How Gmail AI Spam Filter Update RETVec Affects Email Users

How Gmail AI Spam Filter Update RETVec Affects Email Users

Vladyslav Podoliako
Dec 12, 2023
Reading duration
6 Min

Using emojis, keyword stuffing, cyrillic characters, glyphs (ᗯн𝕒T 𝓭𝓸 𝕪ⓞǗ 𝕄є𝒶Ⓝ), or intentional mistakes in words to get past Gmail filters is not going to fly now. 

As Gmail introduces the adoption of a new security text classification algorithm called RETVec (Resilient & Efficient Text Vectorizer), all email senders should keep their content as clear as possible to maximize deliverability. 

The new technology is expected to drastically reduce spam emails with stronger-than-ever email spam filtering and enhance email deliverability for compliant senders. Gmail's spam filter will utilize it to continue blocking undesirable emails without false positives.

Google calls this breakthrough "one of the largest defense upgrades in recent years."  These modifications will contribute to spam-free inboxes. Also, even though email senders may face stricter norms and standards, they can expect improved deliverability in turn 🥳 

In this article, we'll go over what RETVec is (in layman's terms), what the changes entail for email senders, and concrete suggestions for staying afloat and adapting to the innovations.

Being forewarned means being “armed” and prepared for 2024.

What Is RETVec and How It Works

There's a full paper on RETVec that can provide you with all the technical details. But allow us to simplify things for you.

RETVec is a cutting-edge algorithm that is changing the way Gmail spam filters handle spam.

It's skilled at deciphering and digesting material, even when it's littered with mistakes or purposefully deceptive elements—common spamming strategies. RETVec develops graphical representations for complete spam classification, examining multiple components of a message regardless of encoding methods. It can spot different kinds of deceptions—the use of keyword stuffing, cyrillic characters, glyphs, words with mistakes, words with missed letters (a technique also often used by spammers), etc. Even more, RETVec effectively learns from such deceptions, hence improving its ability to protect your mailbox.  

The integration of RETVec into Gmail’s spam classifier so far has already yielded remarkable results:

Improved spam detection by 38%

False positives decreased by 19.4%

False negatives decreased by 17.71%

In brief, RETVec performs the following functions: 

🕵️ Identifies adversarial text manipulations: To identify emails that have been purposely manipulated to avoid spam filters, the system employs a text classification algorithm (with underlying semantics analysis). Emails containing extensive usage of special characters, emojis, typos, and other trash characters are included. For example, spammers frequently include keywords in spam emails to fool filters, and RETVec is designed to detect and prevent this and other popular techniques. 

💻 Reduces computational resources: RETVec is more efficient than prior systems in that it requires fewer computational resources to process emails. This allows Gmail to process more emails while still keeping its spam filtering capabilities. As a matter of fact, using RETVec reduced the tensor processing unit (TPU) usage of the model by 83%

🌍 ​Sup​​ports 100+ languages: The new algorithm, which does not rely on lookup tables or predefined vocabulary, handles 100+ languages, making it a versatile tool for worldwide email networks and protecting users from unwanted spam emails in all languages.

This feature is especially good for eliminating false positives (or emails mistakenly perceived as spam). Some of the glyphs are from pretty damn major languages like Chinese or Japanese, and smart language detection can help to differentiate between spam emails and authentic ones. 

And this is only the beginning.

The system is constantly learning from fresh data and adapting to developing spam strategies to ensure that it is successful against the most recent spam threats.

How RETVec Will Affect ALL Email Senders

A lot of people might be worried that the new AI-powered spam filter will make it even harder for their emails to reach the inbox. Well, we wouldn't say it's completely true.

Let’s start with the good news: 

  • Increased email deliverability: Legitimate emails from reputable senders are more likely to reach recipients' inboxes as the spam detection system becomes more sophisticated and accurate. The statistics already show the false positives decrease by 19.4% during the testing period. Accurate classification of emails can lead to a better understanding of their content, potentially improving their deliverability to intended recipients.

