Why didn’t I get my email from my website?

Question

I had someone fill out the form on my website, but I didn’t receive it. Later I tested the form myself and it went through to me. Why could this be happening?

Answer

Spam Filter

It could be your spam filter. Spam filters have a scoring system. When you (or your provider) set up your email and spam filtering that system is given a score. Anything that meets or goes above the score gets delivered to you. Anything below the score gets thrown into a spam filter.

You probably have several spam filters. Email need to get through each of them to get to your inbox. Here are some places you may have spam filters:

  • Your website
  • Your email server
  • Your email account that you login through a browser (browser mail such as Gmail, Yahoo, etc.)
  • Any mail program you may use has a spam filter (Outlook, Mail, etc.)

Spam filters read your email and run it against a huge checklist of items. Each item gets either positive or negative points depending upon the content, sender, etc. Once the filter is done checking the email, it adds up the numbers and handles the email appropriately.

Example A:

  • +1 point: Email is two paragraphs long (longer emails are considered less likely to be spam)
  • -5 points: Email uses the word “Viagra”.
  • -2 point: Email uses the words “Buy Now” in the subject line.

Add up the numbers (-5 + -2 +1 = -6) and you get an email that scores a -6. If your email filter is set to a +1 this email will go into the trash.

Example B:

  • 0 points: Email is short
  • +4 points: Email address is in your address book
  • -2 point: Email uses the word “Online Drugs”

Add up the numbers (0 +4 -2 = 2) and you get an email that scores a 2. If your email filter is set to a +1 this email will go into your inbox.

Blacklist

Your domain name might be on a blacklist and preventing delivery. This can be because there is a problem on your website that looks like malicious behavior or someone is spoofing your email address. Or, you could be sending spam with your mailing list and got reported.

You should look to see if it shows up on any blacklists. This is a good one to use: MXToolbox Blacklist Check. If you do find yourself on a list, you’ll need to follow the instructions for removal for each place it appears and stop whatever behavior the system thinks you are guilty for.

Bad Email

Sometimes you forward or reply to the wrong thing. If you got an email that had an attachment that had malicious code and you forwarded it, your email could get thrown into the spam bucket.

A good example of this was once when I was trying to help a client. I had found some malicious code in an email and typed a snippet of it as an example to share with the client. It was just text and wasn’t capable of doing any harm — but their email system flagged it anyway. I had to take screenshots of it once I realized my emails weren’t being delivered. Oops.

Lena Shore

Lena is a full-time freelancer and nerd that specializes in web development, graphic design, and illustration. She enjoys building things, learning new things, pursuing creative endeavors, and giving free advice.

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