How to Improve Email Deliverability with Technical Email Setup

Based on tests run on mxtoolbox or other email diagnostic tools, you may find that your email sending domain has technical issues that are likely resulting in a lower deliverability rate. As a non-IT person, these results will be challenging to understand and even more challenging to fix.


What is Deliverability Rate?

A deliverability rate is the rate at which outbound emails actually end up in the recipient’s inbox. This metric can be difficult to track, but can have a significant impact on the return of email outreach. If only a portion of outbound emails are making it to your prospect’s inboxes, your email campaigns and hours spent on email are immediately less effective. A lack of deliverability can appear in metrics like low open rates and low reply rates.

Major technical setup issues, like the lack of DKIM, SPF, or DMARC setup, harms the ability of sent emails to make into a prospect’s inbox. There are many other behavioral factors that affect deliverability like a prospect’s interaction with emails from your sending address (opening, reporting as spam, replying, etc.) as well as the content and sending behaviors of the email sender, and the history of the domain and email address, but technical setup issues are the easiest and quickest to remedy. 

When the technical issues are resolved, there is a rapid lift in deliverability. The behavioral factors take longer and consistent change to have an impact.


Tighter Restrictions from Email Service Providers and Email Servers

As attacks and scams through email become more sophisticated, ESPs and Email Servers are having to be more proactive to protect their customers. While before, email authentication was seen as optional but preferred, email providers are now responding to escalating attacks by requiring that emails are authenticated and assuming that unauthenticated emails are malicious. This is causing unauthenticated emails to no longer make it to a prospect’s inbox.


Three Pillars of Email Authentication - Simplified

The three most common issues with technical email setup that affect deliverability, are the three pillars of Email Authentication - DMARC, SPF, and DKIM.

DMARC - Domain Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance - This protects your domain from unauthorized use by telling recipient inboxes what to do with unauthorized emails from your domain, and verifies that the domain in the “from” section of the email has been authenticated by SPF and/or DKIM.

SPF - Sender Policy Framework - Validates if an email sender is allowed to send emails. This prevents scammers from using your domain to send scam emails.

DKIM - Domain Key Identified Mail - Half of a key code is attached when sending an email. The receiving email server then checks this half of a key code with a public half key code, and if they match, the email is viewed as legitimate and is passed through to the inbox. DKIM and SPF also communicates that specific third-party applications are allowed to send emails on your domain's behalf. If you implement DMARC without implementing DKIM for your separate applications, DMARC will block any application not authorized to send emails. For example, if you implement DMARC before implementing DKIM for your Google Account, any automated Google Calendar invitations will be seen as fraudulent and unauthorized and your DMARC record will prevent Google Calendar invitations from being received by others. Always test your automated emails after implementing any new authentication records.


Steps To Fix Bad Deliverability

The first step is to ensure that the three pillars of email authentication are in place for your sending domains. You can either outsource this setup to a third party, or implement it yourself. This will require some technical know-how as well as access to your email service provider and your domain name manager.

  • Steps to set up DMARC
  • Steps to set up SPF
  • Setting up DKIM is more involved and depends on a number of variables for your business. Having your IT expert(s) research implementation for your specific circumstances is the best way forward, or hire a professional who is familiar with the setup. 


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If your company does not have internal expertise, reach out to FullFunnel and we can connect you with partners who are experts in email domain setup. Email setup is just the first immediate step to improving email deliverability. The next step is to use best practices in email sending and potentially inbox warming to keep your domain viewed favorably by email service providers. 

The original publication date of this article was November 12, 2021. It has been edited and republished in order to ensure that the information provided is the most accurate and up-to-date.

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