Email Authenticity and Unsubscribe Requirements 
What Association Professionals Need to Know

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February 8, 2024

On Feb. 1, 2024, Gmail and Yahoo announced major changes to their email platforms that will require bulk email senders to authenticate their email addresses, make it easy for recipients to unsubscribe from email lists, and stay under certain spam thresholds. These changes aim to combat fraudulent emails, reduce spam, and give users more control over their inboxes. However, they may also impact how many associations communicate with their members.

What is a Bulk Sender?

In early-October, Google and Yahoo began discussing these changes defined bulk-senders as “those who send more than 5,000 messages to Gmail or Yahoo in one day.”

Associations can look to see if their membership database has this many Gmail or Yahoo users, but it’s better to plan accordingly to comply with the requirements if your membership is nearing or above 5,000 individuals. This way you’ll stay out of spa folders and see a higher ROI on email campaigns.

“Many bulk senders don’t appropriately secure and configure their systems, allowing attackers to easily hide in their midst,” wrote Google product manager Neil Kumaran in a blog post. “To help fix that, we’ve focused on a crucial aspect of email security: the validation that a sender is who they claim to be.”

How to Comply

As of early 2024, over 4.4 billion people use email worldwide, according to estimates. With email remaining a crucial communication channel, association professionals need to understand how to adapt to these new policies to continue engaging members effectively.

1. Authenticate Emails

Under the new rules, all bulk email senders will need to verify their email addresses using authentication protocols to confirm a sender’s identity like:

  • Sender Policy Framework (SPF), which helps prevent domain spoofing by allowing senders to identify the email servers that are allowed to send emails from their domain.
  • DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), which adds a digital signature to outgoing email, which verifies the message was sent by an authorized sender and wasn’t tampered with along the way.
  • Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC), which helps domain owners specify which actions to take when an email fails authentication. It also enables reporting on email authentication results.

Google and Yahoo require bulk senders to set up all three of these protocols, and emails that fail authentication may end up in recipients' spam folders or be blocked altogether.

2. Make Unsubscribing Easy

All email lists will need to include a clearly visible unsubscribe link in each email to allow recipients to opt out at any time. According to a recent study, over 45% of people unsubscribe from email lists due to irrelevant content or too high an email frequency. To avoid losing engaged members, associations will need to segment their email lists and personalize content for different audiences. Sending too many emails, especially if they are not highly targeted, may lead to higher unsubscribe rates under the new policies.

3. Keep a Low Spam Rate

Bulk senders must keep their spam rate below 0.10% and avoid reaching 0.30% or higher, according to Google. Unfortunately, it’s relatively easy for a user to report an email as spam. It all comes down to the perception of the user and the value they think your email gives them. Reassess your email strategy and think about the following:

  • Has everyone on your distribution list opted in to receive emails from you? If not, do not send to those individuals.
  • Do your emails include an unsubscribe link? Make sure to have a straightforward way out.
  • Make sure your content and design are on brand for your audience.
  • Are you sending too many emails? If so, think about readjusting your sending schedules, as people can mark your emails as spam if they’re receiving too many.

4. Validate Regularly

Outside of the above guidelines, associations should remember to verify their email lists each quarter, as a minimum. With this validation, you can remove invalid recipients, figure out why emails have failed, update emails for users, etc. Email lists depreciate about 23%, yearly, so get ahead of the curve and focus on who truly wants to hear from you.

“These changes are like a tune-up for the email world, and by fixing a few things under the hood, we can keep email running smoothly,” Kumaran wrote. “But just like a tune-up, this is not a one-time exercise. Keeping email more secure, user friendly and spam-free requires constant collaboration and vigilance from the entire email community.”

 

Conclusion

To prepare for the email changes provided by Google and Yahoo, association professionals should audit their current email practices, enable email authentication, review email frequency and content, simplify the unsubscribe process, and stay up to date with major email providers' policies. With some adjustments, associations can continue to use email as an effective way to inform and engage members even as the landscape shifts to give users more control and reduce spam. Overall, the new requirements aim to benefit both senders and recipients by improving the email experience for all.


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