Page 1 of 2

Why are my messages being marked as spam

PostPosted: 11:54pm, Tue 28 Oct, 2008
by H2B2
What can you do to avoid being marked as spam

A number of phplist users seem to have trouble getting their messages through the spam filters of email providers. This post briefly delineates a number of measures to keep your spam score as low as possible and to enhance the chances of reaching the inbox of your subscribers.

Check that your setup complies with RFC standards
Since spammers usually do not comply with (all) RFC standards, anti-spamming measures adopted by e-mail providers will tend to include a number of checks regarding RFC compliance.
- make sure you have a postmaster account ( for your domain.
- make sure you have an abuse account (
- analyse the email header of your messages and check for errors. For instance, check whether the Return-path address is correct. The Return-path address should reflect the message envelope address, which is usually defined through the message_envelope setting in config.php. This address -as well as all other email addresses- must of course be an existing email account. Using an alias may result in trouble.
See also:

Check your Domain Name Server (DNS) configuration
A badly configured DNS may trigger spam protection tools used by the mail providers of your subscribers, and your messages risk being rejected or marked as spam. You should therefore check your DNS configuration and ask your host to correct any DNS configuration errors (and warnings) you may find.
Services to check your DNS are available on the Internet, for instance:
For a list of other available web based DNS checking services, see this listing
For more info on DNS:

Make sure your message content is not 'suspect'
- avoid phrases and wording spammers commonly use.
- do not use (too) many images.
- avoid using HTML tags that could increase your spam score, e.g. iframe tags, multiple large font tags and/or color font tags (better use inline CSS styles instead).
- avoid using scripts in your messages, like javascript, vbscript.
- correct any HTML coding errors in your messages, since these too will increase your spam score.

Avoid sending attachments other than pdf
Be careful with sending attachments other than .pdf files. Attachments like .zip, .avi, .swf, .exe, etc., may trigger spam filters.

Process bounces
In time, a portion of the users on your lists will eventually change their email addresses. This may occur quite frequently with popular 'disposable e-mail addresses' from webmail providers like gmail, hotmail, yahoo, etc. A number of those users will not bother to update their email addresses through the phplist preferences link, and their email addresses will therefore bounce. Since sending messages to many non-existent users is likely to look suspicious, you should make sure you regularly process bounces to clean up your user lists.

Limit your sending speed
Sending many messages in a short time span is often considered suspicious behaviour from the point of view of (web)mail providers. Try using the mailqueue_throttle setting in config.php to space messages apart by a number of seconds.
You could also run some tests with the experimental domain_throttle feature of phplist.
See also:

Other measures
- setup SPF, DomainKeys, or DKIM. See also this forum thread
- consider requesting inclusion in the 'whitelists' of important mail providers
- ask subscribers to 'whitelist' your From: email address in their email client or spam filter application
- Do not disable double opt-in by changing the phplist code base. Double opt-in (or "confirmed opt-in") is generally considered good practice and it will ensure that the users that subscribe really want to subscribe.
- make sure the unsubscribe link is easily available on every message you send. If your subscribers want to unsubscribe and cannot find the unsubscribe link, they will be tempted to mark your messages as spam instead, in order to get rid of them. Eventually this may result in your domain being blacklisted.
See also:

Bulk mail guidelines
Here are some guidelines published by specific providers which might be useful to read:
If you know of bulk mail guidelines from other providers, please post the corresponding links in this thread.

Other resources
SpamCheck - Check the "spam score" of your messages - Everything you didn't want to have to know about spam

Further reading

PostPosted: 12:40pm, Wed 21 Jan, 2009
by Guest
Hi H2B2

Very interesting post, is taking some time to work through but as someone using Google Apps I came across the following that may be of interest to others.

In relation to the setting up of abuse and postmaster accounts, these are already set up by Google which they apparantly monitor. Therefore the abuse and postmaster addresses are reserved aliases that can't be used to create new users or nicknames. ... swer=33389


PostPosted: 6:17am, Fri 13 Feb, 2009
by Gary Winnick
There is nothing you can add to a spam message to make it not spam. Spam is not about CONTENT, it is about CONSENT.

