What you need to know about Gmail’s updated Sender Guidelines.

It’s increasingly common for people to ask us, “What’s going on at Gmail,” be it the instability of email being delivered to the wrong tab, or increased spam folder placement. It’s hard to say exactly why some of these things happen, as the filters are always being tuned based on the mail actively being sent to the mailbox provider (MBP) at any given time.

However, Gmail recently updated their Sender Guidelines to give us all a little more information on how to send mail in a manner more likely to be favorable to their filters.

Beyond a new layout and removing the collapsed FAQs on the old page, Gmail gives us some additional advice and a new troubleshooting tool to help plan for those moments when you’ve maybe pushed the envelope a little too far.

Here what’s new:

  1. Clarification that Gmail does not accept whitelisting requests.
  2. Recommendations on technical setup:
    1. Don’t send mixed content messages
    2. Separate mail streams by IP address (i.e., marketing IP, transactional IP)
    3. Separate mail streams by Email address (i.e., [email protected], [email protected], [email protected])
    4. Use proper DNS naming practices; ensure your PTR (Reverse DNS) matches 1.2.3.4 < = > MTA.your-company.com
      Example of reverse DNS matching Forward DNS
  3. Monitor your domains with Google’s other tools, like Postmaster tools and Safe Web browsing tools
  4. Consider how you operate penetration and anti-phishing education to your staff. You might end up damaging your own reputation by adding false spam or phishing reports against your organization’s domain.
  5. Clarification on contact-level address books helping future delivery and the use of the not-spam button.
  6. Some additional items to the old list of message formatting include:
    1. Don’t use HTML and CSS to hide content in your messages. That is, don’t use text that is the same color as the background of the email, or hide large blocks of text with the intention of fooling a filter with content an individual would not see
    2. Ensure you have clear sender identification in the message, headers and subject lines are relevant and not misleading. This is in line with the requirements of CAN-SPAM and CASL
  7. Clarification on building IP and domain reputation by starting slow and building your volume over time including items like:
    1. Avoid burst volumes
    2. Slow and low to start, build volume gradually over time
    3. Watch your speeds and volumes and adjust accordingly
  8. Additions and updates to the Gmail SMTP Error code pages, with additional self help articles to resolve many of these issues.
  9. Addition of a new self help troubleshooting page.

What’s stayed the same?

  1. Authentication advice: Keep publishing those SPF, DKIM (1024 bits or longer), and DMARC records to help protect your domain.
    How to properly authenticate your email
  2. Send mail only to engaged recipients who consented to receiving your email.
  3. Clean your lists regularly:
    1. Offer an easy unsubscribe method in both the copy and the email headers
    2. Clean bounces regularly
    3. Allow for granular controls to manage user preferences
    4. Periodically ask if recipients still want your email
  4. Avoid these practices:
    1. List purchase
    2. Pre-checked boxes
    3. Sending unsolicited communications

What’s gone?

  1. The “Precedence: bulk” header was removed.

With these changes we see a number of common delivery scenarios being addressed and more direct guidance being given to the sending community. Following these new Sender Guidelines will benefit your email delivery at Gmail, and are generally good advice to follow all around regardless of which MBP you’re planning to send your email to.

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