Gmail Spam Filter: When It Is Not Enough to Stop Spam

Gmail spam filter is a mostly invisible part of the popular free email service developed by Google, but it plays a much more important role than most people realize. However, there are cases when it is not enough to stop spam, which is where third-party email organization tools such as Clean Email come in.

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What Is Gmail Spam Filter and How It Works?

Did you know that it takes the average person five seconds to identify and delete a spam message? Considering that most office workers receive around 100 emails every single day, it’s easy to see just how mind-bogglingly high the productivity cost of spam really is.

Fortunately, Gmail users are not defenseless when it comes to spam because Gmail spam filter always has their back. You can think of Gmail spam filter as a stacked funnel that takes into considerations a number of factors to determine whether an email is legitimate or not.

To start with, Gmail spam filter always checks whether the sender’s email address has been blacklisted before. If it has, it won’t let the email in no matter what. But what about emails coming from unknown senders? That’s where things get more interesting.

Gmail maintains a massive database of malicious links, and Gmail spam filter looks for them when analyzing incoming emails. In addition to links, the filter is also able to detect suspicious phrases and words, such as “Viagra” or “online pharmacy” or “how to make money online.” Spelling mistakes and bad grammar are other tell-tale signs of spam.

Spammers are, of course, aware of the capabilities of Gmail spam filter, and they are constantly inventing new ways how to circumvent it. For example, they are substituting certain characters (v1cadin for s4le) or crafting spam messages that seem completely legitimate to anyone without many years of industry experience.

To maintain the upper hand, Google has been using artificial intelligence and its in-house machine learning framework, TensorFlow, to help train additional spam filters for Gmail users. Thanks to AI, Gmail can now block an extra 100 million spam messages every day.

“At the scale we’re operating at, an additional 100 million is not easy to come by,” says Neil Kumaran, product manager of Counter Abuse Technology at Google. “Getting the last bit of incremental spam is increasingly hard, [but] TensorFlow has been great for closing that gap.”

How to Change Gmail Spam Filter Settings?

As we’ve just explained, Gmail spam filter is very complex software that doesn’t require basically any attention to work as intended. You can, however, change some Gmail spam settings to tweak it to your liking.

For example, you can bypass spam filters for messages from addresses or domains specified in an approved sender list:

  1. Sign in to your Google Admin console.
  2. Go to Apps → G Suite → Gmail → Advanced settings.
  3. Select an organization.
  4. Scroll to the Spam section, hover over the Spam setting, and click Configure.
  5. Check the Be more aggressive when filtering spam box to configure more aggressive spam filtering.
  6. Check the Bypass spam filters for messages received from internal senders box to bypass spam filters for internal messages from users within the same organization.
  7. Check the Bypass spam filters for messages received from addresses or domains within these approved senders lists box.
  8. Click Use existing or create a new one, type in a new list name, and click Create.
  9. Click the list name to use an existing list as your approved sender list.

If you would like to add email addresses or domains to the spam list, you need to:

  1. Hover over the list name, click Edit, and then click Add.
  2. Enter an email address or domain name.
  3. Click Save.
    • Hover over the list name, click Edit, and then click Add.

If you use Gmail only for personal emails and don’t have access to G Suite, you can still change how the spam filter Gmail uses to filter malicious emails behaves by going to Filters tab under Gmail spam folder settings and creating new filters. Unfortunately, creating a spam filter for Gmail is not exactly simple, which is why we recommend you use Clean Email instead.

Use Clean Email in Addition to Gmail Spam Filter

Clean Email is a bulk email organizer that allows you to effortlessly create Gmail spam filter rules without changing your Gmail spam settings. This web-based tool uses intelligent algorithms to separate email messages according to their category. While Gmail spam filter can only tell apart from legitimate messages from spam, Clean Email can recognize subscription emails, social media notifications, unsolicited advertising emails, and much more.

Clean Email protects from spam with Gmail spam filter

Clean Email allows you to manage emails in bulk, and you can tell it to apply various actions automatically in the future just by clicking on a single button. For example, you can automatically mark all emails from social media networks as read so they don’t steal your valuable time and bury emails that are actually important. Clean Email records statistics about how many emails were affected by automation rules, so you can see at a glance how it's working.

To get started with Clean Email, all you need to do is sign in with your email address and current password used to access your mailbox. You can sign in with Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, iCloud, Fastmail, AOL, Office 365, and many other secure email providers.


There are several spam settings Gmail users can tweak to ensure that no spam messages can reach their inbox, but they do have their limitations. Fortunately, there are also third-party solutions like Clean Email. This excellent addition to Gmail spam filter lets you effortlessly create smart automation rules that organize your inbox for you and help you be more productive.

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