When your free email account is the cause of undelivered email

Everyone seems to have a Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail account. Some people have all three and more. As an email marketer, list contributor, or active list member (one who contributes to a list), sending out email campaigns with a free email account may be the cause of undelivered email messages. 

default from
As you know, the FROM in an email message, identifies the sender by their email address. A list recipient may decide to open or trash the message just based on this information – who sent the message. Because of this, a business owner, email marketer or list owner, should use a custom domain address for their email marketing.  Even though Gmail is free, and dwli@gmail.com works the same as paddy@dwli.net, a Gmail account to represent a business appears unprofessional.  

Most email marketers take advantage of the FROM address, with branding, by using a custom domain email address. Because free email accounts lack this distinct branding feature, it comes down to the recipient accepting email from  pat@emailprofessors.com or email from emailprofessors @gmail.com/. (Which of these two addresses looks more trustworthy, more authentic?)

A custom domain, like pat@emailprofessors.com, not only brands the sender, but it also allows the domain owner to configure email authentication protocols.

List owners using Gmail accounts, and other free email services do have verification protocols set by the ISP they are using (i.e., Gmail).  However, a free email account does not give the sender control to add or change the email authentication protocols, which may be a problem when sending from a marketing, announcement, or discussion list.

Some of these protocols, (rules) include the use of DMARC, SPF, and DKIM. These controls are methods put in place that authenticate the email sender.  Authentication protects email addresses from being spoofed and used in phishing and spamming schemes.

A custom domain email gives control of these authentication methods to the domain owner, which, when configured with a custom domain email address, authenticates the user, and thereby increases sender reputation, delivery, and opens.

Statistics indicate branded emails will elicit more opens than not. This being the case, when you use a free account as your FROM address, you are sharing the sending reputation of that free domain, not your own.

Reputation does help with delivery issues, but even with legitimate email marketers and, notably discussion list members, problems can be traced back to a lack of, or use of DMARC.

DMARC is a validation method in which the FROM address of the incoming email’s domain is verified to match the domain the message is actually being sent through.  With discussion lists, sometimes a free account’s FROM address will not match the sending domain, and the email will fail to deliver.

This happens because the DMARC rules tell the receiving mail server how to handle mismatched domains. For example, in a discussion list, an incoming message from a different domain address. (Such websplat@gmail.com), into the listserv using a domain of dwli.net (list@dwli.net) to distribute the message to the list members may find some mail servers reject the message based on DMARC.   In this example, the DMARC policy immediately rejects that incoming mail from the dwli.net address, as it’s looking for a Gmail address.  Free email addresses seem to reject the most messages sent this way. 

For discussion lists, this type of problem can be solved with header rewrites.

header rewrite tabA header rewrite can replace the From address in mailings distributed to a list.

For instance, if several people in the sales department of your organization contribute emails to a discussion list but prefer to use their own email accounts, you may want the From address to read sales@your-company…rather than the email address of the actual author.  

Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, and other free accounts are used worldwide.  Being free is attractive, but there may be drawbacks when you use it in marketing, announcements or discussion lists. When using a free email service provider, such as Yahoo or AOL, you can be limited in terms of what you can do to authenticate your email, increase your sender reputation, or stop rejected emails.  Use a custom domain, or when the need arises, header rewrites.