Google is Trying to Put Me Out of Business
If you are a Gmail or G Suite user, you are likely not getting my updates (including this one). You are not alone. Google has blocked my domain in its communication products and all messages from me (blog updates, emails, etc.) are going to spam for most users of those products (and “unspamming” or saving my email in the address book are not effective at preventing my messages from going to spam). This started with my emails back in August and has now extended to my blog updates (around mid-September), and the number of complaints I’m getting is increasing.
There are things I can do as a website owner to ensure my domain and the emails I send are not “spammy,” such as making sure the site is updated (I’m having technical difficulties with my theme, so that’s outdated, but the site is otherwise about as updated as possible given the constraints of a shared hosting environment) and my email configuration conforms to standards (it is, I check regularly; but my emails, particularly the newsletters, are often considered spammy given the number of links contained in them – since the links are what make the newsletters useful, there isn’t much I can do about that).
My search results are not yet affected, but that may be next, given how things have progressed.
A quick search online has yielded some interesting information: Google apparently does this to a number of websites, with no explanation (I certainly can’t figure out why), and there is no way to resolve the problem (because Google does not offer technical support for the free products it offers) unless the affected website switches to a paid service with Google (personally, I call that extortion, but that’s just me).
What Google has done is harming my business (my students and followers who email me are not getting my replies in a timely fashion because no one checks spam anymore, thanks to Google – the spam folder is basically hidden and you have to look for it). I have spoken to someone at my congressman’s office (what’s happening to me does not fall under the antitrust investigations happening with the tech giants) and also filed a complaint with the California Office of the Attorney General (my complaint will be “used to develop information about patterns of business activity which might indicate the need for formal investigation or law enforcement action” – in other words, I’ll likely be out of business before anything is done).
The current workaround I have for Gmail users is to set up a filter to funnel all emails from my domain to the inbox (instructions). But that only works for my emails, not the blog updates (those are sent through WordPress). You may need to check your spam folder regularly going forward if you want to see updates from me (might be a good idea to do that anyway; a lot of emails from the UCs end up in spam too).
I had a good run. This has been fun. I’ll keep working until the tide of Google overwhelms me. If I don’t hear from you or you don’t hear from me (because Google highjacked the communication), I wish you well.
Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.
Hi Ms. Sun – I’m still getting your emails and blogposts! YAY! You offer such an invaluable service to families and students! I hope you can make the tech work for you! You really are a wonderful resource for many! Best Wishes!
Thank you for letting me know you are receiving my updates uninterrupted and I appreciate your kind words!
fyi, I received your blog update to my gmail account and haven’t had any of your previous emails end up in my spam. Sorry to hear others are having problems.
Thank you for the update!
Hi Ms. Sun
I am receiving all you communications. Thanks you for the great work!
I’m so sorry to hear this news – my daughter is starting her junior year and I was counting on your content! Can you put subscription content on your own website with password protection and then send those on your list emails when new content is available?
I tried the password-protected content for a while and the setup I can get in my current website configuration is really unsatisfactory. To do it well, at least based on what I’ve been advised, I have to convert my entire website to a membership-based design; that would require everyone to sign up for an account (free or paid) in order to access content, which I thought created too much barrier to new visitors (no ready access to content). Even then, there is no guarantee the notification emails won’t end up in spam (I also looked into Mailchimp and it does next to nothing to help outgoing messages avoid the spam folder).
There’s a lot of limitation to off-the-shelf website design and to get truly custom design that would meet the needs of my audience, I’m looking at a $25k-$30k initial investment and a likely twenty-fold increase in ongoing maintenance cost (from ~$30/month to ~$600/month). At that point, I’d be spending most of my time managing my website and trying to generate passive income to offset ongoing costs (invariably that’s what happens), instead of generating useful content for my followers (currently I only make money from people who sign up for service, I don’t have any passive income revenue stream set up on my website, like ads, branded content, or merchandise).
The issue comes down to I don’t know how or why Google is blocking my domain in some or most of its Gmail and G Suite users. A significant number of Gmail users have complained to me about not getting any of my emails (everything is going to spam), some are getting some of my emails but not others (around half or more are going to spam), and some are getting my emails fine (everything is in the inbox). My IP reputation is fine (not being blacklisted) and my email configuration (SPF and DKIM) checks out. I looked around online and basically everyone is saying that the only way Google will look into the problem is if you are a paid customer for one of its products (I previously looked into switching to G Suite and, based on my setup, I’m looking at ~$100/month additional cost, which is why I didn’t switch; now that I’m basically being extorted, I’m definitely not switching).
I’ll stick around. I’d like to see what Google is up to and maybe I’ll get my 15 minutes of fame testifying in front of congress as an example of a minority, female owned small business getting crushed by tech giants.