How do I fix my email account?
August 17, 2022 4:12 PM   Subscribe

A friend I'm doing some freelance work for told me that my email never arrived and she'd found it in spam, and gmail helpfully supplied that "email from [my domain] is frequently spam." I also had another client get in touch with me after thinking I hadn't responded to her, and then finding my mail in spam. Clearly something's wrong, but I have no idea how to determine what and fix it.

A month and a half ago, my publishing client's AP department got shirty with me for not sending in my invoice for a job. I also lost access quite some time ago to a jobs mailing list with the professional association I belong to, and they told me that my address was bounced on mailchimp and so was cleaned and removed, which was why I stopped getting job postings.

This is really distressing to me because I am not even remotely capable of troubleshooting this. I have long been unable to access my work mail from my phone or iPad, and can only get it on my desktop iMac, but I've never been able to figure out what's wrong with the setup for why I can't (I assume some imap/pop thing but damned if I know). Last year about this time, my old iMac died, and it took me a few months to get a refurbed one and then more months after that to get the tech guys I often have help me figure out why I couldn't get everything fully set up (I had migrated everything off the final time machine backup before the old iMac died).

But I never have had trouble with being marked as spam before. I set this up years and years ago when I started this domain when I went freelance full time, and aside from that weird mobile thing, I've never had trouble. It's just my name plus domain, so like kitten @ kaboodleco. com . I assumed the mobile issue and this new problem were separate, but I included it just because it shows you how incompetent I am.

A couple years ago, my friends, who run a web services company, moved my website and stuff over to their...server? domain? site host? I don't know, because I'd done some favors for them and they were like, we'll host you for free and redesign your site, etc. They took care of the whole process of moving it from my older site host, so I have no idea what it entailed. I'll try to get in touch with one of them, obviously, but her mom had a stroke and so I know it's a very bad time for her.

I think I remember hearing that once gmail decides you're a spammer, you're screwed. But this address is the one my clients have, and more importantly, it's the one older clients have who I often don't hear from for a long time and then they suddenly pop up. I have an alternate work address through gmail that I can use in a pinch, but it doesn't really give any hint of who I am because it was so hard to find any kind of address with my name and business name.

is there any way I can try to unfuck this by myself, considering I'm about as well versed in this as your average 92-year-old? Any idea what could have happened recently to cause this?
posted by kitten kaboodle to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There's a lot here, and it sounds like several independent things are broken (it's very unlikely that this issue and you being unable to get your email on mobile are related). And there are many ways to mess it up further if you don't know what you're doing, so I personally would recommend finding an email-knowledgable IT person who you could hire for a couple of hours to look at it and untangle things.

If I had to guess on the spam issue, I'd say that either some spammer has been spoofing email from your domain to send spam or the server hosting your mail has been sending spam (other tenants are spammers, or it is compromised) and the IP address reputation is shot. Setting up dmarc can help prevent the first issue, but once the domain has a bad reputation, it may take a while to turn it around. To solve the second issue, you'd need to move to a new IP address (and ideally figure out how the first one got a bad reputation so it doesn't happen again). If none of that makes sense to you, I strongly recommend hiring someone to help.
posted by primethyme at 4:27 PM on August 17, 2022

Best answer: My guess is your email is being hosted on a shared host which has poor reputation.

To diagnose this yourself, you could use an online tool such as which has you send an email to them, and they analyze it for deliverability issues and give you a report.

Assuming you don't understand the results (which sounds likely!), you could then post a redacted/anonymized version of the report you get here for us to comment on. That way your domain and email remain hidden.

If you are not so concerned about anonymity, you could also tell us just the domain ( and one of us could probalby do some checks...
posted by soylent00FF00 at 4:34 PM on August 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Most major email providers, including Gmail, are far more likely to mark a message as spam if the domain the email is sent from doesn't have SPF and/or DKIM verification set up - methods that essentially verify that the sender's email address isn't forged, and the sender is authorized to send from that domain. Perhaps your friends never set up SPF and/or DKIM for your domain, or made some changes on the back end without telling you that caused those settings to break?

This can also happen if you're not actually sending from an email server associated with your domain - ie, you have mail to that custom address forwarded to another address, and then you set your mail program to "send as" the custom address as opposed to an address associated with your account on that server. You pretty much need to send email from a mail account on a server set up with those correct DKIM/SPF settings and not just re-write the address these days.

You really need to have administrative access to look at and edit your domain configuration and mail server configuration to troubleshoot this. It sounds like you don't, that your friends who migrated your domain resources are the admins.

So, you'll likely need to have those friends who set up mail services for your domains set up or fix the SPF or DKIM verification for your custom domain and email, or set up a mail server or account that can both send and receive mail from your custom address with SPF/DKIM verification. If that's the issue, after they set that up (or fix the settings), the various providers should immediately be much more accommodating - they do SPF and/or DKIM checks on each incoming message, so it's something that likely will stop being a problem once your friends get your mail config up to current standards.

