Everything you wanted to know about graymail

Banner image of graymail blog showing three envelopes white, gray and black

You always follow a legitimate method of sending emails. You don’t use any spam-triggering elements, nor do you avoid the global regulations in exercise.

You end up sending the emails and hope for maximum engagement. After some time you check and evaluate the reports, then you take a deep breath. This is where some email marketers lack determination. This is where the story of an email ends with repercussions reflecting on the business.

Sometimes, the emails you send don’t make it to the desired location in the recipient’s inbox. Even when they do, they are often kept aside and are not opened. This is because they are considered “graymail.” What is graymail? Let’s find out.

In this blog, we’ll discuss everything about graymail, including:


  • What is graymail?
  • How does graymail affect the email marketer?

  • What are the necessary steps to avoid sending graymail?

Let’s clear the clutter and hit the bullseye!


What is graymail?

Graymail, also known as bacn (read as “bacon”), is bulk email received by inboxes within a period of time. Graymail is outrightly not SPAM because of its distinguishable characteristics:


  • Graymail is sent to a solicited email addresses (I.e. you opted-in for it)

  • Graymail is bereft of spammy content, hence it passes the spam filters

  • Graymail is usually an email with accurate content based on the tastes and preferences of the recipients, unlike spam


If all of this is true, why is graymail always categorized among the negatives of email marketing? It’s because of these characteristics:


  • Graymail results from not staying updated with the recipients’ changing tastes and preferences. Therefore, the sender continues to send emails to recipients even after they have shifted their preferences elsewhere

  • Graymail thus occupies space in the recipients’ inbox unfavourably without generating any engagement

  • Recipients’ loss in interest can result from faulty email marketing methods. These methods include, sending emails after very long intervals or over sending emails within a short period


How does graymail affect email marketers?

You might think that graymail not being considered as spam is good news. That’s right, but if your contacts don’t engage with or even unsubscribe from your emails, it’s definitely reason to worry, isn’t it? Let’s face the fact —an untimely knock at even the most familiar person’s door can lead to annoyance.

Annoyed contacts are often negatively associated with email marketing. For instance, if you are marked as a spammer or your content is flagged as spam by a number of recipients, this can lead to big trouble. Such responses from contacts will sink your domain reputation. As a result, your IP and domain value will decrease among major ISPs, making your emails vulnerable to being rejected by different platforms.

Image of graymail factors affecting email marketers

These are a few ways graymail can affect your domain and IP reputation:

Loss of interest

Often, people signing up through events and platforms might initially be very interested in the content you provide. This interest might diminish over time because of irregular engagement, among other examples. They might eventually lose all interest in your content or brand. Sending out newsletters and updates to those contacts can displease them. They might eventually unsubscribe from receiving your emails or mark them as spam.


Cluttering leads to displeasure

Solicited contacts don’t necessarily equate to static tastes and preferences. Inadequate knowledge about their evolving tastes and preferences will see you clutter the inbox with inappropriate content. This leaves the recipient displeased and possibly regretting having signed up for your content in the first place.

They might end up taking steps that will reflect on your domain reputation


ESPs sift these emails

Some reputed email service providers maintain a priority-based inbox placement. This is determined by a set of algorithms and the engagement pattern of the recipient. If an ESP receives a lot of emails from a certain sender but also sees that recipients aren’t engaging with these emails, the emails may be grouped by the ESPs and directed to other less important folders.


What are the necessary steps to avoid sending graymail?

Regulate your email marketing automation

Automated bulk emails sent to solicited contacts can also be considered as graymail if their content is not consistent with the tastes of the recipients. You should always design your workflows providing sufficient scope for filtration.

This filtering should be done in each level of the workflow and should reflect the behavioural pattern of the contacts. For instance, contacts who didn’t open the first two emails or click on specific links may be reluctant to receive more emails from you.

Image showing the feature, 'filter' in workflows

You can immediately allow the inactive contacts to exit the workflow without sending any more emails, while making sure that active contacts can stay in the workflow.


Curate sign up methods

There are different ways by which people will sign up to receive your emails. Categorize each of these sign up methods properly and create appropriate lists. Let these lists determine your engagement strategy, and ensure the sending time and content of your emails is based on those lists.

