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The Ultimate Guide to BIMI

Last Updated, 2021-02-01 email-delivery email-authentication

189 Upvotes | 36 Comments.
The author voluntarily contributed this tutorial as a part of Write to Contribute program.

Brand Indicators for Message Identification abbreviated as BIMI is an email specification that gives a brand the flexibility to decide what logo should appear as sender in all of their outgoing email messages.

Example of an email with no sender logo:

No Sender Logo

Example of email with BIMI- Sender Logo

There is no platform to define BIMI. It's just a set of DNS based instructions which you will be passing to an email client requesting them to show your logo in the email messages.

BIMI is an open framework built to create trust between a sender and receiver. So, its usage is not limited in email as a channel. Instead, the opportunities are endless. Linkedin has been one of the core members for supporting this initiative, so very soon its adoption might increase across social media platforms and messaging apps like WhatsApp, Telegram and even in different mobile payment solutions.

It is important to understand what BIMI is, why email giants are so serious about this, and how this will affect your email delivery. In this comprehensive BIMI guide, you will learn the A-Z of BIMI with its implementation steps and ways to improve your email delivery rates.

Frequently asked questions

Brands have started implementing BIMI on their domain. However, the reality is that not everyone can succeed in getting their logo appeared in the mail client. The obvious question is, Why?

Why is my BIMI logo not appearing in emails?

BIMI doesn't guarantee your logo's display because showing a logo against your email is actually a feature of the mail client. BIMI is just a framework to mention your preferred logo for brand identification. The decision to show a logo entirely lies with the mail client. This wired thing happens primarily for two reasons:

  1. The receiver doesn't have support for BIMI. Please check whether the receiving mail server is there in the list of BIMI support email clients.
  2. Your current sender reputation is low to qualify for BIMI logo display. Currently, measuring a sender reputation is very subjective and, none of the ISPs publishes this. However, there is a recommended checklist to know the health of your sender domain.

List of Mailbox Providers and Email Clients Supporting BIMI 

The adoption of BIMI is currently in its early stage. Yahoo has been the first one to extend its support for BIMI. With Gmail announcing its support for BIMI in 2020, this topic has started trending among email marketers. 

Currently, not all mail clients and email service providers support BIMI. So, even though you have a high sender reputation and implemented correct BIMI records, your brand logo might not start appearing in all the mailboxes.

In this section, you will get the list of mail providers who are currently giving the support for BIMI and to what extend.

List of providers currently in the beta phase of supporting BIMI:

  • Verizon Media Group (Yahoo, AOL etc.)
  • Gmail

Both of these providers are currently running a pilot with selected brands with a good sender reputation. Gmail and others are expanding their beta scope, so soon will start enabling more brands for BIMI. So, it is good to get BIMI enabled on your domain at the earliest.

List of providers currently in the planning phase to support BIMI:

  • Comcast
  • Fastmail
  • seznam.cz

List of providers with no support for BIMI:

  • Microsoft
  • 1&1
  • Yahoo Japan

This list is last updated on 1st July 2020. Source: BIMIGroup

Follow the BIMI Implementation Guide to learn the complete steps to get your brand compliant with BIMI guidelines.

Why is BIMI getting so important and trending?

With the evolution of internet and technology, the phishing, spoofing, and fraudulent emails are also rising. You might be already hearing the news around fraudulent transactions, accounts getting hacked, and many a time people losing their privacy too.

In this new era, it is important to have strong authentication and identification mechanisms to catch hold of the spammers. And, BIMI is an important step towards that. 

Most email consumers are non-techies. So, they can't analyze any technical information in emails like SPF, DKIM, TLS, and return path to conclude which emails are legitimate and which one is a fraud.

For this reason, the industry has been trying to innovate to bring more visual ways of spam identification for the last couple of years. 

