Deliverability

How to maximise your email deliverability with authentication

Email providers across the globe are fighting an on-going battle to defend their servers and users against growing volumes of spam.

When you look at the amount of emails that end up in the junk folder it seems that, for the most part, they are winning too. But what does that mean for those of us who end up in spam folders, thwarting our online marketing campaigns?

Fortunately, there are a few simple steps towards email authentication that can help senders present themselves correctly to ISPs and give our emails the best possible chance of reaching an inbox.

What is email authentication?

Email authentication is a secure method for mail servers to identify senders of emails and to check messages haven’t been forged during transmission.

SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) are standard authentication methods that enable senders to validate and claim responsibility for their message. This can then be read by the ISP automatically and allow safe passage.

There’s a lot of discussion on the Internet around the topic of email authentication standards, but much of the content consists of heavy duty technical details that don’t necessarily make for easy reading. It can be difficult to discern exactly what the standards are and why they should be used.

Why do ISPs need to authenticate?

Authentication standards provide ISPs with reliable methods for looking up and identifying legitimate senders using information stored in the headers of the email messages they receive.

To reduce exposure to forged, spam or scam emails, ISPs want to know who an email is from and whether it has been encrypted sufficiently so that it wasn’t modified during transmission.

The resulting answers are just a few of the factors used to help make the decision of whether to place the message in the user’s inbox or to simply put it straight into the junk folder.

SPF and DKIM have been best practice for a number of years. With millions of emails being sent every second, businesses need to ensure, as a priority, they’re using such authentication to secure their reputation and build trust relationships with ISPs and users.

Stay secure with continual monitoring

Managing SPF and DKIM is an on-going process so avoid falling into the trap of thinking that once it’s set up the job is done.

Put a process in place that monitors changes to IP addresses and sending domains. Use that as a prompt to retest the configuration of email authentication so you can be confident all emails being sent are signed and secured.

Follow the recommendations of M3AAWG to keep DKIM secure and we advise taking a look at DMARC as a method for monitoring filtering and phishing attacks.

What happens if it’s not set up correctly?

The impact of not having a correct email authentication set up varies, but when compared to campaigns sent with the correct configuration our analysis shows that:

  • Engagement rates can drop significantly
  • ISPs bounce emails
  • Campaign delivery speed is throttled by ISPs
  • Return Path Sender Score drops
  • Opt-outs and Feedback Loop complaints increase

The benefits to your business

Getting through spam filters is a concern for us all. We know that online marketing is crucial for modern business and email communication forms a vital part of a structured campaign.

Authentication isn’t going to result in preferential treatment, but many ISPs use it to track our sending history and reputation. When we build a positive reputation for our domain this builds trust and can improve deliverability.

Therefore, taking aside other considerations such as content etc., authentication will more than likely increase the number of emails that land in the inbox. We know there’s no guarantee of the email being read, but getting through in the first place certainly helps.

There’s no doubt email authentication, using SPF and DKIM, is something senders should be using. It makes it even more sense considering just how simple it is to set up and monitor.

After all, reaching our clients and prospects – and communicating with them effectively – is vital for any business to succeed.

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