Dear Doc D, has something happened with the Gmail spam filter? My customers aren’t getting my emails and I’m missing critical emails as they head to my spam folder.

Doctor Digital Says

Who dis? Ha ha – just kidding loyal reader. You may have thought you’d just become super unpopular, or everyone else knew about the email public holiday but you, but the reality is Google has been tweaking their algorithm and the net to catch those pesky spam emails is getting some other real email bycatch.

This is a two way issue, with you missing out on potentially time critical email messages from your customers, and them not seeing the complete genius you are sending into their Inboxes. So, why Google, why? In recent months, Google infused several of its products with machine learning and AI applications. Most recently, Google added machine learning to its robust spam filters in Gmail. According to the world’s biggest search engine, the new protections catch and an additional 100 million spam messages every day.

So, how to train that dragon? There are two sides to consider, incoming emails and where your emails are going. Let’s start with emails in your inbox. Google's spam filters work more effectively with some assistance. You can start by training your filter. The natural reaction is to simply delete spam, but that doesn't help the spam filters learn what you consider spam. Use the "Report Spam" button instead of "Delete," and you'll find that the spam filters will do a much better job of directing real spam to your spam folder instead of your inbox.

The other side of that is making sure the filters don't mark messages you want to receive as spam. To do that, check your spam folder regularly to make sure it doesn't contain anything that shouldn't be there. There's a "Not Spam" button to tell Gmail that it made a mistake - and that, too, helps the spam filters become more effective for you. If you then empty the spam folder after you've checked it, it will make checking it the next time much easier. Like the Trash, although, once deleted messages are gone, they’re gone.

With your customers, make sure on your website that you show clearly what your major email addresses are and proactively suggest people add you to their primary folder or 'never spam' filter. Where possible get customers to reply to your emails so Google recognises it is a legitimate email address and exchange. There isn’t a sure fire fix for this problem, and the more automated Google becomes, the harder it is to get consistency on what it thinks is and isn’t spam.

Another approach is to think about how you do customer service – can you use a messenger service for contact instead such as Whatsapp, or Facebook Messenger so you won’t miss anything and can respond in real time. If there is radio silence when you’ve sent out important emails, you can always do a follow up with a phone call or text, which helps to build the relationship anyway and mixes in a little human contact. In the short term, keep your eye on your spam file and keep educating Google.

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