In this post, I’ll break down what the new engaged sending update means to you.

Google recently released their updates around major email deliverability changes coming Feb 2024.

There was 3 key items:

  1. Authentication: DKIM, SPF and DMARC
  2. One Click Unsubscribe
  3. Engaged Sending

I’ll break down the Authentication process, how it works, what it does and how to use it.

Let’s start with understanding what sending domains are.

If you have been sending email, there is 2 ways you will receive bulk marketing email:

Your Sender name – – Via xyz . com


Your Sendername – Name@ name. com
Your Sendername – name@ e. name. com

The difference is the Via xyz . com – (UNLESS: you’ve added it to your contacts or engaged a lot with the email and it becomes trusted and removes the VIA tag)

Go look at your inbox real quick and see the difference. (Use a desktop app)

Now let’s talk about each of the two parts of update #1:


SPF starts with a script you place on your domain provider where ‘announce’ to the internet that you are allowing certain IP’s to allow you authorized to use the web.

Example script:
v=spf1 mx ~all

This is placed wherever your domain is placed. (Like your GoDaddy, Namecheap or even Shopify platform)

This will keep your email’s sending showing: “Via xyz . com”

And the DMARC part enables domain owners to specify how receiving servers should handle unauthorized or unauthenticated messages. This isn’t checked as often as most people like and it’s easy to manipulate.

Pretty easy to understand, most of you have already done a version of this for customer service help desks, websites, email inboxes, etc.

With this setup, you are leaning more on the sending IP and domain, less based on your own domain strength.

The problem with SPF and DMARC: Lack of validation.

Now let’s move on to DKIM – Think of this as the confirmed or validated sending infrastructure.

DKIM is providing full control to your sender domain to send on your behalf and validate that the email is real.

This eliminates the “Via xyz . com” and sends from your domain as the sender.

Laymen’s terms: You connected your domain to the sending IP and you gave it full permission to send on your domain.

Tip: It’s best practice to use a SUBDOMAIN for your email infrastructure to avoid risking your main domain from getting affected by your email sending. I.e. sender may be e@e. yourdomain. com

So how do you set it up and how do you warm it up?

For SPF and DMARC, simply copy the snippet into your domain and confirm that you are flatten your domain allowances together (usually customer service, your google apps/microsoft apps, and your sending esp) so you do not have “too many DNS Lookups” error.

Use MXtoolbox to check how you are setup today.

There is nothing to do to “warmup” your domain or sending infrastructure.

This is your typical setup that you may have today.

Laymen’s term: You told the internet that this domain represents you if they look up your domain.

For DKIM, you are starting with a fresh slate. This means the historical or current sending reputation is wiped.

That means you need to treat it like a new dedicated IP, however, scaling volume is much easier as you are often leveraging a shared infrastructure at the same time.

Laymen’s term: You told the internet that this domain is authorized to send!

Setting up a new DKIM and domain requires warmup: That means you need to have a plan and schedule. The good news is you should have plenty of historical data available and ready to deploy your warmup strategy.

Start by “flipping” your automation flow emails to your new DKIM email. The natural flow of fresh, new leads can help you warm up a little quicker.

Tip: IF you are using any 3rd party “data” tools that provide you leads, this is a time to PAUSE those while you warm up.

Here’s a sample warmup plan:

Day 0: Send to your 1-7 day recent clickers (Volume sizing goal: 500-3000)
Day 1: Send to your 2-14 day recent clickers (Volume sizing goal: 2500-7,500)

Pause: Review each TLD (Top level domain like gmail or yahoo) to ensure acceptance is happening by using the trendline of open rates.

Example: Gmail should show 15-20% open rates, Yahoo and Aol should be similar, etc.

Day 2: Continue to expand your click – usually 3 -30 day clickers (Volume sizing: 3,500 – 10,000)
Day 3: Same as before, expand audience set to 7,000-20,000
Day 4.. same – 14,000-40,000 etc.

Pause: Review each TLD to ensure acceptance is happening by using the trendline of open rates.

