Gmail Spam Filter: Everything You Need to Know

We’ve all heard of email spam, right?

It’s not surprising, considering that there are an estimated 107 billion spam emails sent every day.

That’s every single day.

Not only are they malicious, but they can ruin your productivity.

So how does Gmail combat this, and what can you do as a Gmail user to keep yourself as safe as possible?

In this article, we’ll look at the Gmail spam filter, how it works, and how you can create your own spam filters for the ones Gmail has missed.

What Is Gmail Spam?

No matter how long you’ve been using Gmail, you’ll have come across Gmail spam at some point. Despite their best efforts, some messages always make it through the sophisticated spam blocking processes.

The most common versions of Gmail spam are messages that try to get you to part with personal information or emails that contain malicious programs (usually in attachments) that try to steal your personal information.

Gmail uses a filtering functionality that attempts to identify these malicious emails and keep them away from your primary inbox. Not only does this keep you safe from cybercriminals, but it also stops you from wasting precious time and checking emails that aren’t legitimate.

How Does Gmail Spam Work?

There are several ways in which Gmail tries to detect spam.

First, it checks the email of the sender against Gmail’s database of blacklisted domains.

If the email passes that (if the email or domain is unknown), Gmail will then check any links against its database of known malicious links and compare them to links in the incoming email.

After this, Gmail will also check for spelling and grammatical errors and go through its list of trigger words that are heavily featured in known spam emails.

Gmail also uses an in-house machine learning framework called Tensorflow – alongside some smart AI – to train new spam filters moving forward.

The introduction of this technology now means that Google can block an additional 100 million spam messages every day.

How Do I Create a Gmail Spam Filter?

Step 1. Make sure you’re logged into your Gmail account.

Step 2. Locate the gear icon in the top right-hand corner of the Gmail interface and then find the Settings button. Click that.

Step 3. Now click See all settings.

Step 4. Locate the section in the top ribbon called Filters and blocked addresses and choose that option.

Step 5. Choose Create a new filter.

Step 6. Find the From option and then simply type in the sender’s email address that you don’t want to go into your Gmail spam filter.

Step 7. Choose Create filter.

Step 8. You now need to choose Never send it to spam. To ensure Gmail applies this setting to all the emails you have received from this sender you need to choose Also apply to matching messages. 

Step 9. Click Create filter.

Step 10. That’s it; you’re all done.

How Do I Add Email Addresses and Domains to Gmail’s Spam List?

If you’re using Google Workspace, then you need to follow these steps:

Step 1. Make sure you’re logged into your Gmail account.

Step 2. Hover over the list name in Gmail and then click Edit.

Step 3. Type in the domain name or the email address that you want to add.

Step 4. Click Save.

How to Disable Your Gmail Spam Filter

While Google’s spam filter is pretty good nowadays, it sometimes gets things a little wrong. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how you can completely disable your Gmail spam filter.

Step 1. Head over to Gmail in your browser and make sure you’re logged in.

Step 2. If you look up to the top right-hand corner, you should see the settings option. This is the little cog icon. Click that.

Step 3. This will open the Quick settings option. You now need to choose See all settings.

Step 4. Click the tab labeled Filters and blocked addresses. 

Step 5. You now need to create a new filter, so click Create a new filter.

Step 6. In the Includes the words option, type in is:spam

Step 7. Scroll down and click Create filter with this search.

Step 8. Click Ok.

Step 9. In the next section, you need to choose the option to Never send to spam. Essentially what you’ve done here is overridden Google when it decides that an email is spam, so all emails will appear in your inbox.

Step 10. That’s it – you’re all done

Why Is My Gmail Spam Filter Not Working?

You may, of course, have a completely different problem in that all spam emails are landing in your inbox – but you don’t want them to. So how do you go about fixing that issue? Generally, there are two reasons why this might be happening. We’ll quickly go through them both.

You Could Have a Compromised Gmail Account

Compromised Gmail accounts are reasonably rare nowadays, but they can happen.

Step 1. Make sure that you have changed your Gmail password to prevent any further damage to your account – you can find details on how to do that here.

Step 2. You now need to check that the emails that you want in spam are indeed ending up in spam. Sign into Gmail.

Step 3. Go to the top right and click the cog icon. Then choose See all settings. 

Step 4. On the next page, you need to choose Filters and blocked addresses. 

Step 5. Click Create a new filter.

Step 6. Manually type in the name of the sender’s email that has been landing in your inbox rather than your spam folder.

Step 7. Click Create filter, and if that filter doesn’t work, you rest assured that the issue is resolved.

Gmail Might Not Be Syncing

Another more common reason that your spam filter may not be working properly is that Gmail isn’t syncing. Here’s how to check if the Skip the inbox filter is working correctly.

Step 1. Log into Gmail and click the Settings option in the top right-hand corner.

Step 2. Click See all settings. 

Step 3. Choose the Inbox tab and scroll to the bottom.

Step 4. If you see that the button for Override filters has been checked, you will still receive emails that you have set filters for.

Step 5. To fix that issue, click Don’t override filters.

Step 6. Then click Save changes, and you’re all done.

How Do I Avoid Getting Marked as Spam by Gmail?

No software is perfect, and Gmail is no exception. While their spam filtering is arguably the best on the market, they can sometimes be a little overzealous and send emails to spam that don’t belong there.

So how do you avoid your emails going into spam? Here are five ways to help you prevent this issue:

  1. Check your domain name. Gmail keeps a list of all malicious domain names. If your domain has been blacklisted, then you’re going to end up in spam automatically. You can check if your domain has been blacklisted with this handy tool.
  2. Check the content of the email. Gmail analyzes not only the spelling and grammar of emails to help spot spam, but also looks for trigger words like “cash,” “credit,” “passwords,” and many more. With this in mind, you should always proofread your emails before sending and check for too many trigger words. The odd one here and there isn’t going to result in your email landing in spam, but it’s always worth checking. Besides, poorly formatted emails with spelling errors never look good to the recipient.
  3. Forgo attachments and use cloud storage links. Cybercriminals have long used attachments as a way of distributing malware. Gmail is well aware of this and has sophisticated methods of spotting these malicious attachments. That said, there are always some that slip through the next and end up in spam. If you use a service like Google Workspace, you may want to consider using shared links rather than large attachments.
  4. Check your email header. Spammers are known to edit email headers. Gmail is probably the safest of the email services, but if you want to check your email header you can do by selecting the More option in Gmail and then choosing Show original.
  5. Getting whitelisted. This is probably the only way you can ensure that your email doesn’t end up in spam. Unfortunately, you need to ask the recipient of the email to take action and add you to their whitelist. When they do, Gmail takes this as an obvious indication that the receiver of the email trusts you and your domain name.

There you go – you now have a good overview of the size of the problem and how Gmail protects you from spam messages, as well as a tried and tested method for creating your own Gmail spam filters.

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