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Jun 11, 2024

How to Avoid Domain Blacklisting Under Gmail's SPAM Algorithm Update

Educational Articles

email marketing just got trickier. Follow these rules to be compliant and avoid the Spam box.

Google has made some monumental changes to its Gmail spam algorithm this year, prompting many to dub it the "2024 Cold Email Apocalypse." While this dramatic shift primarily aims to protect personal email users from unwanted spam, it has massive implications for any business that uses email marketing. Whether you have a simple newsletter, frequently send cold emails, or have an elaborate email remarketing system, this update requires you to add a few new email marketing best practices to your repertoire. If you don’t, you risk having your domain blacklisted and getting banished to the SPAM folder abyss.

3 Changes to the Gmail Spam Algorithm

In 2024, Google has introduced three major updates to its Gmail spam algorithm, significantly altering the landscape for email marketers. These changes are aimed at increasing email security and reducing spam, but they also mean that businesses must adapt quickly to stay compliant.

1. Mandatory DKIM and DMARC Records

DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance) are email authentication protocols. DKIM ensures that the content of your emails hasn’t been altered during transit, while DMARC allows email domain owners to protect their domain from unauthorized use.

Before 2024, having DKIM and DMARC records was an optional best practice. Now, it’s a requirement. Without these records, your emails are more likely to be flagged as spam, as Google’s filters will prioritize authenticated emails.

Take These Next Steps: Setting up DKIM and DMARC is crucial. This process involves generating and adding specific DNS records to your domain. Most email service providers (ESPs) offer detailed guides on how to do this. If you need assistance, please refer to our article on setting up your DMARC record or you can reach out to us here for one-on-one assistance.

2. One-Click Unsubscribe Link

Every bulk email sender now needs to feature the One-Click Unsubscribe Link in their emails. This allows recipients to unsubscribe and be automatically removed from your mailing list.

Once again, this used to be an email marketing best practice. Previously, businesses could ask recipients to reply with "stop" or "unsubscribe," and then manually remove them from the mailing list. This process is no longer sufficient. A one-click unsubscribe link is now mandatory, ensuring a more user-friendly and immediate way for recipients to opt-out.

Take These Next Steps: Review and update your email templates to include a clear, visible, and functional one-click unsubscribe link. This not only keeps you compliant with Google’s rules, but also helps maintain a positive relationship with your audience by making it easy for them to opt-out if they choose to. Your email service provider (ESP) will have clear documentation on how to add a one-click unsubscribe link into your email.

3. New Spam Rate Threshold

Google has set a new threshold for the percentage of emails that can be marked as spam before your domain faces penalties. In the past, this was an unknown number of emails that could be marked as spam before you had your domain blacklisted.

The new spam rate threshold is 0.3%, meaning only 3 out of every 1,000 emails you send can be marked as spam without consequences. Exceed this limit, and your emails might start being automatically sorted into spam folders, flagged with warning messages by the Gmail spam algorithm, or (in the worst case) have your domain blacklisted.

Take These Next Steps: Regularly monitor your spam rates through your ESP’s reporting tools. Aim to maintain a spam rate well below 0.3% by ensuring your emails are relevant, valuable, and targeted to the right audience.

Most email marketers will tell you that this new threshold is frighteningly low! Frankly, the vast majority of email newsletters already exceed this spam threshold, and it’s causing a lot of problems in the eCommerce world.

Don’t worry, though. Later in this article, we’ve detailed 6 steps you can take to reduce your spam rate and avoid getting your domain blacklisted under the new Gmail spam algorithm update. First, let’s make sure you’re not blacklisted.

Is My Domain Blacklisted?

Given the importance of maintaining a clean email reputation, it's crucial to first know if your domain has been blacklisted. Tools like MXToolbox, Spamhaus, and Barracuda allow you to check if your domain is listed on any major blacklists.

These tools scan multiple blacklists and provide a report on whether your domain is listed and which blacklists have flagged it. If your domain is blacklisted, follow the steps provided by the blacklist's website to request removal. This often involves identifying the cause of the spam complaints and taking corrective actions.

It’s good practice to regularly check your domain status using these tools to ensure you remain in good standing. Ongoing monitoring helps you catch issues early and take prompt action to prevent long-term damage to your sender reputation.

Who This Affects

The impact of Google’s changes will vary across different types of email senders. Understanding how these rules affect various segments can help you tailor your strategy accordingly. Below, you’ll find three distinct ways that businesses use email marketing. You likely use at least one of these practices.

Promotions & Marketing

This category of email marketing is sending regular updates to a list of contacts who have opted in through newsletters, eCommerce promotions, call bookings, eBook downloads, etc. These are warm leads who have shown some level of interest in the business, and therefore have agreed to receive these emails.

Impact: Maintaining low spam rates is crucial. Even with legitimate opt-ins, it’s essential to ensure your content remains relevant and engaging to avoid spam complaints. Personalizing content and segmenting your audience can help keep engagement high and spam rates low.

B2B Cold Emails

This type of email marketing includes anyone that sources cold leads from the web or purchases email lists with warm business leads, and then tailors an email to these potential clients. These emails are often targeted and intended to address specific business needs that the recipient likely has.

Impact: Compliance is critical. B2B emailers must ensure they are targeting the right audience and providing clear value in their emails. Implementing double opt-in procedures and providing easy opt-out options can help mitigate spam complaints and stay within the new thresholds.

B2C Spam

This type of email marketing includes scraping emails or buying massive lists and sending out millions of emails, hoping for a few responses. This practice is often seen as predatory and is the primary target of Google’s updates.

