Phil Dearson

Making sure your email gets through

published8 months ago
3 min read

I don't believe in email. I'm an old-fashioned girl. I prefer calling and hanging up.
Sarah Jessica Parker

One thing almost all small and micro-businesses have in common is email. It’s a cornerstone of modern business communication, love it or hate it. If you’re considering becoming a digital business, there are a few things you might want to pay attention to so that people receive your emails.

It’s common for digital businesses to engage in some form of email marketing, whether that’s for lead generation, a newsletter, or simply day-to-day communication with existing clients, customers and suppliers. How many times have you been ghosted because a critical piece of communication (an invoice, for example) has ended up in a spam filter? How would you even know?

Email tracking is unreliable

There have been some recent changes in the way people receive email. In the past you might have relied on a tracking system to be able to tell when someone has received, opened or clicked a link in your email. These features are often built in to business email tools. However, these signals are no longer reliable, I’m afraid. If you’re using these tracking techniques, your email might be stopped by a security filter before it gets anywhere near the intended recipient. If they do receive it, you might never know.

So, what can you do about it?

Not a lot. You’ll have to live with the fact that any information your tools tell you about open or click rates is unreliable. I think that’s a good thing. What you want to know is the impact on your core business metrics. Anything else is potentially a vanity metric, like “hits” in the early days of the internet.

You DO want to make sure people are receiving your email though, so I recommend a few technical checks. These involve editing the DNS record for your domain. If you’re not familiar with DNS, it’s one of the primary systems that makes the internet work. It’s like a phone book that identifies which service is which. To get the most out of digital business tools, email included, you’ll have to learn a bit about DNS, or get friendly with someone who knows.

I recommend making sure you have 3 records in your DNS record:

The technical bit

SPF is a “sender policy framework”. It tells the recipient that your email is actually from you. If you’re using Google to send email, it’ll look something like this:

v=spf1 ~all

DKIM is “domainkeys identified mail” and it attaches a digital signature to each of your emails, again proving the email is from you. The DNS record might look something like this:

k=rsa; t=s; p=MIGfMA0GCSqGSIb3DQEBAQUAA4GNADCBiQKBgQDDmzRmJRQxLEuyYiyMg4suA2SyMwR5MGHpP9diNT1hRiwUd/mZp1ro7kIDTKS8ttkI6z6eTRW9e9dDOxzSxNuXmume60Cjbu08gOyhPG3GfWdg7QkdN6kR4V75MFlw624VY35DaXBvnlTJTgRg/EW72O1DiYVThkyCgpSYS8nmEQIDAQAB

DMARC is “domain-based message authentication, reporting and conformance”. Catchy, right? Think of it as belt-and-braces. It makes sure that SPF and DKIM are used correctly to make sure your email gets through. The DNS record might look like this:


I know, this isn’t very sexy and can seem a bit technically intimidating. However, adding these records to your DNS will give your email the best possible chance of ending up where you were hoping it would go. It’ll also set you up to use more clever digital tools in the future, which might need to send email on your behalf (e.g. your accounting software). My recommendation is to use CloudFlare to manage all this stuff. Free and easy.

If you don’t know anyone technical enough to make these changes, I can either help myself or point you in the right direction.

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