Share this post on:


Some email systems partly rely on crowd-sourcing to determine what emails are spam to be put in the junk folder. This is why many legitimate emails end up in your spam or junk folder. If too many people mark legitimate emails as spam, the system may begin doing it automatically.

Common Scenario

Many people signup for emails from online stores. They do this either intentionally or without noticing it.

When checking out, there is an opt-in checkbox to receive emails from the store. People click it, or don’t uncheck it. Either way, they start getting emails from this store they’ve made a purchase from.

The emails are legitimate, from a legitimate sender, being sent to a legitimate recipient, who in some cases specifically requested the email.

When the consumer later receives the newsletter, they may have forgotten they specifically requested to receive it (or didn’t choose to opt-out).

Or, they remember signing up for the newsletter, but when the start receiving emails once a day from the online store, they get frustrated and start marking them all as junk.

In this scenario, with enough people marking those emails as junk, big email services like Gmail will observe that it is happening repeatedly with many different people. So, at some point, Gmail may automatically mark those newsletters as spam. Some people will be elated exclaiming, “Yay! Google is finally identifying those annoying newsletters as spam!”

The people who actually wanted to receive the newsletters will be confused about why those emails are ending up in spam. They will call the store. They will search online for answers. They might try contacting Google. Nobody will know the answer. A tech support person will ask them, “Did you put the address in your contacts list?” They will answer, “Yes, it’s in my address book.”

It’s very confusing for the legitimate person wanting the legitimate email from a legitimate sender.

How You Can Help

Here are some things we can all do to improve the above situation.

  • OPT-OUT. When interacting with websites, choose to opt-out of emails if you know you probably won’t want them.
  • TRASH. When you receive an email you requested, but you decide you no longer are interested in it. Don’t mark it as junk. Instead, delete the message. Marking it as junk just confuses the system. Junk is a specific kind of email that was unrequested.
  • UNSUBSCRIBE. When you receive an emails you no longer want, just unsubscribe. The unsubscribe links from legitimate senders should be okay to use. Avoid unsubscribe links in emails where you don’t recognize the sender. Always hover over links to determine where they will send you. The unsubscribe link should take you to the sender’s site or a reputable mailing service like Constant Contact or MailChimp.

Beware of Scams

You may receive what appears to be a legitimate email, but when we go to unsubscribe we are taken to a malicious website. So, always hover over links to reveal their true destination. Avoid clicking anything that will take you to a website that isn’t the sender’s website.

Some senders use other websites to manage subscriptions. If you are uncertain. Don’t click. Instead, go directly to the sender’s website to manage your subscription preferences.