Impact: These senders will face the harshest penalties. The new rules are designed to curb this behavior, making it unsustainable to continue mass spamming. Such businesses will need to drastically change their practices or risk severe consequences, including blacklisting.

Why Google (and Yahoo) Are Doing This

The primary motivation behind these changes is to create a safer and more user-friendly email environment. Both Google and Yahoo have observed increasing complaints from users about the overwhelming volume of spam emails cluttering their inboxes. These changes are designed to address several key issues.

First, they’re enhancing the user experience. Users expect a clean, relevant inbox with minimal spam. Google and Yahoo are striving to meet these expectations by tightening spam controls. By reducing the amount of unwanted emails, these providers improve the overall email experience, making it easier for users to find important and relevant messages.

Second, they’re upping their security. Spam emails often carry malicious content, including phishing links and malware. Enhancing email security protocols helps protect users from these threats. Higher security standards reduce the risk of cyber-attacks and identity theft, fostering a safer online environment for all users.

Third, they’re raising the standards of the web. Google and Yahoo are (forcefully) encouraging businesses to adopt email marketing best practices. These best practices lead to a healthier email ecosystem, where legitimate businesses can thrive without being overshadowed by spammers.

6 Email Marketing Best Practices to Decrease Your Spam Rate

At this point, every business should work to drastically reduce their email send spam rate.

You don’t want to permanently damage your domain’s trust in the eyes of Google by sending one bulk email that gets flagged by them or sent to spam by more than 0.3% of recipients. The following email marketing best practices will help you stay compliant with the new Gmail spam algorithm update, and ensure your email marketing efforts remain effective

1. Clean Your Email List

In this new era of email, you want to ensure that you are only emailing engaged recipients who are expecting (or will be pleased to receive) an email from you. This means deleting contacts… and probably lots of them.

  • Remove any contacts that never explicitly opted-in to your email list.
  • Remove inactive or unengaged contacts (those who don’t open your emails)
  • Remove personal email domains like @gmail.com or @yahoo.com who haven’t explicitly opted in

Again, this Gmail update is largely for the purpose of cleaning up personal email inboxes. Therefore to be on the safe side, you should strongly consider deleting all personal email domains like @gmail.com or @yahoo.com from your list. Of course, this will require some nuance and discretion on your part.

2. Authenticate Your Domain

There’s no optionality when it comes to this step. You must implement DKIM and DMARC records to authenticate your domain. Otherwise, Google will start throttling your email performance. Proper authentication not only helps with deliverability but also builds trust with your recipients.

This process involves generating and adding specific DNS records to your domain. Most email service providers offer detailed guides on how to do this. Also, EasyDMARC provides a number of step-by-step tutorials and tools to help you set up these records.

3. Implement a One-Click Unsubscribe Link

Ensure every email you send includes an easy-to-find and functional one-click unsubscribe link. This not only keeps you compliant but also helps maintain a positive relationship with your audience. Making it easy for users to opt-out reduces the chances of your emails being marked as spam.

4. Use Lead Warmup Tools

Marketers are experimenting with ways to artificially boost their email success stats to beat Google at their own game. Tools like Instantly AI, Smartlead.ai, and Warmy.io can help manage your cold email sends, boosting sender reputation, and deliverability.

These tools use networks of real accounts to safely send emails and train email servers to recognize your emails as legitimate. By gradually increasing your send volume and ensuring high engagement, these tools may help you maintain a good sender reputation. Although, they do come with a cost and are not necessarily proven to work.

5. General Best Email Practices

Adhere to the email marketing best practices, now, more than ever. These can help you avoid being put in spam.

  • Personalize Your Emails: Address recipients by name and reference their company or industry. Take it up a notch and write a whole opening sentence just for them.
  • Engage Regularly: Consistent emails reduce the likelihood of someone thinking, “I don’t remember signing up for this…SPAM!”
  • Clean Your List Periodically: If they haven’t opened your emails in a while, maybe it’s time to go your separate ways.
  • Consider Alternative Email Services: For cold emailing campaigns, consider using services like Microsoft Office instead of G Suite. Google’s stricter policies indicate a preference for more traditional and consent-based email marketing practices.

6. Enable Double Opt-In

While single opt-in requires someone to fill in a form and submit their email to you, double opt-in asks them again to confirm they want you to have their email. Usually this is done by sending a follow-up email asking them to confirm their subscription by clicking a link.

Double opt-in ensures the recipient genuinely wants to receive your emails. It also prevents spammers (or mean friends) from signing you up for a deluge of emails.

In Closing

By following these strategies, you can navigate Google's new email spam rules and continue to run successful email marketing campaigns without risking your domain’s reputation. While Google’s 2024 email spam rule changes may seem daunting, they present an opportunity for businesses to refine their email marketing practices.

By adopting these new standards and focusing on delivering value to your recipients, you can not only stay compliant but also enhance your email marketing effectiveness. The future of email marketing lies in creating meaningful, personalized, and engaging content that resonates with your audience. So it’s business as usual, with a few technical twists.

Of course, if you need help navigating these new changes then we’re here to help!

At H1 Web Development, our team of web experts is dedicated to helping businesses unlock the full potential of their digital footprint. Whether you're looking to refresh your website design or implement technical best practices (like the email updates discussed in this article), we're here to guide you every step of the way.

Schedule a meeting with H1 Web Development to discuss your digital needs and how we can elevate the future of your web presence.