing warning

When sending to Gmail, you may encounter warnings like this: 


This warning occurs when the domain in the 'to' and 'from' email addresses are the same, but the 'reply to' email address contains a different domain. This is seen as phishing. 


Spam warning

You may also come across the following message:


When you encounter a warning like this, it does not mean there is a technical issue, but rather that your domain or content has received a negative reputation in Gmail. We recommend signing up for Google Postmaster Tools to gain more insight into the cause of this warning. Then, review the various tips described in this guide to try to improve your sending reputation.

Important: If your domain has received a negative sending reputation, do not swap it for a new domain. Gmail's advanced systems can easily identify such activities. This will only exacerbate the problem for both the new and old domains.


Avoid focusing on technical issues

It's tempting to spend a lot of time troubleshooting technical issues when you suspect there's a deliverability issue with Gmail. Sometimes there may be a technical problem, but that's rare. More often, a delivery issue with Gmail is caused by not working enough on your reputation, or by violating crucial guidelines that Gmail follows. The list often includes unengaged, old, and improperly opted-in contacts, or the email content doesn't match what people signed up for and is therefore not relevant to them. If you're experiencing issues with Gmail, it's best to focus on list hygiene and engagement, rather than technical details. In fact, we consistently find that you won't encounter deliverability issues with Gmail if you have a good, well-maintained, and engaged contact list.

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