New Gmail and Yahoo! Bulk Mailer Requirements
Email marketing has been around for over 40 years and a part of affiliate marketing since its inception. With all that, we don’t talk about the email channel all that often. It’s largely because, having been around for so long, a lot of the issues with compliance and best practices that more recently launched marketing channels (social, influencer, etc.) have been largely settled in the email arena. Since 2003, email marketers have known the rules of the road they need to follow in order to comply with The CAN-SPAM Act. While the law has been updated over the years (with increasing fines mainly) the core elements have remained essentially the same.
What has changed over time is the challenge of getting emails delivered to the inbox. Over the years, rules and best practices around email deliverability have constantly evolved. Often those changes were happening behind the scenes at individual inbox providers, sometimes leaving marketers to adjust to them after the fact.
Recently, two of the largest inbox providers (Gmail and Yahoo!) teamed up and announced several changes to how their systems will process incoming email messages, to go into effect by February 2024. In particular, these will changes impact email marketers who are sending more than 5,000 messages to Gmail or Yahoo! Inboxes each day. The stated goal of the changes is to make consumer inboxes safer and more spam-free.
All of the new requirements are achievable for email marketers, however, they may force larger email marketers to adjust various processes in order to comply. The upcoming changes impose three new requirements on bulk senders.
Authenticate their Email
Email authentication has been a best practice for mailers for some time, but it hasn’t been required. With the new changes, Gmail and Yahoo! will require bulk senders to fully authenticate their sender IP addresses and domains using SPF (Sender Policy Framework), DKIM (DomainKeys), and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance).
Many bulk mailers will already be using at least SPF and DKIM and some already use all three of these authentication methods. As a mailer, now is a good time to check on which of them you already have in place and ensure all three are set up through your ESP prior to February 2024.
Enable Easy Unsubscription
Being able to easily unsubscribe from commercial or marketing email messages has been a requirement for email marketers since CAN-SPAM was enacted. However, CAN-SPAM doesn’t specify the method that must be implemented. While the unsubscribe link has become a ubiquitous element of promotional emails, the new requirements outline specific requirements for the unsubscribe process.
The announcement from Gmail and Yahoo! mentioned the requirement of a one-click unsubscribe as part of the new rules. This initially caused some questions to arise from mailers as to whether this meant the practice of using preference centers to allow email recipients to control their subscription preferences to receive some types of promotional email, while unsubscribing from others. For many companies, giving email recipients the ability to ‘down-subscribe’ has been a key element of their email programs. Thanks to the team at Oracle for exploring the requirement further and identifying the real requirement, which is to implement List-Unsubscribe Headers.
This means that companies can still employ their existing unsubscribe processes through their standard unsubscribe links in their emails, as long as they implement the List-Unsubscribe Header which enables a native unsubscribe link to be included in the inboxes’ user interface, appearing next to the sender name of an email. It’s also important to note that this requirement only impacts promotional or marketing emails. Transactional emails (like invoices, order confirmations, etc.) are not required to use List-Unsubscrive Headers. This article from the Oracle blog provides a great overview of all the requirements and specifically details the one-click unsubscribe requirement.
Beyond the one-click opt-out process, this requirement also mandates that all unsubscribe requests be processed and honored within 2 days. Those familiar with CAN-SPAM will note that this differs from the legal requirement of 10 business days to process and honor opt-out requests. While this is the law, there is nothing barring inbox providers from imposing a more strict requirement, and that is exactly what Gmail and Yahoo! are doing.
Ensure They’re Sending Wanted Email
By this, Gmail and Yahoo! mean they want bulk senders to send email that recipients actually want to receive – i.e. less spam. To accomplish this, they are creating actual spam complaint thresholds that bulk mailers will need to stay under. They ask bulk senders to have a goal of spam rates of below 0.10%. However, they broadened this to make the threshold 0.30%, noting that mailers should avoid spam rates over this ratio, especially for any lengthy period of time. It is unclear whether spam complaint rates will be measured on a weekly or monthly basis, but in general, it means that mailers should pay careful attention to complaint rates and ensure they stay below that 0.30% mark on average over time.
In the past, mailers have often been left guessing as to the various thresholds and practices that would improve deliverability into Gmail, Yahoo!, or other inbox providers. By detailing these new requirements, email marketers now have a much better understanding of what is expected of them, so they can more easily follow the rules.
While these new requirements are only imposed on bulk senders, they also represent good best practices for any email marketer to follow if they want to enhance their deliverability into Gmail and Yahoo! inboxes.
These new requirements should all be achievable for email marketers and the byproduct should be improved deliverability over the long-term.