Troubleshooting Email Messages Marked "Delivered", But Not Appearing in Inbox

Users may see some sent email marked as Delivered in SendGrid that never arrives in the recipient's primary inbox. This is often the result of the recipient server accepting mail for delivery, but then sorting the mail into another folder (or tabs if using Gmail). This guide explains why this may occur, and tips for avoiding this issue in your future mail sends.

Why is mail marked "Delivered" when it isn't in the inbox?

Twilio SendGrid posts the Delivered event after the recipient server accepts the message with a 250 OK response. At this point, the receiving server could send your mail to the inbox, queue it for later delivery, put it into the spam folder, or even drop the email.

These negative outcomes usually occur when the receiving server initially accepts a message for delivery, and then applies additional filtering afterwards. While most legitimate email should be delivered to the intended inbox, the receiving server can send your message directly to a spam/junk folder, or in rare cases, they might choose to simply drop the message (delete it).

In these situations, SendGrid is only notified of the email acceptance, and thus posts the Delivered event, with no insight into any filtering that is applied. Any additional SendGrid events for your email message would be triggered by recipient engagement (i.e. open/click events, unsubscribes, etc.).

Sender Authentication and Good Email Practices

It is definitely frustrating when your mail ends up outside of your recipient's primary inbox. There are many reasons why mail might be sorted outside of the inbox. Inbox service providers (ISPs) will check for the reputation of your sending domain. If the recipients have reacted well to mail from a particular domain, then email from that domain will most likely land in the inbox. On the other hand, a good email sent from a domain with an uncertain reputation would most likely land in spam or elsewhere.

Your sending IP should be properly warmed up and authenticated for your sending domain. It is highly recommended not to mix marketing with transactional mail over the same sending IP as marketing emails generally trigger a higher spam report rate.

Additionally, you should authenticate the domains you are sending from. In order to show the ISPs that you are the sender and that you meant to send these messages, you must properly authenticate your mail. The domain needs to be authenticated so that the SPF and DKIM pass and recipient servers see that SendGrid is authorized to send mail on behalf of your domain. It is also highly recommended to brand your links - the links should be from your own domain and they shouldn't be blacklisted.

If the above guidelines are met (the sending domain matches the domain authentication and is properly done, the content is relevant and not associated with unwanted mail, and the IP is properly warmed up) the emails should start delivering to the inbox.

This, however, will not happen overnight. It can take ISPs 3-4 weeks to adjust the reputation for the sending IP or for a new domain. It can sometimes take 3+ months to change the reputation of a domain that they know has a history of bad sending practices.

Mail Delivered to Gmail Tabs

Since its creation, the tab system within Gmail has offered its users the ability to further segment their inboxes based on five types of messages: Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums. In particular, the Promotions tab has been a popular topic of discussion with our customers.

The Gmail tab system is a segmented way to view the inbox within Gmail. A user who does not have tabs enabled will see your messages in their inbox as normal. Emails that end up in the in a tab are not being filtered like a message that ends up in a spam folder, they are in fact being assigned to a different section of that recipient's inbox. 

Messages that are sent to multiple recipients, especially those that include special offers or time-sensitive deals, are much more likely to end up in the Promotions tab. This is what the Promotions tab was designed for, and ultimately your recipients control which messages end up in that tab versus their Primary tab. You can also view this great resource that specifically addresses getting mail out of the Promotions tab.

Additional Troubleshooting Resources

It is also recommended to be sure that you are following SendGrid's recommended practices. You can check out the 2022 Deliverability Guide for great information on how to achieve optimum deliverability.

As mentioned, getting your mail to start delivering to the inbox directly will take time, but following these recommendations is the best way to fix your mail being sorted elsewhere. If you require any additional delivery assistance, you can also get in touch with our Deliverability Consulting team - you can find out more here on our Expert Services page.


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