The biggest goal for email marketers this year? Ensuring email deliverability. This is because Google and Yahoo are implementing changes to their email authentication protocols to enhance inbox security. In a nutshell, this means these platforms are requiring additional verification measures for those who send 5 000 or more bulk emails a day. We explain what these changes mean, how you can ensure your bulk emails reach the intended inboxes, and what the best practices for email delivery are.

2 2023 12 05 Reasons to Optimise Your Email | Everlytic | Your Email Deliverability Survival Guide for Navigating Google & Yahoo’s Changes

Why Email Deliverability Changes Are Necessary

Recently, Everlytic’s Head of Client Services, Wilene van Greunen, hosted a webinar to help clients understand the email deliverability changes and new sender requirements. Van Greunen explained, “Email is an extremely popular attack channel for bad actors and bad behaviour, and it’s like a playground for a spammer or scammer. Phishing continues to be a huge problem for both businesses and consumers.” To illustrate this, she pointed to how Google said Gmail blocks nearly 15-billion unwanted emails every day.

Van Greunen explained the new email authentication requirements would pave the way for new mailbox standards that “require senders everywhere to step up their game”. She said, “These changes aim to bolster email security by ensuring that any incoming mails are authenticated, reducing the risk of spam, phishing attempts, and any other malicious activities, so ultimately improving the delivery of an actual legitimate email to a user’s inbox.”

Are you sending content your recipients want to receive? This is an important consideration to prevent recipients from marking your content as spam. In this blog post, we show you three types of metrics you need to measure the performance of your bulk email campaigns quickly and effectively.

How Bulk Email Senders Will Be Affected

If you’re wondering what would happen if you don’t authenticate, Van Greunen explained your email deliverability would be impacted and you’d struggle to reach your users’ inboxes.

She described the journey of an email. “An email doesn’t travel straight from your server to a recipient, it goes through several checks and filters in-between,” said Van Greunen. Other factors that determine delivery include Domain Name System (DNS), authentication, reputation, and content.

To be seen as a legitimate email sender, Van Greunen said you need to prioritise three key changes.

  1. Adopt 3 Authentication Protocols: Bulk email senders need to adopt three authentication protocols, which are most effective in preventing email spoofing when used together. These are: Sender Policy Framework, DomainKeys Identified Mail, and Domain-Based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance.
  2. Implement One-Click Unsubscribe: Subscribers should be able to easily opt out of receiving marketing emails, so you need to display a visible unsubscribe link in the body of the email, for example, you could put it in the footer.
  3. Threshold for Spam Complaint Rates: Senders should retain a spam rate of 0.3% or lower, monitor their Google Postmaster, and only send emails users want.

A Deeper Dive into the 3 Authentication Protocols

1. Sender Policy Framework (SPF)

“This is an authentication method that lists the Internet Protocol (IP) address of a mail server and a domain name you’ve authorised to send on your behalf,” explained Van Greunen.

This means if the incoming mail server verifies the IP, the authentication of the sender’s identity will be confirmed, and the mail is likely to be delivered to the inbox – unless there are sender reputation issues. Conversely, if the IP is not found, the email address could be blocked from being delivered or sent to spam.

Van Greunen said an easy way to understand SPF is to think of it as the VIP list for an exclusive event. “If you’re not on the list, the event organiser will not let you in. SPF is the VIP list in this scenario, so the receiving mail server is the event organiser, and the inbox is the event.”

2. DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM)

DKIM combines both methods for authenticating email senders, by giving a sender a way to digitally sign their emails to confirm they originated from the server that created the message. It also ensures the message is not intercepted or altered for malicious purposes.

This protocol involves public and private keys that are unique to each sender.
Private Key: This is known as the DKIM signature, which is found inside the email header and travels with the email.
Public Key: Resides on the DNS server.

