Transactional email: 99%+ deliverability in 6 steps
Due to the nature of transactional email, deliverability is a must. Customers expect to receive their email as confirmation of something they have done. Whether they placed an order, requested a password reset, or received a download request, they expect their email. If you need a refresher on what transactional email is or how it differs from marketing emails, read our blog that helps differentiate the two.
Deliverability: What is it?
Simply put, deliverability measures the percentages of total emails sent that are successfully received. In more technical terms, it measures how many receiving mail servers acknowledge receipt of the email you sent to the recipient's mail server.
The Gmail Example
To drive this home, let's say that John Adams is attempting to log in to your website but can't remember his password. He clicks the "Forgot my password" and enters his email address of "John.Adams.email@example.com"to reset his password. Your system then generates a transactional email using our API to send an email from Tarvent's mail servers to Gmail's mail servers (receiving mail server). Once gmail.com gets the email, gmail.com will report a successful receipt to Tarvent's mail servers. In some cases, gmail.com may reply with an error due to a full mailbox or an error saying there is no active user for the email address. Once gmail.com accepts the email, Tarvent can do a happy dance, knowing the email was successfully delivered to Gmail. Gmail can now route that mail internally to John Adam's inbox.
Each receiving mail server works differently and has proprietary rules to flag an email for various reasons. Here are the steps you can take to ensure your transactional email has the highest possible chance of being delivered:
1. Sender PolicyFramework (SPF)
SPF is a protocol used by receiving mail servers to ensure that the sending mail server can send email on behalf of the sending domain. SPF can get a little technical due to DMARC policies your domain may have in place (we'll explain DMARC below), so we'll keep it basic for now.
Just for reference and to satisfy your insatiable curiosity, here's what an SPF record looks like:
You can check your domain to see if you have an SPF record. In most cases, you never have to worry about SPF when using Tarvent because we take care of this for you. Sometimes, you may need to set up a mail domain within Tarvent to address DMARC settings, but this rarely needs to be done. Tarvent has you covered, and there is nothing you need to do. However, we want to ensure you're at least aware of yet another acronym that will make you much cooler around your friends. No matter what, you can always reach out to Tarvent to ensure you get the best deliverability possible.
2. DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM)
You guessed it, another acronym. Just think of how cool you will be after learning these new acronyms. While SPF ensures that the sending mail server is allowed to send email for the sending domain, DKIM is a digital signature to let the receiving mail server of the email know that the message was sent and authorized by the owner of the "FROM" domain. While that last statement isn't always true, I'll spare you all the techie talk and keep this simple.
In Tarvent, you can create a "FROM" domain. The "FROM" domain is the domain you will use in your email's "FROM" line. We may send an email from "firstname.lastname@example.org." In this case, e.tarvent.com is the "FROM" domain. When you configure a "FROM" domain in Tarvent, we'll ask for the domain name and then give you instructions on how to add a Text (TXT) record to your Domain Name Server (DNS) with the value that goes in the "Data" section of the record. I know, you're dying to see what the DKIM record looks like. Well, here you go:
Looks awesome right? Check your domain to see if you have any DKIM records. Don't worry; you don't have to know exactly what all this means. Additionally, we added a feature allowing you to send the information to a techie so they can add the TXT record for you (just make sure you have a techie to email). Otherwise, it's pretty straightforward. The TXT record contains many characters that look meaningless. Still, it's a public key both the sending and receiving mail servers use to create or validate the digital signature I mentioned above.
Afterthe record is added, Tarvent will check it and verify the domain. You can thenstart sending transactional emails from that domain, knowing DKIM is all good.Whew!
3. Domain-based Message Authentication Reporting & Conformance (DMARC)
Ok, this is the last acronym, I pinky promise! DMARC is an email authentication protocol that defines policies for how receiving mail servers should handle email that fails the SPF and DKIM checks. In most cases, the SPF and DKIM alignment policies are set to "relaxed," which is typical for most domains.
The DMARC policy record (another TXT record) is stored in the DNS, which makes it publicly available to all receiving mail servers. Here's an example of what a DMARC policy record looks like.
A word of caution: Changing your DMARC policy for your "FROM" domain will affect how all receiving mail servers handle emails from this domain. If you send emails from Tarvent and Microsoft 365 for the same domain, the DMARC will affect both. Therefore, review how the DMARC record works before making any changes.
There is so much more to address, but for now, we're going to focus on the basics. We'll take a deep dive into each in later blogs. You can check your domain to see if you have a DMARC record and learn what each DMARC tag means.
Now that we have that out of the way let's talk about something much less technical.