  • Improved sender reputation: When emails are correctly classified as legitimate, senders gain credibility and build a positive reputation with email providers. This can lead to improved email deliverability and a stronger brand presence. By preventing the delivery of spam or non-deliverable emails, RETVec can contribute to lower bounce rates, improving sender reputation, and other email deliverability monitoring metrics.

  • Enhanced customer engagement: By delivering relevant and high-quality emails, senders can maintain customer engagement and foster stronger relationships with their audience. Since this technology helps to keep email users' inboxes clean, it means that trustworthy emails get more chances to be noticed and engaged with.

This all sounds good. But, for sure, new innovations bring new challenges. Particularly in this case, it is the issue of some specific characters non-Latin languages have, which in turn may lead to some false positives or send valid emails to spam.

Besides, the chances are that spammers will try to up their adversarial game.

However, because of the smart machine learning technology, RETVec will continue improving and will keep trying to figure out ways to detect even the most advanced spam tricks.

The introduction of the new security algorithm means that senders need to pay even more attention to email content, avoiding keyword suffering, making emails personalized and relevant, using preferably only Latin characters, cutting on emojis, and eliminating spam-triggering words.

At Folderly, we have an in-built spam word detector within our template editor that you can use to automatically scan your emails for spam words (spam words checker is also accessible for free). Besides, our expert email deliverability team is always happy to provide personalized email content practices for Folderly users.

Folderly Template Editor

Other Actions Recommended for Email Senders

If you want more information, we have an A-Z tutorial on how to increase email deliverability.

When it comes to this new technology, we suggest focusing on these areas to keep up and ensure you're a credible sender:

  1. Using clear and concise subject lines: RETVec analyzes subject lines to determine whether they are free of adversarial text symbols. By crafting clear and concise subject lines that accurately reflect the email's content, senders can improve their open rates and ensure that their emails are opened. Important: Your subject line should always correspond to the content of your email.

  2. Crafting compelling email content:Provide valuable and relevant content that resonates with the recipient's interests and needs. This can increase engagement and encourage further interaction.

  3. Optimizing email design: Use a clean and professional email layout with clear navigation and easy-to-read text, ensuring a positive user experience. The golden rule: use text instead of HTML whenever it's possible (for deeper insights, check our plain text vs HTML guide).

  4. High-Quality Sender Branding: Use consistent and recognizable sender branding to establish credibility and trustworthiness. This includes using a professional email address, a recognizable logo, and a clear call to action (and BIMI authentication, which acts as a tick for official digital accounts of big companies).

  5. Staying updated with Google updates: As RETVec evolves, stay informed about the latest updates and recommendations for optimizing your email content. We’ll try utilizing Google's documentation and resources to keep you informed.

Bottom Line: Turn Google Updates Into Your Winning Outreach Strategy

As RETVec continues to gain widespread adoption, its impact on email marketing will only grow stronger. Adapting to Google's frequent updates is key to a successful outreach strategy.

By staying informed and agile, you can leverage these changes to your advantage, ensuring your approach remains relevant and effective.

Embrace the evolution of Google's algorithms as an opportunity to refine and enhance your outreach methods, keeping you ahead in the dynamic world of digital marketing and communication.

Vladyslav Podoliako
Vladyslav Podoliako
Founder & CEO
Vlad is a Founder & CEO of Belkins and Folderly, a series entrepreneur and investor with over ten years of management expertise in companies with 100 million evaluation. Vlad has years of experience building and growing service companies and SaaS startups in SalesTech and MarTech. He is skilled in creating successful businesses from the ground up and building top-notch teams that drive all ventures to the top of their industries.

Also you may like

Email Spam Filters 101: Types & How To Use Them Wisely
Email Spam Filters 101: Types & How To Use Them Wisely

Spam filters are scary. Sometimes it feels like they do everything possible to destroy your outreach. However, this isn’t true. Spam filters exist to protect your outreach. Your goal is to prove that you’re a legitimate sender. Discover the intricacies of email spam filters, how they work, and quick steps for bypassing them like a pro in this article.