The technicalities of email deliverability explained for marketers
Nov 24, 2022
Many marketers who use the SendNet email marketing platform struggle when it comes to appreciating the technical aspects of sending email. They get confused with DKIM of SPF records and how it all fits. This is a little document that will help you along the way by explaining in layman's terms what and why each of them are needed
The fundamental truth about email
Here is the fundamental truth about email that many dont know. Anyone can send an email to anyone else in the world and AS anyone.
Read that again.
Anyone can send an email to anyone else in the world and AS anyone.
That creates 2 big problems.
Someone can send an email pretending to BE you. It will work. At the fundamental level. There is nothing in the basic protocol itself from preventing that. There is no authentication.
Anyone can send an email (even as themselves) to anyone in the world in seconds which means there is too much email. Nothing else is quite like this in the world. No other medium is so reachable and so cheap and so open. Hence the problem of spam.
So, if you are a email service provider like Gmail or Yahoo mail, you have to tackle these 2 problems first. We are not going to discuss the 2nd problem here. Thats just algorithms trying to guess if this might be spam or not. They will never be quite sure.
For the first problem, luckily, there need not be any guesswork. Service providers can definitely tell, by insisting on a couple of things being present in your email sending process, tell if you are really who you say you are.
So they invented DKIM and SPF. SPF stands for Sender Policy Framework. It is a way to prove to email service providers that the IP that is sending the email is actually authorised to do so. It proves that you own the domain first of all and subsequently you as a domain owner really use this particular IP to send all your emails.
Conversely, it protects you from someone else sending emails from your email address and scam your customers.
DKIM is another way of proving the same thing. Some email providers like Gmail prefer SPF but Hotmail required you to have DKIM from the beginning. Just make sure both are in place with your administrator.
I hope the need for both these buzzwordy tech is clear. Its common sense really.
So Who implements these
Yous server/network administrator. Or your email service provider. Depending on the level of control you have. If you are using mailchimp, your IP is hosted on their servers so mailchimp will do it on your behalf. But you still have to prove that you own the domain. Thats where it starts. Once you own the domain, you will be able to places some records in the DNS entries to prove you own it. This is the first and only act of proof. Once this is established to Mailchimp, mailshimp will do the technical signing etc.
If you host all the email yourself, you need to compile this into your email server on your actual server instances. A little harder but any competent system administrator should be able to use Google to figure it out in 48 hours. The result is that mail providers trust you a lot more and give you a chance of sending legitimate non-spammy email.
There is also TLS encryption
Like we discussed earlier, email providers would want to know that no one is sniffing out or intercepting the text of your email as it is on its way to their servers. So they insist on encryption if you want to make it into inboxes. Again when using a service provider like mailchimp or SendNet, they do this behind the scenes but you will have to enable it in your email server if you are hosting your own solution.