How to make sure your transactional emails are delivered

24/08/2021 - Guides

Sending emails from websites for transactional emails and making sure they are delivered can be a challenge for many eCommerce companies, web developers and agencies
Why can it be challenging I hear you ask?
Setting up the capability to send transactional emails is not the challenging part, making sure they are delivered is where the issues generally lie.  This is often due to the fact that we cannot control the recipient end, by that we mean the sending and receiving policies that email companies put in place, companies such as Gmail, yahoo, aol, Hotmail, iCloud and so on all have sending and receiving policies that need to be met, for email to be delivered.

What is a transactional email?

A transactional emails is usually a unique messages that the recipient is expecting to receive.

These emails are usually triggered by the user and do not require an unsubscribe link, an example of a transactional email would be an order confirmation or invoice. Forgotten passwords emails or information relating to an order or a course attended could also be classed as transactional emails, transactional emails are primarily functional and provide a response to an action or a request made by the recipient, i.e. placing an order.

Unlike promotional / marketing emails which are bulk distributions of the same content to many recipients simultaneously, transactional emails are personalized and typically sent to individuals one at a time.
What is DNS

DNS or (Domain Name System) is The Internet's system for converting alphabetic names into numeric IP addresses. For example, when a Web address (URL) is typed into a browser, DNS servers return the IP address of the Web server associated with that name.  There are numerous DNS settings, some related to websites (A records or CNAME), some to emails (MX, SPF,DMARC, DKIM) and some for verifying the use of specific services and some records can be used for multiple things.

DNS settings and how they affect your transactional emails

  • SPF records
    Use Sender Policy Framework (SPF) is used to help protect your domain against spoofing, and help prevent your outgoing messages from being marked as spam. Although SPF is designed for this purpose, having an SPF isn’t everything that is required, for emails t be delivered or placed into the Inbox. Receiving mail servers (examples; aol, yahoo, Gmail, iCloud) use SPF to verify that incoming messages that appear to come from your domain were sent by servers authorized by you.  Without SPF, messages sent from your organisation or domain are more likely to be marked as spam by receiving mail servers.
    DMARC is an email authentication protocol. It is designed to give email domain owners the ability to protect their domain from unauthorized use, commonly known as email spoofing. A DMARC along with other DNS records can help with deliverability of emails.
  • DKIM
    DomainKeys Identified Mail is an email authentication method designed to detect forged sender addresses in email, a technique often used in phishing and email spam. A DKIM record allows the receiver to check that an email claimed to have come from a specific domain was indeed authorized by the owner of that domain.   
As standard with Upshot Media's website solution we make sure that you have valid SPF records, DKIM and DMARC, all of which help improve deliverability.  There are occasions where you may need us to add additional records or “mechanisms” within an SPF, an example would be if using MailChimp (or an email marketing tool), a “mechanism” has to be added to the SPF record so MailChimp is an approved sender, any third party provide you choose should provide any settings that they require to be added.

There is a whole multitude of things that ecommerce companies, developer and agencies can’t necessarily control but can help offer advice on.
  1. Domain and IP reputation
  2. IP address that is used to send
  3. Email volume
  4. Spam complaints
  5. Emails not being opened or read (engagement). Yes people receiving but not opening emails is a thing and can impact the reputation of your domain and IP.
  6. Email content
  7. Bounces due to incorrect email addresses
A few things to and avoid (where possible)
  1. Sending emails with lots of links and little content
  2. Overcomplicated designs with lots of HTML
  3. Sending an email To: 1 recipient and CC or BCC others
  4. Bulk sending without the use of dedicated email marketing  tools

Email deliverability and inbox placement

To delve deeper into the above, there is a difference between ensuring the emails are delivered with best practices, and inbox placement.  We often see emails delivered but into spam or junk folders, not the recipient inbox, this can be frustrating and emails can be buried with hundreds of spam emails and therefore missed.
Neither deliverability nor inbox placement can be guaranteed, however there are various solutions available to help improve the both the deliverability and inbox placement.
Shared and Dedicated IPs

All servers have an IP address and when emails are sent the IP is recognised by the receiving party. IP Reputation is important, as is domain reputation
What is IP reputation

Email messages are sent from a computer or server that has a unique identifying address, which are known as IP addresses.  IP addresses can easily be tied back to senders, meaning that a sender ca easily be identified and determine your IPs reputation. With IP reputation, there are many variables like whether you’re using a brand new IP address, a shared IP, or a dedicated IP, all of which can have a big impact on the reputation.  See “Dedicated IP” below.

What is domain reputation?

Domain reputation is the overall “health” of your branded domain as interpreted by mailbox providers. Your reputation is determined by various factors such as engagement, spam complaint rates, spam traps, and bounce rates.   Having a good domain reputation, along with IP reputation is an important factor in email deliverability.  See list of things to avoid above, which will help reduce the reputation of your domain.

Dedicated IPs

As mentioned above, both domain and IP reputation can impact deliverability, depending on how the receiving party perceives the reputation of both.  Sometimes having a dedicated IP for your own organisation, can improve both deliverability and inbox placement and also the reputation of that IP address, assuming all the guidelines are met, spam complaints are low and  you are not sending emails in the incorrect manner or sending unsolicited emails. A dedicated IP is usually only required when sending in volumes, estimated at 300,000 or more email per month, there are exceptions where a dedicated IP address may help at lower volumes.
Need help sending automated transactional emails from your website?
Talk to Upshot Media about how we can help with email deliverability for your transactional emails. We have our standard solution built in with all our websites and a premium offering, where we send emails via a third party sending tool, who can provide reporting and additional features to help with the deliverability and see if your email are delivered and opened.

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