Finding that email can take time

Have you ever bought something from a website and been concerned that you have not received an order confirmation?

Do you never receive the email alerting you that a visitor has sent you a contact message?

Are you not getting an email when someone places an order?

These situations are symptoms that the messages from your website are getting filtered out as spam. Typically, some customers will receive their emails while others do not. Generally, the larger providers, such as Gmail, are most likely to be affected. We have written about setting up rules in Gmail here but this only works for your own website (or if you are a really serious customer!).

What you need is a way of telling the email servers that your emails are legitimate.

Website check

Firstly, send the emails from your website domain so if your website is mywebsiteaddress.com, send the emails from e.g. info@mywebsiteaddress.com. This should be a valid email address for your business as the recipient may wish to reply. You can use a forwarder/ alias address to a real mailbox and you may want to set up a “Reply-to” on your contact form.

You may need to look in several places:

  • Your contact form
  • Your shop
  • Other email generators such as forum, membership or ticketing.

Sending from your domain is one indicator that your email is genuine but modern spam filtering is looking for more.

The SPF record

An SPF (Sender Policy Framework) record lists the places which can legitimately send email from the domain. The receiving email server can read this record and check that the source of the email is legitimate. Emails which pass the test get delivered, failures go to spam. If there is no record, more and more servers are defaulting to spam. You need access to the domain nameserver to create or update the SPF record.

The format and content of the SPF record is prescribed so if you get it wrong, the mail will get marked as spam. Luckily, there are generators around such as SPF Wizard – SPF Generator DNS tool. Note that the output from these tools is only as good as the information you supply – in this case what can generate emails. The information it needs is:

  • Do you send emails from your mailserver? (The answer should be yes unless you do not have domain email.)
  • Do you send emails from your website? (The answer is most likely yes as you are reading this).
  • Do you send emails from anywhere else?
  • How strict do you want to be?

On the “anywhere else” question, you may need to include the address for an email marketing platform, such as MailChimp. In this case, search their help for the address(es) you need. Some hosting platforms may send emails from a different IP address to your website and this will also need to be included in the SPF record.

If you are not sure about changing domain records, we recommend you approach your web designer or the company you registered your domain with.

Send through SMTP

There is an alternative to the sending emails through the website. On platforms such as WordPress you can install an SMTP plugin that sends the emails in the same way as you do from a program such as Outlook or Mac Mail. Because it sends mail through your mail server, it removes the need to check the website. You do, however, have to supply your mailbox username and password so the website can send the email. If you have multiple administrators with access to your website dashboard, make sure that your password will not be revealed to all!

In conclusion

Communicating with your customers and website visitors is essential. Spend a few minutes checking your website settings and SPF record and seek help if you need it.