Authentication is the little dark secret ESPs don't talk about to small businesses when selling their email marketing tool. They show you a really cool jazzy email editor, with fun features. They sell a secure, well-organized CRM to save all your subscribers. But they don't explain to you that you need a bit more than a beautiful template and a list of subscribers to get started.
DKIM & SPF have to be implemented before sending any email marketing campaigns from any tool you use. When sending newsletters to your subscriber, their inbox verifies the sender to protect their clients from spoofers and spammers. Think of authentication as a form of formal identification.
!--- As an email specialist (or any other person/spammer who knows what tools to use), I can send newsletters using your company's actual email address. The only difference is that mine can't be and will never be authenticated as I cannot access your DNS panel through your hosting provider (e.g., GoDaddy). Only people with access to their DNS panel and their real email marketing account can send authenticated emails. So if we were to both send emails, yours will end in the inbox... and mine won't because I can't authenticate the sender email. On the flip side, unauthenticated emails can sometimes end in the inbox. This depends on a million and one variables, just like when underage people try to go into a bar without ID. They can sometimes get away with it, but most of the time, they won't. Ensuring your emails land in the inbox is worth the 5-minute setup, don't you think? ---!
DKIM proves that it is you who is sending the campaign using your company email address.
SPF proves that the system/infrastructure sending the campaign has your permission to send using your company email address, such as Mailchimp or Cakemail.
There are other types of authentication, but let's keep it for another time.
Here is a list of the most common email marketing providers and how to authenticate your domain-based email. Now before anyone panics, I ensure this is a straightforward, easy, one-time thing. If you know where to look and how to copy-paste, you are ready to go!
Here is a short video of how to authenticate your domain-based email with Mailchimp & Godaddy to give you an idea of how easy it is.
If your hosting/DNS Control Panel looks a little bit weird or you don't know what to paste where don't worry. Contact the support of your email marketing software and ask them for the DKIM & SPF keys. Then, contact the support team of your hosting provider and ask them to add them to your DNS records. Here are emails you can use to communicate with them.
Hello, I need to authenticate my domain-based email: [replace with sender email] with [replace with email marketing software name]. I am not sure how to generate them myself and want to ensure I don't send the wrong ones to my hosting provider. Would you please be able to generate them and send them back to me? Thank you very much for your time.
Hello, I have received my DKIM and SPF records from my email marketing tool and require your help to install them correctly in my DNS panel. Here is what the email marketing support team has sent me: [Copy/Paste SKIM & SPF information -or- add a copy of the email response from the email marketing tool here] Please let me know if anything is missing. Thank you very much for your help.