Businesses have been sending out bulk emails to reach their audience for decades. These emails are popular for sending marketing communications such as new product announcements, promotions, offers, special deals, etc.
In late 2023, Google and Yahoo announced they would implement fresh guidelines for bulk email senders. These new guidelines will come into force in February 2024 and primarily focus on three critical areas:
- Authentication of emails
- Maintaining low spam rates
- Ability to easily unsubscribe
Google defines bulk email senders as those who send more than 5,000 messages to Gmail addresses in a single day.
Email authentication requirements for bulk senders
Under the new email authentication requirements, Google and Yahoo require bulk email senders to use what Google refers to as ‘well-established best practices’ to authenticate the sender of the emails. According to Google, this would close loopholes that attackers could potentially exploit.
Three interlinked mechanisms work together when it comes to email authentication. These are:
- Sender Policy Framework (SPF) – The Sender Policy Framework helps prevent domain spoofing by allowing the senders to identify email servers with permission to send emails from their domain.
- Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) – DomainKeys Identified Mail adds a digital signature to each outgoing email. This helps verify that an authorized sender sent the message and it was not altered.
- Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC) – This allows domain owners to specify actions to take if an email fails authentication. Additionally, it enables reporting on email authentication outcomes.
Google and Yahoo have advised bulk email senders to set up all three by February 1, 2024. Senders that already include an unsubscribe link in their messages have until June 1, 2024, to implement one-click unsubscribe in all promotional messages.
Spam rate requirements
Now comes the tricky part. Google has specified that bulk email senders must keep their reported spam rate (percentage of outgoing messages flagged as spam by recipients) in Google’s Postmaster Tools below 0.10% and never let it reach 0.30% or higher.
With the new email policy changes of Google and Yahoo effective February 2024, maintaining low email spam rates will become critical for ensuring your email campaigns’ deliverability. Here are some best practices, apart from authentication and one-click unsubscribe option, that will help keep email spam rates at their lowest:
- Monitor and respond to feedback loops: Subscribe to feedback loops provided by email service providers. This allows you to receive notifications when users mark your emails as spam and enables you to take corrective actions promptly.
- Permission-based marketing: Send emails only to individuals who have explicitly opted to receive them. Building and maintaining a permission-based email list helps ensure that your messages are targeted and well-received.
- Double opt-in confirmation: Implement a double opt-in process to confirm subscribers’ intentions. This additional step helps verify email addresses and reduces the likelihood of fake or mistyped addresses.
- Educate subscribers on whitelisting: Encourage your subscribers to add your email address to their address books or mark your emails as ‘Not Spam.’ This helps in building a positive sender reputation.
- Clean and update your email list regularly: Remove inactive or bounced email addresses from your list regularly. Keeping a clean and up-to-date list contributes to better deliverability and engagement.
- Avoid spam trigger words and phrases: Refrain from using words and phrases commonly associated with spam in your email content. These can trigger spam filters and negatively impact your deliverability.
- Regularly monitor and analyze metrics: Keep an eye on email metrics such as open, click-through, and bounce rates. Analyzing these metrics can help you identify potential issues and take corrective measures promptly.
- Use a reputable email service provider (ESP): Choose a reputable ESP like Netcore that adheres to industry standards and provides state-of-the-art tools to optimize deliverability. A good ESP will leverage AI to help you manage your email campaigns effectively.
By incorporating these best practices into your email marketing strategy, you can minimize the risk of your emails being flagged as spam.
It comes as no surprise that Google now wants marketing and other subscribed messages to support one-click unsubscribe functions. The unsubscribing guidelines are designed to enable recipients to opt out of your messages quickly. Implementing the new guidelines will also help improve engagement rates and deliverability.
If you send more than 5000 messages per day, your marketing and subscribed messages must support one-click unsubscribe functionality. Google has recommended including the following headers in outgoing messages:
- List-Unsubscribe-Post and List-Unsubscribe (support one-click unsubscribe [RFC 8058]
- support “mailto” unsubscribe [RFC 2369]
It also recommends allowing recipients to review individual mailing lists they are subscribed to and let them unsubscribe from such lists individually or all at once. Google also advocates automatically unsubscribing recipients that have multiple bounced messages.
