Gmail ate my website contact emails!

The number of spam and phishing emails is increasing day by day. As a result, companies such as Google are introducing a raft of new anti-spam measures in an attempt to keep their customers’ inboxes relatively clean. Many of these measures are welcome, but what happens when your Gmail decides that the emails from your website are spam?

We have had a number of clients coming to us with this problem in the recent months. Many are using a contact form which do not save a copy of the enquiry on the website so the email is the only way they know someone has been in touch. Most, but not all, of the problems identified relate to Gmail. We suspect this is because they are very proactive in trying to stop spam hitting your inbox.

Finding the emails

Most of us use client apps – Outlook, Mac Mail, phone app – to access our mail on a day to day basis. These often deliberately limit what you see and what you can do. When trying to work out what is happening to your mail, you need to log onto the website interface (https://mail.google.com/) as this gives you access to everything.

Highlighting the Gmail "More" button in the navigation.

Once you have logged into Gmail, the first thing to do is to find the emails. To get to your spam folder, click “More” on the navigation bar on the left of the screen (you may need to either scroll down or use the drag handle to make the area bigger)

Scroll down and click on the “Spam” folder. Hopefully, your missing emails will be there, along with a whole load of less welcome stuff. If there is a lot in there, you can use the Search. Make sure you do not remove the “in:spam” when you enter your search string as Google normally excludes the Spam folder from searches.

If you find the emails, you can select them and mark click “Not spam” to transfer them into your inbox. This does not however deal with any future messages.

Setting up a Gmail filter

A filter tells Gmail what to do with certain emails. Gmail applies filters when an email is received. In this case you want to identify emails sent from your website and tell Gmail not to send it to spam. Before you start, you need to check out the settings for your contact forms and work out how to identify the email:

  • Are you sending from or to a unique address e.g. wordpress@mysite.com?
  • Do you use a standard subject line e.g. “Contact from mysite.com”?

Remember that you can set up a filter for each form if necessary.

Gmail search scrrren

To set up the filter:

  • Click the down arrow to the right of the Search box.
  • Enter the email address/ subject/ other detail that identifies mail from your website.
  • Click “Create Filter”.
  • Tick the box for “Never send to Spam”.
  • Click “Create Filter”
The Gmail filter box

Now you need to test it by completing the form on your website. Hopefully, the email will now land in your inbox. If not, you need to check the filter settings against the email you have received. You can edit the filter from Gmail Settings (the cog icon) and then “Filters and blocked addresses”.

If you are using a different email provider, consult their documentation on how to set up a rule or filter. Make sure the rule runs on the server. Spam emails are usually excluded before the email hits your laptop or phone.

Troubleshooting other issues

If you do not find your emails in Spam, then the problem is elsewhere and you need to put on your detective hat. Google has a useful troubleshooting article here and many of the points can be applied to other providers.

If you need to seek help, they will need as much detail as you can provide. Pass on any non-delivery messages and be prepared to respond to a lot of test messages!