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As we’ve talked about at length before, web-based email providers such as Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail, take into account the open rates and click-through rates associated with the email that you send to their users. If your rates are too low, they will start putting your email in the spam folder.
(For more information about why open rates are important, see our article Why Open Rates Are Important.)
But in addition to the obvious concerns and issues related to open rates, there is another aspect of these web-based mail providers – and Gmail in particular – to which nobody gives a thought, even though it is quietly killing email deliverability for countless legitimate, ethical email marketers and other email senders.
We’re talking about Gmail-as-pass-through-email-account.
What do we mean by “Gmail as a pass-through email account?”
We all know people who do it – who create one or more Gmail accounts in order to use that email address to have the email sent to it forwarded to their primary email account. (In fact, it’s no exaggeration to say that we would estimate that at least half of the people we know do it.)
It may be to use Gmail as a spam filter, it may be to create a backup archive of their email, it may be so that they don’t have to give out their regular email address, it may be because they want to create a special email address just for signing up for mailing lists, or it may be for another reason entirely.
But whatever the reason, it means that they are not opening the email that you are sending to that address.
Because your email is being forwarded from Gmail to their primary email address and/or email program, your email is sitting in their pass-through Gmail account untouched.
Which Gmail’s spam filtering algorithms interpret as “This is probably spam!”
After a while, with your untouched email accumulating in that Gmail account, Gmail will start putting your email to that account in the spam folder.
And, when your email remains in the spam folder – unrescued from the spam folder – Gmail interprets that as “THIS IS DEFINITELY SPAM!”.
At which point, if not before, Gmail starts putting more and more of your email – including your email to other Gmail users – into the spam folder.
Now the email that you send to Gmail users in general is going to the spam folder.
Pretty much the only way to get out of Gmail’s spam folder hell is to have a majority of people who are getting your email at their Gmail addresses engage with your email (open it, click through it, rescue it from the spam folder).
Of course, pass-through Gmail accounts can’t do that, because they are on autopilot and largely unattended.
So, what can you do?
The best (and really only) thing you can do is to pay very close attention to your open rate at Gmail and similar places, and mercilessly prune (remove) any email addresses that are not regularly opening your email. Quickly.