In October, Google announced coming changes to their email deliverability policy. Other providers like Yahoo and AOL have made similar announcements and will tighten their SPAM filters. The changes are set to take effect in February. If you’re currently using email as a form of marketing, staying abreast of these changes and adjusting your strategy accordingly will keep you out of the spam box.

Google’s policy change states that the coming updates will primarily affect bulk senders, those sending more than 5,000 emails daily. Their stated goal is to keep users’ inboxes safe and spam-free. With Google reporting that their defenses already stop more than 99% of unwanted emails, nearly 15 billion per day, these new restrictions will help users see even less clutter in their inboxes.

The primary focus

Since many bulk senders fail to secure and configure their systems properly, this makes it easy for attackers to blend in unnoticed. To address this issue, Google concentrated on a critical aspect of email security: confirming the sender’s identity.

Beginning last year, Google implemented a policy requiring authentication for emails sent to Gmail addresses. This change has significantly reduced the volume of unauthenticated emails received by Gmail users, which helps organize inboxes and enhances the efficiency of blocking billions of harmful emails.

Here are 7 steps you can take to ensure maximum deliverability:

Authenticate your email: Email authentication is used to prevent fraudulent emails from spammers and spoofers, ensuring that recipients can trust the authenticity of emails. It serves as a crucial protection for individuals against malicious impersonation and a defense for brands against being labeled as spammers. Key types of email authentication include SPF, DKIM and DMARC. Google’s 2024 requirements for bulk senders emphasize the need for strong authentication using these methods to prevent spoofing and avoid emails being marked as spam.

Include unsubscribe links: Bulk senders must adhere to the 2003 CAN-SPAM Act, which states that senders must provide a way for recipients to opt out of unwanted emails. Ensuring your emails allow for easy opt-outs and honoring opt-out requests helps attain better deliverability rates.

Don’t send spammy emails: One of the best ways to stay in Google’s good graces and your recipients’ graces is to send content that people want. Consumers will look forward to receiving your emails if they are attractive, engaging, funny or informative. Avoid spam-triggering words such as No. 1, cash, free, bonus, earn more money, be your boss, gift, etc. Try not to make exaggerated claims, and do not use misleading subject lines. Before sending, ask yourself, would I welcome this type of email communication?

Keep your database updated: Maintaining good database hygiene is critical to improving deliverability. Remove people not engaging with your content, honor opt-outs and keep your emails updated. Email addresses will inevitably change as individuals move from one employer to another. Staying on top of those changes and deleting old and outdated contact information will save you from ending up in the spam folder.

Use advanced segmentation and merge fields: Sending one email to your entire database, or the “spray and pray” method, is not recommended. Instead, segmenting your database by persona allows you to send more personalized messages to specific audiences. In addition, using custom fields and merge tags helps personalize your messaging even further, making your audience feel like you’re speaking directly to them.

Monitor engagement and keep spam rates low: More than anything, you want people opening, forwarding and replying to your emails. When people are engaging with your content, it tells providers that your emails are welcome and that you are a safe sender. Keeping an eye on engagement rates will help you better understand what type of content resonates with your audience. This also means monitoring how often you’re sending as well as monitoring if your engagement rates tend to drop with a higher email frequency. A good practice to follow is to send no more than once per week and even less if engagement falls with higher frequency. Keeping your spam rate below 0.3% (3 complaints per 1,000 emails sent) will also be vital in adhering to Google’s spam thresholds. However, staying closer to 0% is highly recommended.

Optimize the email structure: Broken links, too many links, short links or image-only emails will trigger spam alerts. When it comes to images, this is a hot topic. The best practice is to use the 60/40 text-to-image ratio as a general rule of thumb, which suggests emails comprise of 60% text and 40% image. Additionally, shortening links using specific software is not a recommended practice. Instead, try using your email automation tool’s “link” feature.

Following good email sender practices will help to keep you in good standing and keep your emails going to your targeted recipient’s inbox. Remember, this is a long-term practice, and much like building one’s reputation, building a positive sender reputation happens over time. Still, it will pay off with happy recipients and more business growth if done well.

Diana Zaya is the founder and president of Maverick Systems, a data analytics and consulting firm dedicated to equipping brokerages with in-depth agent and brokerage analytics, astute data analysis and inventive strategies producing better agent recruitment and retention outcomes. 

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