Today’s post is part 2 on the changes occurring within the email industry – and what you’ll need to know and do if you write and send emails or newsletters about your creative work.
In my previous post, I wrote about email, newsletters, and spam – and how spammers can impersonate a legitimate email newsletter. Because email is inherently insecure, and because newsletter software essentially works by “impersonating” the person sending it, newsletter spam is both widespread and hard to navigate. The filters that protect us from garden variety spam can’t always tell the difference between someone sending a legitimate newsletter to willing subscribers and a spammer pretending to be that person.
Which brings us to…
Some of the big players – the Googles and Yahoos of the world – are initiating changes to secure email newsletters to prevent these impersonations from happening. This is good news! And, long overdue.
But if you write a newsletter, this impacts you.
Even if you’re a tiny little business, even if you’re only sending to a small list, even if things have been working perfectly fine so far…
There are changes you’ll need to make in order to keep getting seen.
Some of this is commonsense stuff, like not being a spammy jerk. But some are new, critical changes you’ll need to make by Feb 1, 2024 if you want to keep reaching your readers’ inboxes.
1. Stop using Third Party Domains
You’ll no longer be allowed to use third party domains for your newsletter.
If your email ends in @gmail, @yahoo, or any other email provider that you don’t own, newsletters sent using that email likely won’t get through, or will be marked as spam. You’ll have to upgrade to a domain you own and control, for example I use makesomethingmeaningful.org. Not only will this make your emails look more professional, it will help them reach your readers’ inboxes.
2. Use SPF to protect against being marked as spam
SPF, or Sender Policy Framework, is an email authentication system used to prevent spammers from pretending to be you. It double checks emails received against where they should be coming from to make sure senders are who they say they are.
In other words, it’s a little like getting asked for your ID.
If you say you’re Jane Smith and your ID says you’re Jane Smith, congrats – you get in!
3. Verify your email using DKIM
DKIM, or DomainKeys Identified Mail, is a digital signature designed to prevent spam impersonators from pretending to be you.
It’s a little like the safety seal on a bottle of aspirin.
If the seal is intact, you know what’s in the bottle is authentic and hasn’t been tampered with.
4. Set up DMARC
DMARC, or Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance, is a policy that specifies what will happen if SPF or DKIM fail.
Think of SPF and DKIM as tests that must be passed. If either fails, what should happen to the email? Should it bounce? Go directly to spam? Notify the sender? This is where you get to define the rules.
Now, I’m not a techie person.
I’m an artist, and you might be too. But if you’re an artist – or dancer, or quilter, or baker – who has a newsletter, this stuff impacts you.
My goal for this post is to make you aware of what you may need to deal with and point you in the right direction. There’s a lot of information out there, and it can get pretty confusing. (Ask me how I know.)
But, the work isn’t difficult.
It’s a lot of copy and pasting and following directions.
Here are my recommendations on where to start.
If you don’t yet use your own domain for your newsletter, start there. Give yourself enough time to set up the whole thing from scratch, as outlined above. Or, hire someone to do it for you. The beauty of starting from scratch is that you don’t have a lot of loose ends that you have to make sense of. Just follow the directions and you’ll be good to go.
If you currently use your own domain, make a list of everything that you use it to send email from. This includes newsletters, contact forms on your website, branded email, etc. Then search for a tutorial for each of your providers. This might include services like Google Workspace, Mailchimp, MailPoet, or Brevo. Follow the instructions for each provider and you’re good to go. If you have multiple domains, be sure to go through these steps for each one.
Or, reach out to any of your service providers for tech support.