Another Reason to Stop Using 3rd Party Email

I am fairly certain that we have discussed this topic in the past, but a new announcement from some heavy hitters in the 3rd party email game has prompted me to bring this topic up once again.

What is 3rd Party Email?

Put simply, it is any of the free email services such as GMAIL, HotMail, AOL, etc. These types of accounts are very appealing as they are free, simple to use and easily accessible from any desktop or mobile device. Many businesses often start out using such services for a variety of reasons, mostly cost or they have yet to purchase their own domain name.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's talk about the real reason you shouldn't be using a free, public "From" address - it will impact your ability to reliably get your email to your subscribers.

For those who may be unaware, many large providers participate in a newer authentication standard known as DMARC, which provides instructions to mail servers on how to process and deliver email. Back in 2014, both Yahoo and AOL published DMARC policies for their domains that make it very difficult to deliver mail for marketers that use an AOL or Yahoo address when utilizing a 3rd party sender like iContact. The reason for this was to cut down on malicious senders that hide behind free email accounts and send spam, malware, viruses, etc. While this did inconvenience some marketers, the change had a dramatic effect on reducing malicious mail that appeared as if it was coming from those providers.

It's important to note that Gmail is on record as stating that they too will be joining AOL and Yahoo in changing their DMARC policy in June 2016. Our astute readers will notice that we are now in June of 2016, which makes this an immediate concern.

What does this mean for those still using a @gmail.com address for their marketing mail? Unfortunately, it isn't good news. Since Gmail is telling servers and spam filters to be strict with messages that appear to use a Gmail address - but originate with other servers - you can expect it to become much more difficult to reach the inbox, with more messages being sent to the spam folder or rejected entirely.

So here are some tips on making sure your email program is not impacted by this shift in Gmail's DMARC policy (hint: they've all been considered Best Practices for quite a while):

  • Only send content that your subscribers signed up for, at a frequency that matches the expectation set at the point of opt-in.
  • Use a "From" address that points to a domain that you own and control. We recommend using an address that is monitored so that your subscribers can reply to it to offer feedback. Encouraging this is a good idea as someone replying to your message adds your "From" address to their contacts/safe sender list, giving you an easier path to their inbox.
  • Add an SPF record to your domain so that messages sent through 3rd parties are authenticated, meaning a server can see that the sender has permission to deliver your email.
  • Monitor subscriber engagement. Gmail leads the way when it comes to engagement-based filtering, but nearly all providers now use engagement levels to varying degrees when determining how relevant your messages are. A high number of non-engaged users will make it more difficult to reach the inboxes of new subscribers. These should be segmented and excluded from regular sending, rested, and re-engaged. There's more information on maintaining subscriber engagement in this blog post.
  • Only send content that your subscribers signed up for, at a frequency that matches the expectation set at the point of opt-in.

That last one isn't a typo, the first and last bullet points are the same - it's so important it needed to be said twice!

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