The other day, I posted about my weird experience of legitimate mail being flagged as spam by Google in Gmail Spam Algorithm Change. After some interaction on Twitter and elsewhere, I found a small number of users who seemed to have a similar experience, but most didn’t. Digging into my own configuration more deeply, I found an indication of what the problem might be: the way Gmail treats aliases on other domains.
When I decided to use Gmail as a unified inbox for multiple email addresses four years ago, I set up the other addresses as aliases to send the mail directly to my primary Gmail address. This eliminated maintenance of POP or IMAP accounts at each domain, and allowed for instant delivery vs. periodic retrieval. And, it worked flawlessly for years. In fact, I checked my spam folder for a period of time, found no false positives, and simply stopped looking in there. That was a huge productivity boost; with Gmail’s powerful search ability, this approach saved me hours per week.
So, when I had to start sifting through my spam folder, I was quite disappointed. I found a clue to the problem in the mail headers. Google seemed to dislike the aliased email. If I got a mail from, say, google.com, I see a “soft fail” in the header because google.com hasn’t approved my server’s IP as a sender. Of course, NO other domains have done so, they are just sending an email to me and I’m sending it untouched from my server to Gmail.
This alone isn’t enough to cause a spam flag. But, it seems, the presence of any other spam indicators WAS enough after last week’s abrupt change.
To further complicate things, apparently Google looks at all the mail coming in from that IP – in this case, 100% of the mail from my primary address – and may tag that IP as spammy if I get a lot of spam. And I DO get a lot of spam. I’ve used this address publicly for years, and it’s been harvested many times. I wish it didn’t, but until now Gmail has done a stellar job of passing legitimate email to my inbox and sending everything else to spam hell.
Is it possible that now Google think’s I’m a spammer? Or at least, that my server IP is spammy? I could solve that by reverting to a POP configuration, but I’d lose the instant mail arrival and would have to administer the remote account.
To be continued…