Some big changes are coming up for marketing teams who rely on large email marketing lists to reach their subscribers, customers, or members, and it could impact how some of those campaigns are delivered (or whether they’re delivered at all, for those not in compliance.)

Major email providers, Gmail and Yahoo, have recently announced their intention to start cracking down on unsolicited emails, with new inbox protection policies and requirements for bulk senders.

Though these changes will likely result in a bit less junk mail in our inboxes, there will also be a heavier lift for legitimate email marketers to prove that they have permission to contact their subscribers and that they are who they say they are.

It’s also likely that these changes will hit small businesses and nonprofits the hardest, since these types of organizations don’t always have a dedicated staff to maintain their email compliance, deliverability, or list hygiene.

While there isn’t any reason for businesses and nonprofits to panic, it’s worth your time to take a minute to get up to speed, making sure someone can check on your lists and ensure compliance before the changes roll out. In the email world, deliverability issues are often much easier and quicker to prevent than they are to fix.

To help you get started, let’s talk about what these changes are, and what steps you’ll want to take now to avoid ending up in your subscribers’ spam folders.

Key Changes Coming Soon for Bulk Email Marketing

Stronger Authentication Requirements
Google recently announced the changes to email deliverability standards and a timeline for their rollout and shortly after, Yahoo followed suit. Starting in February of 2024, bulk senders – meaning those sending 5,000 or more messages in one day – will be mandated to implement more robust authentication practices.

Email authentication is important for businesses and nonprofits because it builds trust for your brand, and increases deliverability – making sure that messages are sent to your subscribers’ inboxes, rather than being rerouted to their spam folder. This also prevents email spoofing – a brand-damaging form of phishing that can be used to target your subscribers.

While most email service providers already recommend some form of email authentication – such as Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) – the biggest change will be the additional requirement of Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC).

In the simplest terms, DMARC keys act as an extra layer of verification beyond DKIM and SPF, allowing domain owners to control what happens if an email fails security checks. This is a good thing because, without it, a sender has no say in whether a failing message is bounced, sent to a spam folder, or handled in some other way.

Spam Rate Thresholds
In an effort to keep unwanted messages out of users’ inboxes, Gmail has announced it will now be enforcing a spam complaint threshold of 0.3% (3 out of 1000) and Yahoo has indicated that it will uphold the same standard starting in Q1 of 2024.

Though tracking user-reported spam rates is nothing new, this is the first time bulk senders will be held to a specific, quantifiable number – measured according to the number of messages delivered that get reported as spam.

Under the new rules and regulations, if more than 0.3% of your messages are marked as “spam” by recipients, it’s likely that future emails sent by your brand won’t be delivered as anticipated or will be flagged by the email provider as spam. With these new guidelines in place, it will be more important than ever for senders to closely monitor their spam report rates and respond accordingly to any uptick in the numbers.

Some ways to do this include using resources like Google Postmaster, which tracks your user-reported spam rate and monitors authentication status. You can also employ tools like inbox placement testing – for predicting where your email is most likely to land, email validation – which removes high-risk and invalid addresses from your lists, and bounce classification – for identifying bounce issues that affect your sender reputation.

Easy Unsubscription Must Be Enabled
No one likes a complicated unsubscribe process, and now Google is making it official by specifying that the new gold standard will be one-click Global Unsubscribe.

Despite this being the recommended practice for quite some time, Yahoo reports that adoption rates for these common-sense standards have been low. If your emails already include a link to manage preferences, this won’t be a big change. However, moving forward, large senders who don’t offer a single-click unsubscribe option will need to include one in all commercial emails sent.

Additionally, both Yahoo and Google are stipulating that these unsubscribe requests must be processed within a two-day time frame. Again, this is a good thing because it helps prevent the excessive spam report rates that can hurt a brand’s deliverability rate, engagement metrics, and overall reputation.

Business Impact: Bulk Email Marketing in 2024

While these updates could seem daunting, there’s no need for businesses using email marketing to panic. If your business or nonprofit is already following best email marketing practices, you may already be in compliance with most of what’s outlined here.

Even so, it’s an important time to revisit your email marketing strategy to ensure its efficacy. By getting on board with the new requirements for subscriber security and spam reduction, brands and businesses have an opportunity to not just avoid penalties but ultimately develop stronger and even more effective email marketing strategies.

Need Email Marketing Support?

If you’re a business or nonprofit feeling concerned about Gmail and Yahoo’s new email marketing requirements, First Ascent can help you figure out how to send bulk emails without getting blacklisted.

Unfortunately, without proper oversight of your campaigns, it’s easy for senders operating in good faith to unintentionally flag anti-spam systems, or to fall out of compliance with the same types of email campaigns they’ve been sending for years without issue.

The good news is that staying in compliance (and making sure that your emails get delivered) is relatively simple and painless. Helping our digital marketing clients maintain their subscriber lists and build campaigns is something we do every day at First Ascent. We’re happy to set you up with the tools you need to keep your email campaigns secure, up-to-date, and reaching your target audience. Feel free to get in touch if you have questions, or want to learn more.