Few great examples of visual modes of spam identification:

Gmail's Spam notification message

Gmail Red lock icon

BIMI in emails

"Broken logo or No logo will soon be a symbol of distrust. Email recipients will start categorizing such broken emails as spam, and getting low email open rates will be higher."

Is it mandatory to implement BIMI?

BIMI is not a compulsory email specification to implement. Having said that the user experience and anti-spam values which BIMI brings on the table is tremendous. And, so neither the mailbox providers nor the marketers will never let this opportunity unexplored.

As per experts, the adoption of BIMI is bound to increase with time. And, over a period our preview panes will be full of brand logos. In such a scenario, the emails without a logo might be considered less trustworthy.

Is BIMI going to increase open rates for your email?

Marketing executives are looking BIMI as an opportunity to market their brand without even getting an email open. As per research email users spend less than a second reading on a particular subject line in a preview pane. If your subject is not engaging enough, then you will be missing on the opportunity to get a click.

Till now, subject line and the sender name was the most deciding factor in getting an email open, but now with the launch of BIMI users will start seeing the brand logo in their preview panes which will add up to their decision making to open an email.

That's precisely why email marketers worldwide are so desperate to include BIMI as a part of their email programs.

Many have started looking this, as a new hack to get better visibility in front of their email subscribers to get more opens.

"BIMI adopters with their logo getting displayed in the recipient's inboxes will get an extra edge to stand out and get more opens."

Definitely, BIMI is not going to uplift your open rate drastically, but, over a period, email messages without a logo may secure lesser trust by someone to read.

Trust plays a very important role in getting high deliverability and open rates in email. BIMI's association with this leading metrics "trust" makes it an indirect influencer in building the sender's overall reputation.

Current Formula for getting high email deliverability rates:

Higher Open Rate = Higher Engagement Rate = Higher Sender Reputation= Higher Email Deliverability Rate

And, this is how BIMI adds up to the entire equation: 

BIMI = Increased Trust & Attention Grabber = Better Open Rate = Higher Engagement Rate = Higher Sender Reputation= Higher Email Deliverability Rate

BIMI will also create new opportunities for the designers to innovate with logos or favicons to make their brand stand out in the email preview pane.

Why is BIMI important for Mailbox providers and Mail Clients?

SPF, DKIM and DMARC are the email authentication parameters for protecting emails from getting spoofed. But, the reality is not even 1% of the email users are aware of these industry set authentication frameworks. You can't expect them to read the email headers to identify the source IP and what all authentications are getting failed. Therefore, it's important to give users some more visual representation to identify potential spammers and protect their losses at a very early stage.

While Gmail and a few other global leaders are trying to enhance these more visual elements, but the mail clients are still lagging. As per Retruster 2019 Security stats, last year 76% of businesses and 60% of American families reported they were victims of one or the other phishing or scam attacks. These numbers are enough for the industry to take some immediate steps. And, BIMI is one such outcome focusing on helping the user identify the authenticity of the sender.

The adoption of BIMI will increase among mail clients and email service providers because it is directly promoting the adoption of DMARC among the organizations.

Spammers can currently enter your mailboxes with fraud brand identify, like you receiving lottery and fake overseas job offer email from big brands. But, once the adoption of BIMI will increase, it will automatically increase the adoption of DMARC with strict policy rules (i.e. either quarantine or reject). With such strict DMARC policy check in place, many of the brands impersonated emails will not be able to see the light of inbox nor even make out their doors for spam folders. 

BIMI, along with DMARC, will enhance the email security layer for many sensitive business units like banks, payment gateways, social media platforms, donation platforms and online retailers. Thanks to the entire BIMI group to make this happen. It's going to be a reward for all good senders for following the strong authentication standards.

How to implement BIMI?

BIMI seats on the top of DMARC and demands for a strict DMARC enforcement rule to be set by the sender. BIMI will not work if the required DMARC authentication fails. 

BIMI requires a strict DMARC rule (explained below) to be set on your domain to comply with high standards of authentication. 