4. Bounce handling
We're not talking basketball here. Let's go back to the email we sent,"John.Adams.email@example.com ". If it bounces (gets rejected), there are various options to ensure your domain's sending reputation isn't penalized. While an email can be rejected or bounced for several reasons, these reasons fall into two main categories: soft bounces and hard bounces.
Soft bounces are typically temporary bounces for reasons like a full mailbox. On the other hand, hard bounces are permanent errors, such as a "mailbox does not exist" error. In most cases, you can resend a soft-bounced email without issues. Resending to a hard-bounced email may cause your sender reputation to decrease since the receiving mail server told you the email address was wrong, and you keep sending it. Luckily, Tarvent takes care of this automagically (yes, that's a word).
Tarvent provides mechanisms to auto-resend emails based on various bounce types. If it's a hard bounce, don't resend. If it's a soft bounce, create rules within Tarvent to attempt to resend at various intervals. Once you make resend rules, auto-resend is automatic, so you can sit back and watch Tarvent do its magic.
5. Gracefully handle unsubscribes
Ina perfect world, no one will unsubscribe. An option to unsubscribe from transactional email is optional since it doesn't usually fall under the category of marketing emails. However, we're not your legal team, so please check with them.
If someone no longer wants to receive your email, you need to respect that and stop emailing them. In Tarvent, that's easy, and yes, automatic. Thank goodness, right? Transactional email can also validate that the recipient's email address isn't in your suppression list, further ensuring that you only send it to someone who wants to receive it.
6. Optimize your sending patterns.
Sending a high volume of email can be a challenge. However, there are aspects in your control and some more techie tasks that Tarvent does behind the scenes to ensure the best possible deliverability. Let's talk about the part you can control.
Transactional emails are emails sent in response to a person's action, such as placing an order. However, other transactional emails are sent when a flight schedule is changed, especially in the travel space. Regarding flight changes, you may send us a batch of emails. Receiving domains perk up when an abnormal amount of email from a sending domain is received. They like to see patterns that you stick with. Otherwise, the anomalies may cause their systems to block your email. Fun, I know. If you see spikes that increase your average sending rate several times, consider sending smaller batches of transactional email and space out the sending.
On Tarvent's side, we actively monitor our mail server's activity and make adjustments based on feedback from the receiving mail servers. We don't expect you to monitor bounced messages and make throughput adjustments. We do that for you. We aim to let you focus on your business while we take care of as much of the delivery process as possible. That's why we see an average deliverability of 99.5%, even with Casinos and other difficult-to-handle categories of customers. We'll let you know if we find something we need you to address. Otherwise, you can rest assured that we are working to ensure everything goes as soon as possible.
Well, the best conclusion is that you now look like a rockstar with all the new acronyms, right? All kidding aside, email authentication protocols are essential to know about, reasonably easy to implement, and highly effective at ensuring the best possible deliverability. While using Tarvent, we take a lot of the techie stuff off your plate so you can focus on the right content for the right person at the right time to get the conversions you need. That's what we are here for, doing the techie stuff so you don't have to.
Configure your "FROM" domain in Tarvent, and follow the instructions to add a single record to your DNS. That's it! We take care of the rest. If you run into any problems, call us, and we'll help you figure out how to resolve the issue.
When you’re looking for an email marketing platform, marketing automation platform, and email API for sending transactional emails, Tarvent has everything you need in a single solution that ties everything together. Try Tarvent for free for 14 days and see how Tarvent can take your marketing to the next level with ease at a price any size company can afford.
Cliffs Notes Version
Transaction email deliverability, at its core, is quite simple. Configuring email authentication is the first and most crucial step in getting the best deliverability possible.
Email authentication ensures that the mail server sending email for a specific domain used in the "FROM" line of the email is allowed. Email authorization is accomplished using SPF and DKIM. In addition to SPF and DKIM, DMARC tells receiving mail servers what to do with the email if the email doesn't pass SPF and DKIM validation. Additionally, when you implement these protocols, receiving mail servers are more inclined to accept your email if everything checks out because you effectively implemented these protocols.
The good part is that Tarvent takes care of SPF for you in 99% of the cases. It would be best to create a "FROM" domain in Tarvent. Follow the instructions to add a single record to your DNS, and that's it.
In addition to email authentication protocols, bounce, and unsubscribe request handling affect your transactional email deliverability. Unsubscribes on transactional email is subjective since most transactional email does not fall under the marketing email laws. However, check with your legal folks before ignoring this one. As for bounces, luckily for you, Tarvent handles all this for you to keep your reputation pristine and your deliverability high.
If you have yet to notice, we at Tarvent try hard to take care of almost all the techie stuff so you can focus on bettering your marketing efforts.