There’s nothing more frustrating than designing a great email marketing campaign for your business to drive new customers, only to notice that a large percentage of those emails are going to spam.
So why does this happen?
In a recent study in March, over 53% of email traffic was considered spam. With such large volumes of spam emails being generated, spam filters oftentimes flag certain emails due to shared hosting or because proper spam protections aren’t in place. In this article, we will discuss commonly asked questions that relate to email spam and ways to prevent this from happening in the future.
There are three main security protocols that provide the best level of protection when it comes to spam filtering. These are known by the acronyms DKIM, DMARC, and SPF. Below are some commonly asked questions that will provide details on the benefits of each of these, as well as the importance of email authentication and spam filtering.
1. What is spam filtering?
Spam filters help detect unsolicited or virus-infected emails to stop them from getting into email boxes. Spam filters are applied to both inbound and outbound emails. The problem with spam filters is that mistakes can occur and legitimate emails can be mistakenly detected as spam. We will also explore further security protocols that can be taken to authorize your domain and email messages, ensuring that they don’t end up in spam folders by mistake.
2. What is email authentication and why is it important?
Email authentication provides a method of verification of whether or not a message was actually sent from your business. By having your email authenticated, deliverability of your emails can be improved thus reducing the chance that they will be accidentally detected as spam. Email verification also helps in prevention of phishing and spoofing scams.
3. What are the first steps when beginning email authentication?
Emails are authenticated using SPF and DKIM, which will be further discussed below. SPF (or sender policy framework) specifies which hosts are allowed to send messages from a specific domain, while DKIM (or DomainKeys Identified Mail) provides an electronic signature as a way to authorize which emails sent are actually legitimate.
4. What are the benefits of SPF for spam protection?
SPF plays a role in domain protection through restriction of who is able to send emails to it. SPF determines when a message comes in and what domain it uses to prevent domain spoofing. SPF is also beneficial for stopping improper spam filtering because it reduces the amount of email addresses that are flagged as spam or bounced. There are three elements that make up SPF:
- policy framework
- specialized email headers that help provide information about the email itself
5. How do I create an SPF record?
The first step in prevention of domain spoofing (or using your domain as the “From” email when sending spam) and stopping legitimate emails from being flagged as spam is to create an SPF record. An SPF record basically designates that the servers and hosts you authorize are allowed to use your domain. This helps your legitimate email and messages coming from it from being flagged as spam.
6. What are the benefits of DKIM for spam protection?
DKIM relates more to the content of the email and ensures that it remains trusted and has not been tampered or changed in any way by spammers. DKIM helps to protect the reputation of an organization by keeping all email content legitimate and serves as a form of email authentication. Any recipients of your emails will be notified as to which emails came from your domain and which ones are spam messages sent from someone else.
7. How do I create a DKIM record?
You have the ability to create a DKIM record to ensure that the emails that you send remain validated and others are flagged as spam. The steps to creation of a DKIM record include:
- Determine the domains that are allowed to send mail on your behalf
- Create public/private keys of the policy record. The public key includes your DNS TXT record. The private key is used for any outbound messages sent from your domain and is added as a validation header for identification purposes, ensuring only legitimate emails are being sent through attachment of a DKIM signature to each email.
- Create TXT records using the DKIM information above
- Ensure that any existing MTAs support DKIM
8. Does Gmail use DKIM?
Gmail uses a default DKIM if you don’t choose to set up your own as a way to protect email security and prevent spoofing. However, it is recommended to set up your own DKIM using the steps mentioned above for outgoing messages for a higher level of email security and protection. To set up a DKIM on your Gmail account, use the following steps:
- Sign in to your Google Admin account
- Select apps- g suite-gmail
- Select authenticate email
- Select the appropriate domain to authenticate
- Click generate new record for DKIM
9. What are the benefits of DMARC for spam protection?
DMARC (or Domain Based Authentication) ties both SPF and DKIM together to create a set of policies. It also provides a method of linking together the sender’s domain name and what is listed in the front header of an email as an additional method of validation. In turn, this makes it more difficult for any potential phishing abuse and email spoofing. DMARC allows spam emails to be identified more quickly than spam filters will allow, ensuring a higher level of email security and protection.
10. Does DMARC protect all types of phishing attacks?
DMARC does not protect against all types of phishing attacks, and is only intended for protection against domain spoofing specially. Domain impersonation occurs frequently, so it is important to consider implementing DMARC for a higher level of email security than spam filters are able to provide.
11. How do I configure DMARC on my email server?
The following steps are recommended for setting up DMARC on your email server:
- First ensure that DKIM and SPF have been properly set up to properly define a DMARC policy, which defines how these records are to be handled by email servers and provide reporting if there is phishing or spoofing occurring on a specific domain.
- Log into your domain registrar and select configure DNS settings
- Select add new record- TXT record
- P option: determines how email violations should be handled
- S and R option: determines whether a strict or relaxed policy should be applied to the DKIM and SPF policy
- RUA and RUF provide addresses for data and forensic reports
12. What are the problems with shared email hosting and spam?
The problem with shared hosting is that you are sharing one server with millions of other people. Sharing the server with other businesses means that there will be a higher likelihood for spam activity such as domain spoofing and phishing because it more easily gives access to information spammers can use. Many businesses offer shared hosting as a way to drive costs down for buyers, but it often can result in these types of domain issues.
A better solution is to purchase dedicated hosting, which ensures better deliverability success for emails and less phishing activity because the server is not shared with thousands of other people.
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