Van Greunen explained the keys aim to verify identity. “When an email is sent, the mail server will test these keys against each other to see if they match. Matching the keys proves your identity and your email is then sent to the inbox. Keys that don’t match leave your identity unverified and the mail server will send your mail to spam because it can’t verify your identity.”

3. Domain-Based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC)

Van Greunen said DMARC is a “crucial component”, adding this protocol was created in 2012 and has since become a standard tool for the email industry. “When using DMARC, a sender can create a strict authentication protocol that lets the receiving email server know which IPs on your domain are actually yours. The policy will then instruct the Internet service Provider (ISP) how to handle your mail from malicious IPs that are trying to use your domain,” she explained.

“So, when a sender has implemented DMARC, the mailbox provider checks to see if the email passes SPF, then it enforces the policy listed in your DNS record and filters the email accordingly. Finally, a report is then delivered to the sender with information about the email traffic sent on behalf of the domain and how it was handled.”

Van Greunen added the DMARC policy is a suggestion, not a directive to a mailbox provider, for example Gmail or Yahoo.

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Make Unsubscribing Easy to Protect Your Reputation

In Van Greunen’s words, “Unsubscribing should be a user-friendly process – quick and simple.” She explained how users tend to mark unwanted emails as spam, especially if there isn’t an easy way to unsubscribe from the email. For the recipient, the result appears the same – the message no longer appears in their inbox. However, for the sender, there is a reputational impact.

“When a user unsubscribes from an email, they get removed from your list – they don’t receive any future emails – and there’s no damage to your IP or your domain reputation,” explained Van Greunen.

“However, when a Gmail or Yahoo user marks your message as spam, they stay on your mailing list, they will continue to receive future email marketing campaigns, and their ISP will redirect your message to their spam folder. This negatively impacts your reputation and illustrates and confirms the importance of making sure that it’s very easy for a subscriber to opt out.”

Why It’s Important to Focus on Your List Hygiene

Van Greunen homed in on how email delivery isn’t a straightforward process, but there are actions you can take when creating your email to decrease the chances of recipients marking it as spam. One of these actions is list management.

“I cannot stress the importance of list hygiene enough, especially with Google’s account activation plans. We’re all aware of what Google’s going to do with an inactive Gmail account, and it’s always best practice to be on top of your list hygiene – remove invalid or dormant data,” said Van Greunen.

Speaking further on unengaged contacts – which are contacts who do not open your messages – Van Greunen said, “When you send a message to an unresponsive user, subscriber, customer, or invalid email address, it will severely impact your engagement. It sends your deliverability rates straight to the gutter. If you constantly send to a contact who doesn’t want to receive your mails and complains about it, your sender reputation will decrease to the point where your mails are automatically marked as junk or, even worse, you’ll get blacklisted.” This is why Van Greunen said it is “crucial” to implement a list-cleaning policy to remove unresponsive or disengaged recipients from your list.

She said having big data was irrelevant, and inactive email addresses were sometimes used as a spam trap to catch those sending malicious or spam messages. Therefore, by not maintaining lists, senders risk damaging their reputation, which may result in putting you on the radar of ISPs and having your emails placed in the spam folder.

Do you want to hear more about the email deliverability changes and how you can set them up on the Everlytic platform? Watch the webinar recording.

Comply with Changes to Enhance Email Deliverability

The talk of new sender requirements may sound intimidating – and, quite frankly, frustrating – at an initial glance. However, complying with these new email deliverability changes will help you enhance your sender reputation and ensure your emails arrive in the intended inboxes. In a nutshell, you need to adhere to the three authentication protocols, implement the user-friendly unsubscribe process, and maintain your list hygiene. By following these steps, you are sure to achieve email deliverability success.

Beyond Email Deliverability: Crafting Impactful Mailers

Looking for a quick-reference guide to support you at every step of your email marketing campaign journey from creation to deliverability? We’ve got just the guide for you – it’s called Crafting Impactful Mailers: A Marketer’s Playbook for success. Download it for free today!