Having a strict DMARC record helps the receiver to decide on what to do with emails where the brand's domain is getting misused. And, at the same time receiver knows whether it is safe to show the brand-defined logo or not. Once, the logo appears, this increases the visual trust of the reader on the authenticity of the email.

Leveraging on an existing authentication framework is probably the best part of BIMI, which is going to strengthen the email ecosystem.

In the next sections, you will learn what DMARC enforcement is and how to implement BIMI for your emails.

What is DMARC Enforcement?

A DMARC record without enforcement is really of no use. It's like checking everyone at the door but letting everyone come inside. DMARC is effective only when a strict enforcement policy is in place.

DMARC enforcement refers to a specific parameter in the TXT record, indicated by "p". In this parameter, the domain owner can set the mail handling instructions for the receiving server. To enable DMARC enforcement, the value of p in the DMARC record can be either "p=quarantine" or "p=reject" without gaps such as sp=none or pct<100. 

In case of DMARC authentication failure, the receiving mail server will check the value of "p", and based on it the email will be either quarantined or straight away rejected by the server.

Steps to implement BIMI for your emails

1. Implement SPF and DKIM: This is the first step to get your domain ready for BIMI. You need to not only implement SPF, DKIM and DMARC but also need to ensure domain alignment across the two. You can achieve domain alignment by updating the SPF and/or DKIM must be authenticated using your From Domain. 

2. Implement DMARC with enforcement policy: You need to set up the DMARC record on the From domain. While setting up the DMARC record, you must keep the value of p to either "p=quarantine" or "p=reject" with no sp=none and no pct<100. Enabling enforcement policy on your emails shows the seriousness about the type of emails you will be sending and in return going to help you build a positive sender reputation with the receiver. Here is a sample DMARC record with enforcement enabled:

pepipost.com _dmarc.pepipost.com TXT v=DMARC1; p=quarantine; sp=none; fo=1; ri=3600; rua=mailto:support@pepipost.com; ruf=mailto:support@pepipost.com

3. Publish a BIMI record: The next step is to create your BIMI compatible logo. Currently, BIMI specifications support only a square-shaped image in SVG format. This SVG logo should be hosted publicly and must be accessible via secured HTTPS. As the logo will appear in a small area, so it is recommended not to add too much detailing and think it like a favicon image of your brand. Once the logo is ready and hosted on a public HTTPS URL, you can go ahead with updating the BIMI record on your DNS.

Here is an example of a BIMI record published for paypal.com:

default._bimi.paypal.com TXT 
v=BIMI1; l=https://www.paypalobjects.com/marketing/web/logos/pp_only_logo_square.svg; a=;

You should connect with your developer or IT team to get these records implemented. Based on your hosting/nameserver provider, the exact steps to publish these records in your DNS may vary.

The most common issues while implementing SPF, DKIM, DMARC or BIMI record is the use of line-wraps, newlines, or whitespaces. Please ensure you're copying and updating the correct record without any additional characters.

The requirement for obtaining a Verified Mark Certificate (VMC) also referred to as BIMI certificate is optional, but with the growing adaptation, the requirement for a BIMI certificate will also increase. In a recent announcement, Google has recommended email senders to use Entrust Datacard and DigiCert as the Certification Authorities to validate their logo ownership.

BIMI checklist for building sender reputation 

  1. Build a high sender reputation by sending high engaging emails with lower bounces, unsubscribes and spam complaints.
  2. Your sender domain should not be a part of global DNSBLs or RBLs list. Use domain blocklist checker to know the latest blocklist status of your sender domain.
  3. Consult with a trusted authority to issue a Verified Mark Certificate (VMC) for your sender domain. Currently, this is optional, but if your sender reputation is excellent and still BIMI logo not appearing, then this is worth trying. Once the certificate is issued, you should add that as a part of your BIMI TXT record.

For any queries, please feel free to comment below or contact us for a free 1-1 email consultancy.

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