Are Your Important Emails Ending Up Down the Drain? Blame Gmail

May 6, 2013
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

GmailSpam filters and kitchen sinks have some things in common.

Both suck down the waste you don’t want. Both will also suck down the occasional thing you do want, like a misplaced ring, or an email from a friend who uses exclamation points like a kid eats candy and doesn’t know enough not to capitalize every other word.

And, from time to time, both need attention.

Here, though, is where the analogy ends. Unlike your kitchen sink, your desktop spam filter is almost certainly the second (or even third) system disposal for email. Unless you invariably use webmail, and religiously check its junk folder, I can almost guarantee you are missing emails that no one would ever think are spam.

The culprit here is Gmail.

Months ago, Google tightened up its filtering algorithms and ever since Gmail users have been complaining about its too aggressive filtering.

This is no small issue: With 425 million users as of June 2012, Gmail has almost as many users as the next two largest services — Hotmail and Yahoo! – combined. In addition to consumer accounts, Gmail is the commercial mail provider of choice for 5 million businesses, making it the largest mail service in the world.

The spam filtering affects both commercial and consumer accounts equally, explaining why you may be hearing — or NOT hearing — from clients about the resumes you’ve been sending, or the job orders they’ve been sending.

Attachments, it turns out, get special scrutiny from Gmail’s filters. Graymail, too, is being aggressively purged. Graymail is all those newsletters, catalogs, coupons, and other mail most of us opt-in for (or forget to opt-out of) that often just pile up and clutter our Inbox, until one day, we just delete the lot. By that act, Gmail may decide you think it’s all spam, and will forever filter it out.

Sam Debord, a Seattle Realtor, discussed this situation just a couple of weeks ago:

Gmail’s spam filters have become aggressive.  Google’s goal is clearly to keep a user’s inbox as clean as possible.  The company has decided that a few casualties along the way are justified when the overall outcome is less spam in the inbox.  This means that a far higher percentage of newsletters, customer update emails, and other drip campaigns are finding their way directly into Gmail users’ spam folders, never to be seen by the intended recipient.

Gmail even obscures the spam folder from view, far more than an average email platform.  Savvy users will certainly find and check their spam folders intermittently, but it’s sensible to believe that a large percentage of consumers will never take the time to check what Gmail’s filters have deemed unworthy of their inbox.

Now I’m a sophisticated Internet user, but until recently, it never occurred to me that Gmail might be tossing out the baby with the bathwater. I only discovered my faith in Gmail was misplaced during a recent conversation with, of all people, my boss. After the third time he resent an email I never got, I looked into my Gmail spam folder finding, not only those emails, but a few other, legitimate emails.

Every so often, going back months, now, I’d get a note asking for a response to an email I never received. Some writers were just following up; a few were annoyed; and some others were downright irritated.

Like many heavy mail users, I rarely access my Gmail accounts — or others — via the web. It’s so much easier for those of us with multiple email accounts to use a client. Outlook simplifies my mail delivery and the filters I created sort the mail into appropriate folders.

The average mail user has three accounts; recruiters and sourcers commonly have multiple accounts. Some have dozens, assigning each client to a different address and filtering candidates by occupation. Using a mail client is the only way to manage that system.

If, though, you’ve been told about mail you never received, or you wonder why a promised resume or job order hasn’t shown up, check your Gmail spam filter.

Gmail lists the folders to the left. You may need to use the pulldown MORE link to find the SPAM folder. As you scroll through the list, check those that are not spam, then at the top of the page, click the NO SPAM link. That will send the mail back into your INBOX, and will also let Google know not to filter that mail in the future.

The bad news is that you need to do this at least once every 30 days for each of your accounts. That’s Google’s schedule for automatically purging spam; every day it deletes mail that’s been in the spam filter for 30 days.



This article is part of a series called News & Trends.