Once you exhaust your clickers, you move to your openers, WITHOUT apple privacy mail.

Now start scaling with open data.

Grab your 3 day open, 7 day, 14 day, 30 day.. and start scaling with your volume WITH the above clickers you’ve already been sending to.

The key is simple, at this time, you should be able to double volume each send to get to full scale, which shouldn’t be too far off at this point.

And make sure you continue to watch your reporting and review each TLD to ensure acceptance is happening by using the trendline of open rates look consistant as you increase volume.

Tips: Do not setup and blast to all. This will essentially “burn” your domain reputation and you will be in deliverability hell and be forced to reset with a new domain.

Once you are setup and scaled, you are good to go.

For performance:

  • You might see a performance improvement if you are on a lower reputation IP shared pool today, however most people do not see much change.
    You will get the protection of your own domain reputation, protecting you from outside reputation issues that could occur when you are simply setup on a more traditional SPF/DMARC setup.

And if you have no idea what any of this meant and need help getting setup, contact your ESP and ask for support (hopefully they give it to you)

Remember: This is MANDATORY for gmail in Feb 2024. DO NOT wait till a day before however do not start this process right before BF/CM; wait till after.

OK, let’s talk about ENGAGED SENDERS.

A spam complaint can occur in 4 ways:

  • FBL’s aka Feedback Loops – This is a technical process in which a person clicks “This is Spam” and it passes back to the sender. For MOST providers, they offer this as a direct data loop, however, for Gmail, they use a tool called GPMT. This info is available via API.
  • Direct User Feedback – This is the behavior side that the ISP measures simply by looking at behavior and tying that directly to domain reputation
  • Direct Complaints: Spamhaus & SpamCop – MOST ISP’s have direct partnerships with these two providers and will create a direct impact on the IP AND Domain reputation. ISP’s will block emails when you are listed on either of these services.

And 3 other ways we’ve seen it occur:

  • Abuse Pages and Reports: Many esp’s have abuse forms but it’s our first line of defense to understand if there’s a major data issue
  • Public Platform and Social Media: When you send bad email or to bots, they can post your full email including the technical info like email headers and create a network effect via the web.
  • Contact info from CAN SPAM Footer – Though this is minor, having a fake CAN SPAM address can get you flagged.

So what is the golden rule?

The golden metric starting Feb 2024: 0.2% spam complaint, per TLD, per 24 hour period.

That means if you send 2 emails a 24 hour period and 4 automations are firing, you need to use all the data to see your true number.

So how do you start to approach this?

Step #1: Start with your sending practices and habits
Review your sending and check your trend lines. Are you emailing too often or not often enough? Finding a balance is important.

Tip: How you engage with them the moment you opt in the first time is setting a tone and cadence to what they should expect.

Step 2: Audience and Segmentation is KING. We have five important signals:

  • Initial Opt in – What was the intent? was it a coupon opt in? Newsletter on site? purchase opt in?
  • Open – it means it’s a real device, though not always an action or behavior
  • Click – almost always a real user and a real life signal
  • On Site – In order to buy, they must be on your website. Identifying users on site
  • Purchasing behavior – If the CC is pulled and swiped, the customer is real.

Take these 5 signals and start to minimize down to who should be interested and email less on those who might not.

Here’s some examples of possible spam complainers:

  • A prospect who opted into an email 90 days ago, who has not opened or clicked
  • A prospect who opted into an email 90 days ago and only has opened email but never clicked
  • An abandoned cart who was added to your email list but never formally OPTED IN (Accepted Marketing /Not Subscribed)
  • A customer who purchased over 1+ year ago who has heard zero communication, who suddenly starts to receive a flood of email.

Remember, there is no perfect bullet to defending against spam complaints however optimizing for deliverability means you need to optimize for spam complaint rates.

The new rule for Feb 2024 is 0.2% complaint per TLD (Top Level Domain) That means you can have a 0.1% at the total send, but you could have 0.5% on gmail, your gmail delivery will tank and you will have to work your way out of the hole.

Thank you Jimmy Kim of SendLane for this information

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