A lot of people believe that delivering an email is as simple as clicking “send” and waiting a couple seconds for it to go to the inbox (or maybe the junk folder if it looks like spam). In reality, there are a lot of checks and balances that an email campaign needs to go through before it can be successfully delivered. Every part of your message, be it the footer, body, images, subject line, and so on can affect delivery. One aspect that is often overlooked is the “from” email address. In this post, I’ll go over how using a free email address as the “from” address can affect your delivery.
What Are “Free Email Addresses”?
Free email addresses are usually obtained from your Internet provider (Such as Comcast or Verizon) or created on a web site that offers email as a service (Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, Apple, etc.).
Some free email providers try to restrict how their customers use their emails addresses. For example, they may implement what’s called “email authentication” to prevent you from sending through 3rd party services like Constant Contact. To further explain why sending from one of these addresses is not recommended; first I need to go over Authentication and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance).
What is Authentication?
Email Authentication is a series of methods that let ISPs know the origins of a message. All messages sent through Constant Contact are given a form of basic authentication that allows you to be considered a safe sender using our online reputation. If you want to set yourself apart (and possibly get a boost in delivery) you can also choose to enable Constant Contact authentication or self-authentication. A more in-depth explanation, along with a description of the different forms of Authentication can be found here.
What is DMARC?
DMARC is a policy used by a sending domain. It tells the receiving ISP which forms of authentication an email “from” them needs to pass. It also dictates what to do with the messages that fail, which usually falls into three main categories:
Accept – The message is delivered regardless of failing DMARC
Quarantine – The message is delivered to the spam/junk folder
Reject – The message is bounced and not delivered.
More and more ISPs and mailbox providers are setting their policies to either quarantine or reject mail that fails DMARC. This is an effort to combat malicious mail such as scams and spoofing, but it affects legitimate email marketers as well.
How Does DMARC Affect Free Addresses?
Let's say you are using a Yahoo email address as your “from” address. A DMARC check will see that @yahoo.com requires all mail "from" them to pass an authentication check for their domain. While all Constant Contact mail is authenticated, it is done under a CTCT domain, NOT Yahoo's domain. This means any email from a Yahoo domain will fail the DMARC check and either bounce or go directly to the spam/junk folder.
**Please note, this isn’t specific to Yahoo, many domains implement DMARC**
Yikes! Does Constant Contact Do Anything to Help With This?
We do! For domains we know to be affected by DMARC, we automatically rewrite the “from” address to match ours. For example, CTCT@yahoo.com would be rewritten as CTCTfirstname.lastname@example.org. Since we own the domain “ccsend.com”, the mail passes DMARC and can be delivered.
Great! So What’s The Problem?
Although rewriting the domain helps, this is really more of a work-around than a solution. As technology evolves and more ISPs implement DMARC, we can’t guarantee that this will solve all potential DMARC delivery issues down the line. We also have no way of knowing EVERY domain that does and will use DMARC.
Is there a better solution?
You may have guessed by now, but the best solution is to obtain your own domain. Not only does this look more professional, but you’ll also have far more control over your own email security and sending reputation. Constant Contact provides domains and getting set up is quick and easy. Then all you need to do is verify an address at that domain within your account.
Once this is done, you can even enable self-authentication within your account. With self-authentication, ISPs you send mail to will no longer use Constant Contact’s information for DMARC checks, they will use yours, ensuring you always pass!