How to Keep Your Email From Being Marked As Spam
We’ve all felt the pain of having an important email delivered to a client’s or customer’s spam folder. While you can’t always fix this, if you’re using an email at your domain name (like Kim@WhiteFoxCreative.com), you can do three things to make sure your emails wind up in the receiver’s inbox.
What to Know/Have Before You Start
First, this only works when you have ownership of a domain name. It doesn’t work with @hotmail.com or @gmail.com or @juno.com (in case you’re still in the 90’s).
Second, you’ll need access to both your hosting account and your DNS settings. If you don’t know what those are, you might want to have a developer help you out through this process. If you can find those settings, the directions below will get you through the rest.
I’ll be giving directions using cpanel, but if your host uses something else or their own proprietary panel, it’s still possible. You just might need to dig a little or contact their customer service.
The Overview: 3 Verification Settings
We’ll be configuring DKIM, SPF, and PTR (Reverse DNS). All three are ways a system can make sure an email coming from your website is from you and not spam. DKIM and SPF are the easiest to set up.
DKIM: This verifies the sender and integrity of message.
SPF: Allows you to define hosts that can send email on your behalf as well as set some additional settings.
PTR: Allows you to verify a domain’s current pointer record, which connects an IP address to a domain name.
Navigating to the Settings
If at any point you can’t find an option, this may be turned off in your cpanel. You might be able to turn it on, or you might need to contact your hosting account.
The settings we’ll need will be under your hosting account’s cpanel. You can either log directly into your hosting account and then navigate to the cpanel, or you can often log in directly to your cpanel with this link: yourdomain.com/cpanel.
In the list of options available, find the section that deals with Emails. Under that, we’ll want to choose Email Deliverability.
The information will look something like the image below:
This page should also have the SPF settings and the PTR settings. Each section will have a name and value under it as well as brief instructions.
Leave this window open, and log into your DNS settings. Typically this is through whoever you bought your domain from. However, if you log in (say to Godaddy), and it says your DNS settings aren’t hosted there, you’ll need to figure out where they are hosted first. They might be also controlled through your hosting account or through another system like cloudflare.com.
How your DNS settings look will depend on what system controls them.
We’ll be taking settings from the Cpanel DKIM/SPF/PTR section and adding them to the DNS settings for your domain name.
Adding DKIM Settings
The image below shows how Cloudflare’s DNS settings look (personally, one of my favorite designs), but this varies depending on which system you’re using. While the design might differ, the functionality should all still be there.
To add the DKIM settings, choose “Add Record“. You need to set the record type to “txt“. Then we’ll be following the directions in your cpanel: set the “Name” and “Value” to exactly what was in the cpanel directions.
Save the settings, and you’re done!
QA: What if I have multiple DKIM Records? Don’t worry about it! A domain can have multiple DKIM records without a problem.
Editing SPF Settings
SPF settings are similar, but a little more complicated.
Before we add a new “txt” record, you’ll need to double-check that you don’t already have a “txt” record with SPF information in it. Look through the “txt” records for any records starting with “v=spf1”. If you find one, you’ll be combining records. If you don’t have one, you’ll be adding a new record. Choose your own adventure below.
I don’t have a “txt” record starting with “v=spf1”. If you don’t already have a SPF record, we’ll do the same thing as the DKIM record above. Choose “Add Record“, set the type to “txt“, and add the information into the “Name” and “Value” areas directly like they show in your cpanel.
I already have a “txt” record starting with “v=spf1”. If you already have a SPF record, we’ll need to combine the two records. In your cpanel, take a look at the “Value” they want you to add. It will have the following sections:
+include:_spf.google.com (server names: multiples OK)
+ip220.127.116.11 (IP address: multiples OK)
Now take a look at the SPF record in your DNS settings. You should have mostly the same sections, and in the same order. You can have multiple server names and multiple IP addresses.
Now, you’ll combine these two. For example, if your current SPF record is this:
v=spf1 +mx +a +include:_spf.google.com +ip18.104.22.168 ~all
and your new SPF record needs to be this:
v=spf1 +mx +a +include:_spf.anotherdomain.com +ip22.214.171.124 ~all
Combined, they’ll be:
v=spf1 +mx +a +include:_spf.anotherdomain.com +include:_spf.google.com +ip126.96.36.199 +ip188.8.131.52 ~all
Once you’ve figured out the combined value, click “Edit” to paste the new value in old “txt” “v=spf1” content area.
That’s it! Unlike the DKIM, you don’t want more than 1 SPF record for a domain name.
PTR (Reverse DNS)
The final item you can do to make sure your email gets delivered into a client’s or customer’s inbox is making sure the PTR is set correctly. The same “Email Deliverability” page will have these settings listed. However, not always can you edit them.
The best option in many cases is to contact your customer service for your hosting company and ask them to set this correctly for your domain name. This should take no more than 5-10 minutes for them to do, though it might be passed to their technical team.
How to Check PTR
If your host doesn’t have a simple way to see if this is set up, you can double-check using the steps below:
First, find your IP address for your domain name. If you don’t know your website’s IP address, use the Domain to IP Converter tool. Enter your domain name into the box and click Convert.
Second, take that IP address and use the Reverse IP Lookup tool to run a Reverse Lookup. The PTR Record should be listed at the top. If not, contact your hosting provider.
Most hosts allow you to check if these settings were added in correctly. It might be just reloading the “Email Deliverability” page in cpanel or they might provide a button to double-check. While DKIM and SPF can be checked immediately, the PTR can take a few hours to reflect the new edits.
The overall process is fairly simple, but completing these three simple verification steps can lead to much better deliverability for your emails.