How to comply with the Google and Yahoo email changes. Yahoogle

Google and Yahoo rewrite email rules for freelancers

Sometimes referred to as the portmanteau, ‘Yahoogle‘, as of Feb 1st, 2024, things changed when it comes to how we use email marketing in our businesses.

It’s for all the right reasons, IMHO, mainly to reduce the volume of spam emails that arrive in our inboxes, which is always a good thing.

Until this change, we freelancers, who don’t necessarily have an email list with thousands of subscribers, could effectively run our email marketing by simply subscribing to an email service provider (ESP), e.g. ConvertKit, and use the default configuration of the platform.

But no longer.

If we want to achieve and maintain good email deliverability, we now have to authenticate our emails using standard authentication methods.

Let’s understand the terms being used

Firstly, when you send emails from your preferred ESP (e.g. ConvertKit), you have settings that are all set and maintained inside that platform.

Secondly, you have what’s referred to as ‘DNS‘ settings. DNS stands for Domain Name System and essentially keeps a list of records that tell the internet what to do when interacting with your domain.

To have DNS settings, you need a DNS host – this is a company that hosts your website and publishes your DNS settings to the world, e.g. GoDaddy.

So, between your ESP and your DNS host, all the settings you need are taken care of.

List of terms: (you don’t need to know or remember these, I’m just adding them for completion);

  • ESP: Email Service Provider
  • DNS: Domain Name System
  • DNS Host: Domain Name System Host (e.g. GoDaddy)
  • SPF: Sender Policy Framework (this provides a public list of senders that are approved to send email from your domain, e.g. ConvertKit).
  • DKIM: DomainKeys Identified Mail (this uses a digital signature to let the receiver of an email know that the message was sent and authorised by the owner of a domain).
  • DMARC: Domain-based Message Authentication Reporting & Conformance (helps prevent hackers and other attackers from spoofing your domain to make it look like emails they send came from you)

Summary of what’s needed to comply

  1. Have a verified sending domain (this creates SPF and DKIM records).
  2. Set up a DMARC record (another authentication method)
  3. Maintain a complaint rate of less than 0.1%
  4. Have a single-click unsubscribe option for your subscribers (action within 2 days)

Don’t get overwhelmed by what needs to be done to comply. It can seem daunting, but if you’re not comfortable going alone, get your IT support person, your ESP (e.g. ConvertKit) or your domain host (e.g. GoDaddy) to do it for you.

To set everything up takes less than an hour to do, but like everything in life, it’s easy if you know how!

Setting up a verified sending domain in ConvertKit (6-step process)

When you set up a verified sending domain for your email, it does two things;

  1. It creates a CNAME record inside your DNS settings for SPF (Sender Policy Framework)

I use ConvertKit as my preferred ESP, so the example I show you below will use screenshots from my configuration but if you use an alternative ESP, it’ll be a similar process.

Step 1 of 6

In the top-right corner of ConvertKit, click on your account and then select ‘Settings‘ from the drop-down menu;

Step 2 of 6

Once in the settings menu, select the ‘Email‘ option from the left-hand column.

Step 3 of 6

Click the plus-icon where it says “Add a Verified Sending Domain‘.

Step 4 of 6

Then enter the domain from which you will send your emails to your subscribers, and then click ‘Next’; (in this example, I use provenflows.com to send my emails);

Step 5 of 6

When you click ‘Next’, you’ll be taken to this screen which presents the information you’ll need to add to your DNS records. The details of each CNAME record are created by ConvertKit for you and all you have to do is copy each one and paste it into your DNS records (by logging into your domain host’s system and editing your DNS records).

Step 6 of 6

Once you have inserted your two CNAME records into your DNS records, you come back to ConvertKit and click the ‘Validate‘ button.

This will go and perform a lookup on your DNS records to see if you have these two new records inserted. If you do, your domain has been verified – you have a Verified Sending Domain!

You see, I told you it was easy!

Setting up DMARC

DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication Reporting & Conformance) helps prevent hackers and other attackers from spoofing your domain to make it look like emails they send came from you.

It also informs email providers about what to do if the email doesn’t pass your check by either quarantining them (sending them to your spam folder) or rejecting them completely.

To set up DMARC, you need to add a ‘TXT’ record to your DNS settings; below you can see an example of my DMARC record;

The minimum data you need for your DMARC record is shown below;

When you have DMARC set up, you’ll begin to receive reports from the various email providers that you can use to check for any potential issues, so you can nominate a specific email address into which these reports can be fed (the text after the tag ‘rua’).

I choose a separate email address (dmarc@provenflows.com) so I don’t clutter my main inbox with DMARC reports.

Tracking complaint rates with Google Postmaster

You must maintain a complaint rate from subscribers of less than 0.1%. This means no more than 1 complaint in every 1,000 emails you send.

Despite what some may say, Google does NOT share your complaint rates with your ESP, so we need a way of tracking it.

Google provides a free tool called ‘Google Postmaster‘ and once we register our domain, and provided we send enough emails, we’ll receive reputation reports that allow us to track our complaint rates.

There is a minimum daily email volume threshold for data to populate in the Google Postmaster Tools. Google doesn’t publish the specific threshold, but it’s thought that if you are sending over 100 messages per day to unique Gmail users, reputation data will be generated for that day.

Setting up Google Postmaster takes just a few minutes and can be found here;

Don’t forget standard best practices for email marketing

Even though our email marketing systems are being upgraded by this additional email authentication, we must still use and maintain best practices, which are summarised below;

  • Never buy or rent an email list or you may end up being spam trapped!
  • Only add subscribers to your email list who have given permission
  • Send regular, helpful emails to your list to maintain engagement
  • Use a double-opt-in policy to avoid bots subscribing to your list.
  • Regularly cleanse your email list by unsubscribing ‘cold’ subscribers (cold subscribers are those who have not engaged with any of your emails for the last 90 days)
  • Make it super-easy for subscribers to unsubscribe from your list

What happens when we don’t comply

In simple terms, if we don’t comply, we ain’t getting in! Google and Yahoo make the rules; it’s their game when it comes to their customers’ inboxes and if we want to have a chance of landing in their inboxes, we need to tick their boxes.

The steps needed to comply are not overly onerous, so I think they are reasonable requests with which to carry out to ensure a chance of good deliverability rates.

Are you stuck in the dreaded freelancer's 'feast or famine' cycle?

Check out this article that explains how you can free yourself from this exhausting cycle, once and for all.

How to escape the freelancer's feast or famine cycle, once and for all!
John Bellingham Email marketing strategist for freelancers

John Bellingham
Email marketing strategist for freelancers.

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