Why the new requirements
There are two main reasons why Google is enforcing new policies for bulk email senders from February 2024:
1. Security and Spam Reduction
Gmail currently receives billions of emails daily, and many are unwanted spam. The new policies aim to increase email security by requiring authentication with protocols like SPF, DKIM, and DMARC. This makes it harder for malicious actors to spoof legitimate sender addresses and send phishing emails. The stricter spam complaint threshold also encourages senders to prioritize quality content and avoid spammy practices.
2. User Control and Experience
The new policies also focus on giving users more control over their inboxes. The one-click unsubscribe feature makes it easier for recipients to opt out of unwanted emails, reducing frustration and improving the overall user experience. Essentially, Google wants to create a safer and more user-friendly email ecosystem for everyone. These new policies benefit both senders, who can avoid penalties and reach engaged audiences, and recipients, who receive fewer unwanted emails and have greater control over their inboxes.
Are businesses prepared for such restrictions?
Whether bulk email senders are prepared for the new policies is a mixed bag. Many larger companies and email marketing platforms have likely been adjusting their practices in anticipation, but smaller senders or those less engaged with industry updates might face some challenges.
- Industry awareness has been growing thanks to widespread coverage of the new policies.
- Many email marketing platforms offer tools and support to help with authentication and compliance.
- Larger senders often have dedicated resources to adapt to changing regulations.
- Smaller senders and those unfamiliar with technical aspects like DMARC might need time and support to implement the changes.
- Some senders with high existing spam rates could face significant deliverability issues.
- The full impact of the new policies won’t be known until February; further adjustments might be necessary after implementation.
Global spam rate:
Unfortunately, there’s no single, universally accepted figure for the average global spam rate in 2023. Different organizations measure spam rate using different methodologies, and results can vary based on factors like email service providers and geographic regions. However, some estimates suggest the global spam rate in 2023 may have been around:
- 40-50%: According to Spamhaus, a leading anti-spam organization.
- 32.4%: Based on data from Symantec Email Security.
- 26.3%: Reported by Proofpoint, a cybersecurity company.
These figures highlight the prevalence of spam, which is why the new policies from Google and Yahoo are significant steps towards creating a cleaner and more user-friendly email environment.
While some bulk email senders are likely prepared for the new policies, others might need to adapt and improve their practices to avoid deliverability issues. The global spam rate remains a significant concern, making these changes necessary for a healthier email ecosystem.
Steps to comply with the updated requirements
Here’s how you can comply with the updated requirements for bulk senders.
- Email authentication – Implement SPF or DKIM authentication for your domain and confirm your email’s identity.
- DNS records – Ensure valid forward and reverse DNS records for sending domains or IPs.
- Spam rates – Ensure that spam rates remain below the 0.3% threshold recommended in Postmaster Tools.
- Message formatting – Ensure all messages are formatted according to standard guidelines (RFC 5322).
- DMARC authentication – Set up DMARC email authentication for your sending domain.
- DMARC enforcement for Gmail – Do not impersonate “Gmail From” headers to comply with DMARC quarantine policies.
- Forwarded emails – You must add ARC headers to all outgoing emails if you forward emails frequently. Additionally, mailing list senders must include a List-id: header.
- DMARC alignment – Ensure alignment with SPF or DKIM domains for direct mail to pass DMARC alignment.
- Unsubscribe feature – One-click unsubscribe with a visible link for subscribed messages must be enabled.
- Email authentication – Use industry standards such as SPF, DKIM, and DMARC to implement stronger authentication.
- Easy unsubscribe – Support one-click unsubscribe and honor unsubscribe requests within two days.
- Relevance threshold – Ensure all emails align with user preferences, helping maintain a clutter-free inbox.
Prompt compliance will lead to a brighter future
Google has stated that the changes took a long time to come. As an email marketer, you must strengthen email authentication, simplify unsubscribe processes, and align emails with user preferences. Gmail and Yahoo give priority to customer experience. Meeting their standards can enhance email delivery and help create a secure global email environment.
The updated guidelines would naturally cause apprehension and pose a few challenges. However, they are crucial to a more secure and enhanced inbox experience.
We can help you master the intricacies of Gmail and Yahoo’s guidelines, unraveling comprehensive details and offering practical implementation methods. Partner with us in forging a path toward a brighter future for email, fostering a landscape where meaningful communication flourishes and unnecessary clutter becomes a thing of the past.
Connect with us to understand how you can benefit from our expertise and experience. Serving over 6,500 customers across 40 countries, Netcore delivers 500 million emails every day.