As you may well already know, like any good email service provider (ESP) we integrate with larger email hosts such as Hotmail and AOL to provide their customers with a feedback loop. This means that emails sent by us to these hosts have a ‘mark as spam’ button that, if clicked, sends a message straight back to us telling us exactly which message was marked as spam or junk. We then act on this to immediately and permanently unsubscribe the recipient. It gives us a good idea of the quality of our clients’ email, allowing us to advise any regular offenders and hopefully nip the problem in the bud.
We were on Yahoo’s feedback loop, but they discontinued that program, and have relatively recently replaced it with a service that requires Domain Keys. That’s a pretty useful link there as it covers other methods of email authentication that are compatible with our service. In a nutshell by using DKIM (Domain Keys) we digitally sign our outbound mail in such a way that Yahoo (and any other ISP that chooses to use the system) know that it was sent by us, and not maliciously spoofed in any way.
Implementing DKIM has forced us to subtly change the way our emails are assembled. When we send an email on your behalf, we are effectively white-hat spoofing – that’s to say that we send an email that pretends to be from you, but we are doing it with your blessing. In order to correctly sign that email, we now have to state that we are sending it from one of our domains on your behalf; honesty is best after all. The email content will be identical as before, but there will be a slight change to the way the email sender is displayed in Outlook. It isn’t a big change – in the main email listing the email won’t look any different at all, but when an email is opened you will see the ‘from’ address has changed a little.
Let’s have a look at an example. In this instance, I’m in a test Sign-Up.to account in the name “The Party People”, that is associated with my personal email address. I’ve sent a preview email to Sophie, who uses Outlook 2007. When the email arrives, everything looks normal in her inbox:
However, in the preview pane (or when the email is opened in full), the email looks like this:
So what has happened there? We couldn’t sign the email with our keys if we pretended that we were sending from mukerji.co.uk, so we have used one of our own domains (sut3.co.uk). As the Sign-Up.to account is held in the name “The Party People”, we have made a friendly looking sender address at our domain: ThePartyPeople@sut3.co.uk.
Outlook is merely presenting all of this information at once: the email is from ThePartyPeople@sut3.co.uk on behalf of Neil Mukerji (email@example.com).
There isn’t anything we can do about this: if you want your emails to be signed with DKIM then Outlook will present your emails in this way. The good news is that nearly all other email clients, including Thunderbird and web mail clients, won’t show this information – your email will look as it did. Many emails are sent like this every day, whether it be by ESPs like us or by contributory mailing lists, rest assured it is perfectly normal and shouldn’t alarm your recipients unduly!
Perhaps more importantly, if you are already using the system we haven’t changed a thing – your emails won’t look any different but your emails won’t be signed with DKIM. Moving forward though we will be encouraging our customers to switch to DKIM for two big reasons:
1) Yahoo claims a massive share of B2C emails, so integration with their feedback loop can only help your permission marketing chances.
2) DKIM is used not only by Yahoo but also by many other providers, and again being honest and earning their trust can only help your message reach the inbox.
If any of your campaigns are marked as spam by Yahoo’s (or any other major provider’s) users, this figure is displayed in the track section.
If all this DKIM business is techno-babble don’t worry – the sky is not falling in! Our support team are, as ever, here to help – and more than happy to work with you to get your messages direct to the inbox.