Starting in February 2024, Gmail will tighten their email sender guidelines. Working with these guidelines is easy to do, but if your marketing team is caught unaware, it can potentially make a substantial impact on your B2B marketing campaigns.
Don’t get disrupted → read on to find out what you should know and how your company can prepare to avoid disruption.
What are these new email sender guidelines?
You can read about the new guidelines straight from Google here, but we’ll give you the quick and easy summary: The tightened guidelines introduce new requirements for all senders, with more impact on bulk senders (anyone who sends more than 5,000 emails a day to Gmail accounts).
Why should B2B teams care about these guidelines?
Without checking, do you know how many emails your business sends every day? Depending on the current scale of your business, 5,000 may seem too big of a number to be concerned about. Why not just set prospecting limits to just under 5,000 for your sales engagement or marketing automation platforms? But watch out! You may not actually be home free.
Here’s what you really have to note down: These guidelines affect all email sending in a domain. Even if your newsletter and email nurturing campaigns don’t hit that 5,000-a-day crossover point, keep in mind that emails replied to by your sales team, automatic replies sent as part of support tickets, even transactional emails, etc., all count, since they all fall under the same domain.
So if a company gets tagged by these tightened spam protections, that means any emails sent will go straight to the spam folder. Safe to say that this is not an ideal outcome, especially coupled with the fact that only 27% of people will check their spam folder at least a few times a year. It would be a shame for your recipients to miss your emails because the cumulative total of emails sent – again, all emails, not just the ones that are part of your campaigns – was overlooked.
Looking at the email sender guidelines: High-level overview
Let’s go over the broad strokes of this change. With these together requirements, bulk senders must, at minimum:
- Authenticate any outgoing email,
- Ensure you’re not sending any unwanted or unsolicited email, and
- Make it easy for recipients to unsubscribe from your lists
That’s good for a quick summary, but what can your business do more specifically to ensure that the guidelines are being followed?
Looking at the email sender guidelines: The finer details
Let’s break these guidelines down. Taking from what Google has provided on the topic, here are specific actions to take.
Regarding outgoing email authentication, senders must:
- Authenticate emails in your domain using SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) email authentication
- Thankfully, this is easy to do (and you may already be doing it)
- If you don’t have DKIM email authentication set up already, your emails may already be wandering through the spam folders of your recipients
- Ensure that sending domains or IPs have valid forward and reverse DNS records
- Also referred to as PTR records
- Use a TLS connection for transmitting email
Regarding not sending unwanted or unsolicited email, senders must:
- Require a secure connection for email
- Keep spam rates, reported in Postmaster Tools by Gmail, below 0.10%
- Avoid ever reaching a spam rate of 0.30% or higher
- Format messages according to the Internet Message Format standard
- This standard is RFC 5322, which defines formatting for emails, including headers, body copy, and any attachments
- (Not sure whether your emails are following this standard? Book a free consultation with our email experts here at Macro)
- Ensure that they do not impersonate “Gmail From:” headers
- This is because Gmail will begin using a DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance) quarantine enforcement policy
- As such, impersonating “Gmail From:” headers may put your email delivery at risk – just don’t do it!
- Add ARC headers to outgoing email
- Only applicable if you regularly forward email, including using mailing lists or inbound gateways
- ARC headers indicate the message was forwarded and identify you as the forwarder
- Mailing list senders should also add a List-id: header, which specifies the mailing list, to outgoing messages
- Set up DMARC email authentication for your sending domain
- Your DMARC enforcement policy can be set to “none”
- For direct mail, the domain in the sender's “From:” header must be aligned with either the SPF domain or the DKIM domain
- This is required to pass DMARC alignment.
Regarding making it easy for recipients to unsubscribe, senders must:
- Marketing messages and subscribed messages must support one-click unsubscribe
- This can take the form of having a clearly visible “Unsubscribe” link in the email footer
Now, this seems like a lot more to keep track of! Luckily, in December Google announced that, when these new guidelines kick in February, they will only affect emails sent to personal accounts.
