Most online businesses attribute their success to their email marketing copy, but most ignore the core back-end technologies that can make or break their email marketing success. There is little doubt that the content in your email is critical and the copy in your subject line is the key to open rates. But imagine what would happen if you took the same amount of time ensuring that your email ends up in the in-box (rather than a spam box) as you did writing the copy? The results would be fantastic, and best of all, you would only have to do this work once.
This article isn't for you if you're a casual email marketer. But, if you're an email marketing fanatic who wants to learn the technical side of sending an email successfully through a spam filter, you've come to the right place.
Let's start by taking a look at one of the technologies that help true email marketers get into their subscribers in-box. Professionals call it DKIM, the rest of the world knows it as DomainKeys Identified Mail.
Overview of DKIM
DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) is an email authentication technology that allows email senders and recipients to know without a doubt that a message originated from the source it says it's from. Let me give you an example.
You've certainly received an email that supportable was sent from a legitimate and reputable address, but upon opening it you knew it was spam. Have you ever wondered why an African prince wanted to send you millions of dollars just for helping him get his money out of Kenya? Did this email really come from an African prince or did it come from a scammer? How can you tell the difference?
Think of this email as a letter you receive through the mail. Someone wrote the letter, placed it in an enclosed envelope, addressed it to you at your home or office, added postage and a return address indicating who sent the letter and then they dropped it in the mailbox and waited for you to open it and respond. Here's the problem. Before DKIM, the sender could have masqueraded as anyone in the return address block to trick you into opening the letter and doing what they asked.
Advantages on DKIM
Through the use of public and private key technology as well as the use of digital signatures, DKIM can digitally prove the source of an email. This means that big email companies like Gmail and Yahoo can simply check to see which emails are legitimate and which emails are obviously spam. They do this by checking with the server to insure that the email came from where it indicated it came from. Through the use of technologies like DKIM, there is a much better chance that legitimate email will get though spam filters and illegitimate messages will get blocked.
An added benefit of DKIM signed mail is that it ensures the email arrives untouched. This prevents tampering with the message while it's in transit. I told you this was for advanced email marketers.
DKIM isn't supported nor is it used by everyone. It would be naive to assume that your ISP, website host or email marketing company is implementing it on your behalf. Since DKIM is an added layer of security, and not a required process, it must be compatible with older, non-DKIM email servers. This means that if you're not using DKIM, some of your email is still getting through to your subscribers, but not all of it. With DKIM you can take advantage of this powerful added layer of trust and improve your rate of success.
To an email marketer, this means you can either assure your subscribers (and their spam filters) that your emails are truly from you, or you can leave them guessing whether or not someone is pretending to be you. Think of DKIM as a way to help your customers (and their spam filters) trust you, and trust goes a long way in the anti-spam world.
The Next Step
If email marketing is a core component of your business, you may want to take the following steps:
1. Check to see if DKIM is being used on your email server.
Search Google for "DKIM Test" or something similar and you will find several free services that will help you discover whether your system is implementing DKIM properly. Otherwise, if you know how to inspect email headers look for a "DomainKey-Signature" field immediately followed by garbled text. This is the hashed signature of the email. If you do not see a DomainKey-Signature field, this means your server does not use DKIM.
2. Ask your email-marketing provider to enable DKIM for you.
More than likely if you're using a shared host like Bluehost or Hostmonster, this will be an impossible request due to how DKIM is configured at the mail transport agent (MTA) level. If they cannot enable DKIM for you, you have very few options. You can move to a managed email service like iContact, Constant Contact or Aweber, or you can move to a dedicated or virtual dedicated server that gives you root access.
Getting emails into your subscriber's in-box isn't as easy as it use to be. By hosting your own software on your own server you can send emails to thousands of people without having to pay a company to maintain your list, but the effort might be too great.
If this sounds too foreign or complicated, you may want to reconsider self-hosting, as the paid services will take care of it for you and save you tons of time and headaches.
Ask yourself what's more important. Do you want to save money, or do you want your emails to get to the intended recipient? If the answer is both, owning and maintaining your own email marketing software may be just what you're looking for.