Increase the chances of your emails getting through

Recently after staring off an email service provider, Email It, We had to implement numerous methods for our client’s emails to reach their intended recipients. Making sure your email gets through is becoming more of a challenge as spam bots target even the most genuine emails.

To tackle this problem, one way is to add something called an SPF record. Of course there are lots of rules built into spam filters that help it tag a particular email as spam or legit. So using this one method wont ensure that your email will surely get through but rather increases your chances by quite a lot. As with most DNS type records, its really hard to explain the syntax so we wont go into too much details on those.

SPF Records and Google Apps for Domain

We use Gmail to send our emails to our clients and for outgoing emails, we’ve setup our own SMTP server. So we just had to add the SPF Text Record in our hosting control panel. This might not be your case and most businesses tend to use Google Apps for domain to handle their outgoing emails. Google has information on how to add the SPF record but misses an important element that makes the biggest difference.

SPF record that Google gives:
v=spf1 include:_spf.google.com ~all

SPF record that actually makes a difference is:
v=spf1 a include:_spf.google.com ~all

If you’ve spotted the difference (addition of a’ after spf1), you have definitely got a good set of eyes. The ‘a’ simply means that all web servers from which I run my domain and subdomains, are allowed to send emails as well. That inclusion means that Google can setup SPF records for the domain _spf.google.com and thus add or remove mail servers without you having to change anything.

Test to see if you’ve correctly set it up

If you want to make sure everything is working as its supposed to be. Go to this SPF testing tool and use the 3rd form on the page. Just enter the details of your web server’s IP (ask your hosting company for details) and your from address which is your email address you use (Eg. ‘myname@mydomain.com’). The test results before you add the SPF will say something like…

Input accepted, querying now…

Mail Sent from this IP address: 202.123.23.244
Mail from (Sender): myname@mydomain.com

Results – none

If you get such result, you haven’t added the SPF records yet. If you have added the SPF record as suggested above, you will get something like this…

Input accepted, querying now…

Mail Sent from this IP address: 202.123.23.244
Mail from (Sender): myname@mydomain.com
Mail checked using this SPF policy: v=spf1 a include:_spf.google.com ~all
Results – PASS sender SPF authorized

That should tell you that your chances of reaching your recipients has definitely increased quite a bit. So whether you are running your own server from home or hosting your website with a hosting provider, it doesn’t hurt to check the above to see whether your emails have been authorized. Let me know what you think of it and if it has worked for you.