Is all this concern for naught for B2B teams? No – it’s only a matter of time before these guidelines will expand to encompass B2B. So, it’s better to be prepared now rather than get caught reacting without a plan later. Let’s see what your sales and marketing teams can do!
6 actions your sales and marketing team should be doing
- Authenticate, authenticate, authenticate
It’s something you should be doing anyway! Ensure emails sent from your domain will pass through spam protection filters via SPF, DKIM, and DMARC email authentication protocols. If you’re not sure how to do so, we’ll help you set it up – please book a free consultation out to our email experts.
- Use double opt-in
Double opt-in is when you send an email after someone subscribes to your newsletter or other services to verify their email address. By doing that, you’re signaling to your email servers that the person is physically confirming their subscription and even if they mark you as spam later in the future, you’re safe.
3. Segment and personalize your approach
An effective prospecting strategy means tailoring your email communications to the right audiences, based on their interests, behaviours, or demographics. If you provide personalized, relevant, and useful email content, you’re more likely to engage recipients and avoid being sent to the spam folder!
4. Employ permission-based marketing
At this point, there is no excuse not to have explicit permission from recipients before sending them regular emails. This can be tricky for B2B marketing. Cold emails, where recipients get unsolicited emails in their inbox, are not as popular as they used to be, but, similar to above, if you can provide a clear reason for connection in your email, then you can follow up with a more natural opportunity for recipients to sign on for further communications.
5. Adjust the output of your emails
Are you sending the right number of emails? Too many, or perhaps not enough? Sending too many emails to a recipient may have them tuning you out, and if they’re not clicking at all then your emails may eventually be flagged as spam anyway. However, sending too little will lose their familiarity with your business. Finding the “right” volume of emails is a fine balance to strike, and deserves some consideration.
6. Evaluate your email templates
Take a look at your current email templates. Do they have “Unsubscribe” links, and are they visible? What about the overall look and feel – you should have a pretty good sense of which emails feel “spammy” and which feel genuine. And that extends to the copy itself, too. Excessive use of emojis, distracting imagery, numerous spelling and grammar mistakes; these all add up to make an email feel more like spam!
It can take time and resources though, to conduct an audit and overhaul of your email templates, so why not find the services of a B2B agency to take care of this work for you?
Why B2B marketers should embrace these guidelines
As B2B marketers, we enjoy using Gmail for its intuitive functionality, mobile-friendly design, and integration with Google Workspace. Along with robust security protections, these features help make Gmail one the most widely used email clients around the world, with nearly 2 billion users and counting.
This popularity makes it all the more important to stay on top of any changes – the kind that can affect not just your marketing campaigns, but typical interactions with partners and customers as well. These new email sender guidelines are just that kind of change.
In a blog discussing these new changes, Google proudly proclaims that, thanks in part to the power of its AI, more than 99.9% of spam, phishing, and malware-type emails are blocked from reaching your inbox. So why does it matter to go even further? Doesn’t this just make things harder? Well, there are a couple of reasons.
Reason 1 - Increased protections are a good thing, especially for B2B marketer
Simply put, you want to ensure that your important communications are reaching your intended audience without interference from spam.
Think of it this way, it’s another way of separating the great marketers from the merely okay and underperforming. New standards are an opportunity for your company to show why you're worth doing business with while freezing out competitors who aren’t doing their due diligence.
Reason 2 - Increased protections encourage evolution
And let’s not forget either that methods to get around spam protections will keep evolving, too. It’s an arms race, so security needs to keep evolving and innovating. Likewise, as B2B marketers we need to evolve and innovate too!
In short, this is a great opportunity for your sales and marketing team to show they are on top of the game!
Reason 3 - Through standardization, best practices eventually become minimum expectations
The good news is that, if you’re already following best practices in email marketing, you’re likely already hitting these requirements. After all, following best practices is essentially staying ahead of the curve; it’s only a matter of time before best practices become mandatory requirements.
But what if you’re not sure? We don’t know yet when these guidelines will expand to include B2B prospecting, but we’re certain it won’t be that far away. In the meantime, consider an agency that knows the ins-and-outs of these new guidelines, one that can help your B2B team run down the checklist of what you need to do.