There are other situations that could happen - for example, if your email is coming from a server where others are frequently sending spam, and that has been "blackholed" due to other user's problematic activities on those servers. If you send me your actual email address in MeMail I might be able to give a more detailed answer.
posted by eschatfische at 4:47 PM on August 17, 2022

Best answer: This happened to me recently, where especially recipients who were hosted by Google suddenly started rejecting my emails. The difference is that mine were outright rejected, but I'll relay the fix in case it helps you. You'll need to access the Control Panel of your domain hosting site, so you may need to contact your friend who's hosting for you. This is the info provided to me:

On checking the Bounce message shared by you, we see that the emails where successfully relayed by [myhost]. However, rejected by Gmail with the error message as : "Our system has detected that this message is 5.7.1 likely unsolicited mail. To reduce the amount of spam sent to Gmail, 5.7.1 this message has been blocked."

The most probable cause is due to either no or invalid SPF and DKIM record for your domain

We see the SPF & DKIM record for your domain has not been configured. SPF and DKIM record help validate your emails as legitimate so that they do not get rejected/ land in the Spam/junk folder of the recipient.

For SPF, we recommend you to login to your DNS manager and add a TXT record with MyMailHost sending server details. The correct record to be added is 'v=spf1 include:[mymailhost].com ~all'. You can refer to the steps in this help document.

To configure the DKIM for your domain, refer to this help document, do so.

Certain providers may validate the authenticity of the domain based on the DMARC record. So, configure the DMARC records as suggested in our help document.

Once, the records have been configured, wait for them to propagate and monitor the status.
posted by hydra77 at 4:49 PM on August 17, 2022

Best answer: Unless you own your own domain hosting this mail, this may be beyond your control.

Basically, the email domain ended up on a spam blacklist. They go by various names, but they are compiled by reputable companies or organizations and thus, there's little you can do to appeal it. It could be caused by abuse of some shady individuals, or could be the server's not configured, or not following the latest anti-spam standards like DKIM and SPF, which basically allows individual mail servers to "sign" (vouch) for the email they sent, and it's gotten to the point that servers don't do this are "automatically suspect".

If you have your own domain, contact technical support of your domain HOST (which may or may not be the registrar). If you just use some other email, contact THAT provider, and basically tell them that email you send are getting spam-canned, and what are they going to do about it. If the answer is nothing, I'd start using gmail instead, and basically change email address everywhere.
posted by kschang at 5:02 PM on August 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Your livelihood depends on this. Based on what you've said, it will be very hard for you to understand the technical details and fix this yourself. My advice to a friend would be to move your email hosting to and they will fix it for you. I don't work for them, I have no connection to them other than being a satisfied customer. You will have to pay for your email hosting, but in return you will get real live humans who understand this stuff backwards and forwards and who are, in my experience, very friendly and helpful.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 5:04 PM on August 17, 2022 [8 favorites]

Best answer: We can get into guesses as to what might be the technical problem here, but it really doesn't matter. Something is not right wherever your mail is being hosted and the easiest way to fix that is to move it. Just move it to Gmail for your domain, Fastmail, or another similar service, make sure to set up SPF and DKIM and you shouldn't have to think about this any more.
posted by ssg at 5:30 PM on August 17, 2022

Best answer: I can recommend Fastmail also, if you want to take the easy way out. They will handle both email and DNS if you let them, and configure everything automatically. One slight complication would be making sure you have the IP address of your existing web server so you can stick that in the Fastmail control panel so your website is still accessible.

You can also leave your DNS where it is, but then you have to configure the SPF and DKIM records manually. They have instructions for common DNS providers and control panels like cPanel, but it sounds like you may not have easy access to that.
posted by wierdo at 5:31 PM on August 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. As bad as I feel about this, at least I know there might be ways to mitigate the damage. I might memail a couple of you. I'm not sure I understand about moving a domain email address to a provider like gmail, but I will figure it out if I go that direction.

I'm marking most as best answers for now (this is the exact opposite of my last couple questions!), I really appreciate it.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 6:49 PM on August 17, 2022

Best answer: It might also be worth adding your domain to Google's Postmaster tools. It lets you see if your domain has been reported as spam, what your IP and domain reputations are (bad, low, medium or high) as well as your DKIM, SPF and DMARC success rates. It was enlightening and made it clear what I needed to fix when I had a similar problem with one of my domains.
posted by jaden at 8:01 PM on August 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

This exact thing happened to my small business. We moved the domain to an email provider, as most folks here are suggesting. We used Google Workspace, which had the added benefit of making it very much easier for our clients to share Google Drive files, Docs, and gcal events with us.
posted by hovey at 8:10 PM on August 17, 2022

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