You can also be careful while associating signup forms and pop-up forms with your workflows. Use adequate filtering methods based on their responses so that you unnecessarily don’t include inactive contacts in these workflows.


Personalization eliminates confusion

Personalization of content can fetch better engagement as they are more contact specific. You can personalize your email content with the help of subject line, merge tags, dynamic content.

Of these, dynamic content will help you craft different variants of one email keeping individual tastes into account. With this, you will be able to send different versions of one email to different segments on a list.

To validate your content’s effectiveness, you can also run an A/B testing campaign to determine which version of your email works better.


Schedule emails as per response from survey campaigns

Run survey campaigns as a part of your welcome series. Ask your contacts about the frequency of emails they would like to receive from you, and also ask them about their favorite topics. Evaluate these answers and adjust your email sending methods accordingly.

Conduct a general survey once a year. Season and special promotion specific surveys can be conducted before sending out the campaigns.

Maintain a marketing calendar to schedule your email campaigns based on the responses received from the survey campaigns. Utilize the marketing calendar in Zoho Campaigns alongside your workflow system.


Create accurate content

Graymail is often found to have content within the periphery of the recipient’s interests but these tastes and preferences can also undergo minor or major changes.

Regular interaction with your contacts will enlighten you about their changing tastes and preferences. Maintain a record of all these changes and update your lists accordingly. Then craft and send out content that resonates with these new tastes and preferences.

Accurate email content will enable you to gain popularity among your contacts, while irregular and untimely interaction will only disturb them and eventually drive them to unsubscribe.


Provide a space for their email preference

Make sure your old and listed contacts have a way to update their email preference.

Users of Zoho Campaigns can do this using Topic Management, which lets you provide topics to your contacts and allow them to choose the ones they prefer.

List topics based on content: newsletters, updates, and more. This will allow you to create better lists or segment them accordingly so you don’t end up sending irrelevant emails.

Furthermore, you can craft your workflows based on the preferences provided by your contacts. This will help you gauge the engagement level your content initiates and retain it till the end of the workflow.


Regulate sending frequency with email limits

As an email marketer, you can consult the rest of your teammates to determine an appropriate email sending frequency, and then you can use email limits to regulate this frequency.

This choice can reflect both the preferences of your contacts and the decision of everyone else within the team. A good rule of thumb is to send out emails to a particular contact no more than twice a week to maintain relevance and generate curiosity among the recipients.

Provide timely content and avoid irregular engagement to refrain from both under- and over-engagement with your email recipients.


Send-time optimization

Check the past open rates of your reports to ascertain the best time to send out email campaigns. Emails sent to contacts during a time when they are less active or inactive will lead to flooding inboxes.

Image of send time optimization showing one email can be sent to three people at three different times

If you send out emails randomly before looking into the time factor, your emails might not be opened. They might instead get lost among the pile of other emails in the recipient’s inbox, breaking the chain of communication that can lead them to completely detach from your correspondence.


Last but not least, study the reports

When you’ve already sent your emails, the only thing you can do next is evaluate their engagement by checking the reports section and analyzing the metrics. Keep track of the open rates, click rates, and unique rates. Craft your email content and sending times around these metrics.

Image of email marketing reports

Always prioritize the concept of unsubscribe. This will help you understand the pulse of the people and whether they are interested in receiving emails from you.

Respect their choice and move on, while trying not to repeat similar mistakes. Avoid sending emails to contacts who have been inactive for some time.

 Taking these reports seriously can help you rectify previous errors.



Graymail is predominantly seen as automated—yet solicited—email that redundantly floods the inboxes of recipients.

While it might not be as harmful as spam, it isn’t any better either. The engagement pattern of the receiver makes the ESPs determine how to place your email. Cheer up and send emails at a controlled rate after regular intervals and reap the fruits.

There is one last important point—always attach your vCard along with the email or ask your recipients to add you in their email contact list. This will help the ESPs recognize you and place your email in the inbox. After all, communication starts with knowing and learning more about each other.


3 Replies to Everything you wanted to know about graymail

  1. A well written and useful reminder for marketeers to revisit their customer email marketing strategy. Especially as so many businesses still take a blanket and random approach to sending out email newsletters

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