Checking your emails as soon as you wake up or start work is a habit common to many. In fact, around 2.5 billion people worldwide do this. Email marketing is one of the most invaluable tools businesses have at their disposal. It is a direct and personal way to communicate with your customer. This is particularly useful in sales and for ecommerce platforms. Research shows that every $1 you spend on an email marketing campaign can give you a return of over $40. So, not only is it convenient but it’s also cheap.
A problem many email marketers face is emails not being opened by the recipients. The average open rate for a marketing email is only 20%. That means that only one out of five emails that reach the customer’s inbox is viewed. The bigger problem is emails not even reaching the inbox. This is known as the email deliverability rate, and it can be low for a variety of reasons, which we will discuss below.
In this article, we will be exploring an email authentication method that can increase the probability of your emails reaching an inbox. It’s called DKIM.
What factors affect email deliverability rate?
Think of email deliverability as flying out of an airport, and think of mailbox providers such as Gmail and Yahoo as TSA agents. The only way your email is making it out is if it passes all the necessary checks. But, instead of checking your passport and luggage, mailbox providers run checks on the reputation of the sender, server/IP, and domain. They also review the data on how people interact with your emails and your general metrics. This includes checking:
– Do people flag your emails as spam?
– How often do people unsubscribe?
– How often do people complain?
– How many email campaigns do you send per week?
– Have you ever been blacklisted?
So, even if you’re sending a harmless email that could benefit the recipient, such as one entitled, “What is task management and how can it boost your business?“, if you don’t pass the checks, then you won’t make the cut.
Now, this is where DKIM comes in.
What is DKIM?
DKIM or DomainKeys Identified Mail is a powerful email authentication tool that allows the recipient to verify whether or not the email they’re receiving was actually authorized by the domain that it’s claiming to be.
DKIM assigns each email with a unique DKIM signature, and we will discuss this further below. But, essentially, the servers and Internet service providers such as Google Mail or Microsoft Outlook recognize the authentic DKIM signature. This provides them with sufficient information to confirm that the email is delivered as intended, with no external modifications. It can then reach the recipient’s inbox.
DKIM can be used in any email scenario. Whether you’re CASB vendors sending out email confirmation messages or Amazon sending marketing emails to your email list, DKIM can help the emails get to the intended recipient successfully.
Are SPF and DKIM the same thing?
In short, no. SPF or Sender Policy Framework authorizes the IP address attached to the domain’s email. In comparison, DKIM authorizes by creating and adding a signature to each email.
Why do you need DKIM?
Consider this scenario. Let’s say you’re a well-established customer service platform that has a lot of clients. You interact with them daily via email, and they often use links you send them to type in passwords to access sensitive information. Imagine if scammers could impersonate your domain and get your customers to type in their passwords on illegitimate sites and steal their payment information? Well, they can.
This is known as a phishing attack or, more specifically, email phishing or spoofing. Statistics show that, in 2020, nearly 2 out of 3 US companies faced a successful phishing attack. Scammers will use an @domain.com that is similar to your company’s, and they will shorten their illegitimate website URL so that it passes through the spam checkers.
Research shows that almost one in three phishing emails are opened by recipients, and over 10% actually click through to the illegitimate site or spam link.
But, DKIM can alert your email box to this inauthentic but similar domain. So the email provider will redirect the spam into the junk folder or even cause it to bounce and prevent the attack.
How will this affect your company?
Email phishing attacks sound like a nightmare for your customers. But, in reality, they are also damaging to your company. Email spoofing can directly damage your company’s reputation when information is stolen, reduce your productivity, cause your customers to lose trust in your company, and you can incur regulatory fines.
Here are some phishing email statistics you need to be aware of:
– 97% of customers cannot identify email spoofing.
– Only 3% are actually reported to tech teams.
– One email spoofing attack can cost a company, on average, more than $1.5 million.
– Scammers often demand a ransom and the average is around $80,000. One-third of companies pay up.
– Over a million illegitimate phishing sites are launched every month.
How does DKIM authenticate emails?
As we mentioned above, DKIM creates a new and unique signature for emails. This is generated randomly using an algorithm. This original set of numbers and letters is known as the hash value. So, when the signature is made, it is then filed under the domain’s name.
The recipient then checks these filed records, known as the DNS, and they check two things. The email header’s hash value and then they re-compute and calculate the incoming email’s hash value. If these two indicators are the same, then the email is now DKIM-authenticated.
Here is an example of a DKIM signature:
DKIM-Signature: v= 1; a= rsa-sha256; d= yourdomain.com; s= news; c= relaxed/relaxed;
q= dns/txt; t= 1126524832; x= 1149015927; h= from: to: subject: date: keywords: keywords;
bh= MHIzKDU2Nzf3MDEyNzR1Njc5OTAyMjM0MUY3ODlqBLP =; b= jsbfjeabfiJDKSsoingWD4fgnaeo934jkdgnaekjgndjnGHTSGHsnjnafnjnfnJHGD420J
Obviously, this looks incredibly complicated. But, in summary:
– The “d=” is where your domain name goes.
– The “b=” is the DKIM signature itself.
– The “bh=” is the hash value that is recognized after the re-computing happens.
The most important takeaway from this section is that DKIM will differentiate you from the phishing scammers because they do not DKIM-authenticate their emails.
Let’s use a practical example to illustrate the point:
1. Imagine that you’re a popular cloud-based communication company that creates team collaboration tools, essentially, a twist competitor.
2. You’ve just sent out an email that includes a link for your customers to log in to their accounts.
3. The phishing scammers receive or intercept this email and alter the link to a URL for an illegitimate version of your website.
4. But, this email contains a DKIM signature.
5. So, when the email provider receives the email spoof, it begins to re-compute and re-calculate the “bh=” portion of the signature.
6. Because the email has been altered, the two hash values will not be the same.
7. The email is then sent to the spam folder, or it is bounced away.
To sum up
Emails are crucial to a company’s marketing success. They allow for quick, effective, and personal communication with your customers. This is why making sure that the emails make it into the recipient’s inbox should be the number one concern for marketers. But, you also want to make sure that nothing malicious ends up in their inbox. DKIM is the solution.
Using a unique signature generated via algorithms allows email providers to check that it’s actually you sending the email. This, as we’ve shown above, is vital in preventing scammers from attacking your customers, damaging your brand reputation, and costing you a lot of money.
Elea Andrea Almazora- RingCentral US
Elea is the SEO Content Optimization manager for RingCentral, the leader in global enterprise communication and collaboration solutions on the cloud. She has more than a decade’s worth of experience in on-page optimization, editorial production, and digital publishing. She spends her free time learning new things.