Email authentication can be a bit of a confusing topic, but don't worry! If you've heard that email authentication protocols can help improve deliverability, you're on the right track.
They help protect your emails from being marked as spam or rejected by the recipient's email server. This is especially important if you're sending high volumes of emails, as a single spam complaint or rejected email can damage your sending reputation and negatively impact the deliverability of your future emails.
Email authentication protocols might sound like a mouthful, but they're actually simple to understand.
Email authentication is a process of verifying the identity of the sender of an email message to ensure that the recipient knows who is sending the message and that the message has not been altered or forged in transit.
Your email service provider adds special code to your emails that acts as a digital signature. This signature helps verify that the email is coming from a legitimate source and not a fake one.
Email authentication helps protect your sender reputation. When you authenticate your emails, you're demonstrating to email providers that you're a trustworthy sender and that your messages are not spam or phishing attempts. This can lead to higher inbox placement rates and better overall deliverability. By authenticating your messages, you're providing an extra layer of security that helps ensure that your subscribers are receiving messages from you and not from a malicious actor.
The authentication information in emails is typically found in the message header, which isn't usually visible to the reader. This means that authenticating your emails won't affect the content of the email.
SMTP, the standard protocol for sending emails, does not have any built-in authentication features. This is why SPF, DKIM, and DMARC were created to enhance the security of SMTP. These standards will be discussed in more detail later on, but for now, it's important to know that using all three of these standards is crucial for a complete email authentication system.
To set up SPF for your email, you need to check if your domain already has a published SPF record stored in your site's DNS as a TXT record.
The easiest way to do this is by using an online NSLOOKUP tool like Kloth.net or Toolbox. Simply enter your domain name in the tool, search for TXT records, and look for the SPF record. If there is no SPF record found, you'll need to create one yourself and publish it as a new DNS record.
The SPF record will specify the SPF version, the authorized IP addresses that can send emails on behalf of your domain, and the handling of emails from unauthenticated senders.
If you find that your domain has a published SPF record, it will show you a result similar to this:
v=spf1 ip4:22.214.171.124/19 -all
This string of characters is the SPF record that establishes the version of SPF you're using, the IP addresses that are authorized to send emails on behalf of your domain, and how to handle emails received from unauthenticated senders.
To create an SPF record, follow these steps:
To see SPF records in action, you can open any email that you received and check the headers and/or the original mail. The "mailed by" domain tells you whether or not the SPF is applied properly. It should match the domain of the 'from' email address
DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) is a protocol that is used to verify the authenticity of an email message. It uses a digital signature, which is added to the email headers, to verify that the email has not been altered or tampered with during transit.
Here's how it works: when the email is sent, the sender's mail server applies a digital signature to the message headers, which includes information about the sending domain and a public encryption key. The recipient's mail server then retrieves the public key from the sending domain's DNS and uses it to decrypt the digital signature. If the decrypted signature matches the content of the email headers, it verifies that the email has not been altered and is authentic.
To set up DKIM authentication, follow these steps:
Email authentication can be a complicated process, but setting rules for unauthenticated emails simplifies things and improves your deliverability rates, especially if you have a complex sending infrastructure.
This is where DMARC comes into play. Adding DMARC records to your DNS records enhances your email deliverability and gives the domain owner more control over email authentication.
Here are the steps to set up DMARC:
Once you get your email authentication system up and running, you can sit back and relax. You'll barely have to lift a finger, as your email authentication should run smoothly. But keep an eye on a few key email marketing metrics, such as bounce rates and deliverability rates. If you notice any spikes or drops, it may be time to take another look at your email authentication setup.
So what's the payoff for all this email authentication effort? A great email deliverability rate and a return on investment that'll make email marketing profitable. And if you're using a quality email service provider, they'll take care of the heavy lifting for you. At SendPost, for example, we keep a close eye on the health of our clients' email programs, making sure that their emails are always reaching their intended inboxes. You can sign up here or get a demo if you want to finally stop struggling with email deliverability.