You will soon be empowered to deploy SPF and improve email delivery – bear with me for now. ;-) It’s not uncommon that emails sent from custom domains unknowingly end up in the recipient’s spam folder. What’s so important is that neither you nor the recipient may be aware of this! As a guiltless, hard-working business owner who never sends unsolicited emails, this can be vexing to discover. Especially when you’ve just received some spammy emails yourself! “So, how did those messages come through…?”, you find yourself wondering. Evidently, emails are not always treated fairly – which is exactly the case in this example.
It is perfectly possible that a spammer manages to deliver emails, while a benign custom domain email address is rejected. With all the spam going around these days, I think we all agree that the spam regulation itself is much needed. In practice, however, there is a lot of room for improvement. Many people with a custom domain email address (which are often business owners) are inevitably confronted with the hassle of eliminating their ‘suspicious sender’ status. This can be very tedious to sort out – and meanwhile, spam emails are still found alive and well in many inboxes. Needless to say, it should be the other way around!
I will explain to you about the two main systems to have in place for a positive email score, which are SPF and DKIM. This will give you an understanding of why particular non-spam emails are treated as spam and how you can avoid this in the future. Ensuring that these two systems are in order will most likely be enough to keep your emails out of spam folders!
This blog post is part of a series, and in this post (part I), we are going to look at SPF.
SPF (Sender Policy Framework)
Here is a concise explanation from Google:
An SPF record is a type of Domain Name Service (DNS) record that identifies which mail servers are permitted to send email on behalf of your domain. The purpose of an SPF record is to prevent spammers from sending messages with forged From addresses at your domain.
I have found adding an SPF record to be the easiest and quickest way to prevent your emails from being marked as spam (or dismissed altogether). An SPF record is essentially used to check whether the sender’s IP address matches the SPF record added to the DNS configuration by the domain owner (you). The recipient’s email server will pick up on this and ‘trust’ the email you’ve sent – that is, if the IP addresses match. Keep in mind that if the domain’s IP address changes, you need to manually update the SPF record!
The first step is to find out whether your SPF record is set up properly or not. The website www.mail-tester.com is an excellent, user-friendly tool that I recommend for convenience’s sake. The website also provides additional, customised information to get a better idea of what all the technical terms mean.
You may find out that your SPF record is invalid, and if so, it’s probably the result of your hosting provider associating an incomplete SPF string with your domain (this was the case with my custom domain email addresses; my result was a ‘soft fail’). There are various degrees of severity, which means that not every ‘fail’ has the same impact – i.e. ‘hard fail’ is worse than ‘soft fail’. The former message won’t even make it to a recipient’s inbox, whereas the latter one will be assigned to the junk folder.
To add an SPF record to your domain, login to the customer control on the website of your hosting provider, and find the DNS configuration tab. In the field ‘value’, you should paste the string that has shown up on www.mail-tester.com, and select ‘TXT’ as record type. That’s it – you can now save the new record! I cannot give you more specific advice, because it will depend on the interface of your customer control environment. Your hosting provider will most likely be of help if you are in need, though! Try to find an article about DNS configuration from your own hosting provider, especially if you are inexperienced with this.
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