Gmail Spam Algorithm Change

Seeing a drop in opens or clickthroughs on your email? It could be due to a change in the algorithm Gmail uses to flag spam. I haven’t pinned down the exact timing, but a few days ago I noticed that my Gmail inbox seemed a little less full than usual. I get plenty of email and use Gmail as my unified inbox, so I wasn’t unhappy to have a few less items to deal with. But, after a couple of days, I found the low volume of inbound mail odd and looked in my spam folder. To my surprise, amid all of the bogus coupon offers, pitches for green coffee extract, and various, ummm, performance enhancers, I found many legitimate mail items.

The legit mail that was sent to spam was diverse – personal emails, newsletters, daily deal offers, sale notices from merchants I do business with, online order confirmations, order shipment notifications, even a transaction verification from a domain registrar. These were all items that had been finding their way to my inbox with no problems a few days earlier. I often opened mail items from these senders, and even enabled images in a few cases, so a “learning” spam filter should have figured out that these items weren’t spam.

I’m hoping this issue is just affecting me, though I didn’t change any settings. A few months ago, Google reported that they had hit the 350 million mark for Gmail users. If this is indeed a change that affects that entire base, email interaction numbers are going to take a hit. Customer service problems will spike, too, when important ecommerce communications get lost in a sea of spam.

Off to investigate a little more… [Added: It appears that the new filter kicked in around August 14 – that’s when senders who were previously fine started going to the spam folder.]

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  1. Oli

    There have been rumors that if emails have been unopened x number of times in a row that sender will be sent to spam. Very annoying move imo.

    • Roger Dooley
      Roger Dooley12-09-2012

      That’s interesting, Oli. If true, I don’t like it much either. I often scan headlines and the inline preview snippet to determine if I want to open something, and that’s no indication of spamminess.


  2. Phil Simon
    Phil Simon12-07-2012

    Thanks for this. I was wondering about this. Makes sense.

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