A Tale of Two Senders: Gmail Inbox Placements Decrease (for some) After Tightening of Spam Filters

Posted by Tom Sather on

On February 10th, it appears that Gmail has tightened its spam filters.  We heard numerous reports from marketers and email service providers (ESPs) about seeing increased spam folder delivery at Gmail, and we are still hearing complaints even a month later.  I looked into our numbers and verified that something did indeed happen on February 10th, but if you have a high sending reputation and go beyond best practices, your deliverability rates probably didn’t move much.

This chart shows two sets of senders:  the red line is those senders who are enrolled in Return Path’s Certification program and the blue are ones that aren’t.  Clearly, deliverability started to sink for non-Certification clients.

Gmail doesn’t officially claim to provide deliverability benefits to Certification customers. If you’re not familiar with Return Path Certification, it’s a popular accreditation list that acts as a whitelist at major ISPs like Hotmail, Yahoo, Comcast and more (click here for the complete footprint).  Our team of Certification Application Analysts thoroughly vet out senders ensuring they follow our strict standards to get enrolled in this elite program.  After senders are enrolled, we are constantly monitoring in real-time to see if members are complying with our standards.  Some of the items we require to get in the program are:

  1. Dedicated IP address
  2. Below average complaints, unknown users and spam traps
  3. Measurable and consistent volume List maintenance
  4. Full disclosure at the point of email sign-up as to what a subscriber is signing up for
  5. Opt-in consent – any opt-out permission level like append, list rental or list purchase is strictly forbidden No sending of third party advertisements – these ads tend to be irrelevant to most subscribers and result in high complaints

The moral of the story with reaching the inbox at Gmail is that good just isn’t good enough anymore.  You have to be better than good, much like our Certification clients. We have many more items that we check, and we encourage anyone to view them, whether or not you plan on becoming certified.

It’s clear that by working with Return Path closely on your deliverability through our Certification and Platinum programs, you will not only increase inbox placement rates (even at ISPs that don’t use Certification), but your deliverability will be more consistent and stable.  If you’re interested in learning more about Certification and to see if you would qualify, take our prequalification quiz.


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About Tom Sather

Email data and deliverability expert Tom Sather has worked with top-tier brands to diagnose and solve inbox placement and sender reputation issues as a strategic consultant with Return Path. As the company’s senior director of research, Tom is a frequent speaker and writer on email marketing trends and technology. His most recent analysis of new inbox applications’ effects on consumer behavior was widely cited across leading business media outlets including the Financial Times, Ad Age, and Media Post.

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