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What is email authentication and why does it matter?

June 29 - 2020

Email Marketing Strategy 5 min read

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What is email authentication and why does it matter?

We might (admittedly) be a little biased but we think email marketing is brilliant. It consistently delivers the best return on investment compared to other marketing channels, it helps you build better relationships with your customers, it's easy to scale, you can send highly targeted and personalised campaigns, it's highly measurable...the list goes on.But all this counts for nothing if your email marketing campaigns don't reach your subscribers. You can have the best subject line in the world, and know how your subscribers are opening your emails, but, again, this doesn't matter if your emails aren't being delivered.It's essential you do everything in your power to keep the deliverability of your emails high and the first port of call to make this happen is email authentication.

What's email authentication?

Email Authentication is a "digital handshake" between the sender (you) and the receiving mail server (your customers) to confirm you are who you say you are.Put simply, authentication improves the likelihood that legitimate emails will reach the intended recipient. It reduces the likelihood of spam, spoofing, and phishing attacks, chiefly by preventing spammers sending emails pretending to be someone else and it prevents your email marketing campaigns being blocked by email providers like Outlook and Google. Think of it this way, if your company is called 'Martin's Mugs' and you send an email campaign to your database from the email address, the receiving mail server will want to verify that the email is actually from Martin's Mugs. It does this by checking for verification records associated with your domain. If these records don't exist, then there's an increased chance your email campaign will go straight into the junk folder or won't be delivered at all.

What's involved with it?

Although it might seem complicated, it's actually a relatively straightforward process.The mail server receiving your email will look for your SPF record and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) token. If you're interested in the specifics of how SPF and DKIM works, there's a great explainer here. So, to set up email authentication, the following steps should be followed:

  • Creation of a Sender Policy Framework (SPF) record
  • Creation of a DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) record
  • Liaison with your web developer to attach the records to your Domain Name Server (DNS) record
  • Verification that the required, authorised sending domains are listed on the above records e.g.
  • Implementation of domain mapping to ensure links in emails relate to your domain and not the platform that is being used e.g.

Depending on what email marketing platform you use and your own technical knowledge, it's possible to set them up yourself. However, we would recommend getting an expert in to help and this is a service we're more than happy to provide - if you'd like to find out more please do get in touch with us.

Why is it important?

Email Service Providers (ESPs) e.g. Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, are introducing more robust measures to protect their users from spam and phishing emails. As a result of these policies, it is necessary for legitimate marketers to provide authentication in order that their emails continue to successfully reach the inboxes of their customers.The benefits of doing it include:

  • Prevent email fraud
  • Protect your brand
  • Improve your email deliverability
  • Ensure your emails continue to successfully reach the inbox rather than the spam folder

And, on the flip side of the coin, if you don't have email authentication in place you could see:

  • Difficulty with email placement
  • Security weaknesses
  • Service disruption
  • Lower engagement rates

Brand Reputation

Email authentication also helps with brand reputation, another key factor in ensuring the deliverability of your emails remains high. When deciding whether to accept your email, receiving servers assess your sending reputation. This includes your sending domain, IP address, your content, previous engagement and the quality of your sending lists. Failure to meet these standards results in the failed delivery of your email or placement in a spam folder. This in turn can damage your open rates, click rates and conversion rates - reducing sales, delivery of important information or subscriber engagement. At the end of the day, email authentication gives your company legitimacy and makes your emails a safe bet.

Final thoughts

It can be very easy for us to think brilliant email marketing campaigns are those with dazzling designs and clever content. But this is only part of the picture. Like the swan gliding across the water, everything on the surface may be serene but there's an awful lot of hard work going on underneath.Whether that's using your data in the most effective way, utilising smart segmentation, thoroughly signing off an email before it's sent or, in this case, ensuring your authentication is in place, it all combines to create successful email marketing campaigns that deliver for your business and your subscribers.With more than 15 years experience working at the cutting-edge of the email marketing industry, we're able to help you fit all the pieces of the email marketing puzzle together. You can find out more about how we can help here.

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