If your member does not have the consent of the receiving party, it is spam and should be reported. This looks like a contact update business. I get these type of mesages all the time for people who I have never met. My CEO gets them from people who attended a speech he made. All of them are reported as spam.

If the message headers do not clearly identify the member sending the invitation, it will likely be seen as spam and reported. I only look at the sender, subject and first couple lines of the message (as viewed in webmail) to determine the bulk of my spam. Anything questionable, I do a closer look.

Re: Why are my messages being marked as spam

PostPosted: 11:02am, Fri 22 May, 2009
by caramel1982
Thanks for this post. It is very informational. I have a mailing lists and sometimes my emails to them are considered as a spam even if those are legitimate email. I really appreciated this forum because I learned a lot. Now, for sure I will no longer be considered as a spammer.


Re: Why are my messages being marked as spam

PostPosted: 6:04pm, Thu 09 Jul, 2009
by Slimey
thanks for this, previously I had ignored the RFC complience, which got me marked as spam

Re: Why are my messages being marked as spam

PostPosted: 1:57am, Tue 29 Sep, 2009
by corey26
Im starting to think that some of my business emails are being flagged as well. What steps would I need to take to ensure that they are getting to the intended target and not being deleted or flagged?

Re: Why are my messages being marked as spam

PostPosted: 11:08pm, Tue 02 Feb, 2010
by H2B2
Here is a useful tip from rickpcb:
rickpcb wrote:You can send a test message to:
You will receive an automated response giving you the results of several tests, including:
    Spam Assassin
    SPF Domain Keys
That should help. Also use the tools at:
to check for open SMTP relay and Reverse DNS

ref: viewtopic.php?p=71866#p71866

Re: Why are my messages being marked as spam

PostPosted: 11:46am, Sun 18 Apr, 2010
by indidginus
Thanks a lot for the informative post. I've got a question about the Check your Domain Name Server (DNS) configuration section. I made use of to check my settings & these were the results:



I'm not sure however if that is a good or bad result! In the reverse dns lookup should I expect to see instead of

Re: Why are my messages being marked as spam

PostPosted: 6:29pm, Fri 14 May, 2010
by JamesK
This is the best thread that i've read on this subject. Thank you. The word "spam" has always kinda scared me as I don't ever want to be called a spammer and have my accounts shut down.

Re: Why are my messages being marked as spam

PostPosted: 12:49pm, Thu 20 May, 2010
by lexi82
With the hotmail account its not that bad, it manages my spam e-mail pretty well.

Re: Why are my messages being marked as spam

PostPosted: 1:15pm, Tue 01 Jun, 2010
by bigloser
I usually had my messages marked as spam though i'm not spamming. I do really have a hard time on this. Your post gives more ideas as how not to have messages marked as a spam.

Re: Why are my messages being marked as spam

PostPosted: 1:38pm, Tue 01 Jun, 2010
by agrassoh

I had the same problem, but after creating these two e-mail account : and

I could find a solution to this problem, but I don't if it works for you.

Good Luck.

Re: Why are my messages being marked as spam

PostPosted: 7:16pm, Mon 07 Jun, 2010
by myrawalker
I was actually facing this problem. However, this time, i think i can get over it. I need to work on these instructions.

Re: Why are my messages being marked as spam

PostPosted: 2:19pm, Sun 13 Jun, 2010
by bestaffiliateprogram
Quite frequently i face this problem and don't know how to deal with it. I have always seen this problem when i try to insert email in html format when i use a lot of images.

So, recently i found that if i try to use plain text syntax then i have almost 80% success rate.


Re: Why are my messages being marked as spam

PostPosted: 7:41pm, Wed 23 Jun, 2010
by livyluv22
using simple syntax has helped me alot. Also not sending too many messages in a short time.