According to our knowledge, Google updated its spam filter algorithm between April-May 2016. Following this update, some senders reported a whopping 50% drop in open rate when sending to Gmail addresses. For an email marketer, deliverability to Gmail addresses is crucial. Firstly, Gmail’s market share is roughly 16%, which means that a significant part of your email list will include Gmail addresses. Secondly, Gmail’s spam filter algorithms can be seen as market leaders that other email providers try to mimic. To keep marketers on the right track Google has released bulk sender guidelines and a handy dashboard called Postmaster Tools that provides information that helps you to determine if Google perceives you as a legitimate marketer or a suspicious spammer.
In this article, we go through the basics of Google Postmaster Tools, how to access it and what kind of information the tool provides to you.
What is Google Postmaster Tools?
Google Postmaster Tools is designed to help you to improve your email marketing. With the data provided by the tool, you will find out if your subscribers are marking your messages as spam and whether or not you are in compliance with Google’s bulk sender guidelines. The tool itself is free, but the information you receive turns into real dollars as it helps you to discover the reasons why your email marketing campaigns might have never reached people’s inboxes or were marked as spam.
How do I access Google Postmaster Tools?
Starting the use of Postmaster Tools is rather easy. One thing to note though is that you need a significant send volume (hundreds of messages per day) before Google Postmaster Tools displays any information on your account.
Step-by-step instructions for setting up Google Postmaster Tools:
- Go to https://postmaster.google.com/
- Login with your Google account
- If your organization has a common Google account (for example for Google Analytics or Local Business listings) it is convenient to use the same account here
- You can always add more Google accounts as new users for every added domain. This allows you to easily share your Postmaster Tools information with a 3rd party agency or your IT-department
- Add a new domain by pressing the plus sign
- Authenticate your domain by adding either DNS TXT or DNS CNAME record
- DNS TXT record is a free form text field addition where you will insert the verification code provided by Google
- DNS CNAME record is an alternative way to do the same
- Which one you’ll use depends on your hosting plan
So, the Toolbox is Open – What Next?
When you have successfully verified your domain, you will have access to the following six dashboards:
Spam rate Dashboard – the brand protector and spam killer
This dashboard provides you information on how many people are manually marking your messages as spam. High spam ratio tells you that your email marketing is not resonating well with your audience and it’s time to completely re-evaluate your strategy (targeting, content, information-sales messages ratio etc.). This is a metric that you should be following whenever you make drastic changes to your email marketing. (E.g. changes in volume or layout of your templates)
Domain & IP reputation Dashboards
This will help you to keep track with your domain’s and IP address’ reputation. Low reputation will push your emails automatically to the Spam folders. Reputation is measured with a 5-level indicator:
Bad – history of blatant spamming, your emails are almost always rejected or automatically moved to the spam folder
Low – history of repeated spamming, it is very likely that your messages are delivered directly to the spam folder
Medium – content you are sending is mostly good, with an occasional tendency of spam. Your messages are most likely delivered to the inbox unless there is a drastic change in messages classified as spam
High – you are following Google’s guidelines and you’re not sending out spam. Your messages are always delivered directly to the inbox.
If you’re ranking low in this metric, you’re better audit your current subscriber database and ensure that the content your send is relevant to your audience.
Feedback Loop Dashboard – Campaign level information
Feedback Loop Dashboard helps you to figure out which one of your campaigns has received complaints. To ensure your campaigns can be measured you have to include identification headers to your emails. The form of the header is: Feedback-ID:a:b:c:SenderID, where
Feedback ID – is the name of the ID
a,b,c – campaign based identifiers (campaign name / client / other)
Sender ID is a unique identifier that has to be same for all the messages sent in the campaign.
Helps you to ensure that the server sending your email marketing messages is authorized to do so in your name. This can be also utilized to spot any widespread phishing attempts using your domain. Authorizing a sender can be done in three ways: SPF, DKIM and DMARC. SPF is the most widely used one and it is vital to ensure that at least that specification is correct. It seems that Google is pushing for DKIM, where messages are verified with an encrypted verification code.
This dashboard provides you information how many of your messages are encrypted with TLS.
Delivery Errors Dashboard
This is possibly some harsh data on why your email marketing campaigns aren’t working. It displays you valuable information on who many of your messages were actually delivered to recipients’ inboxes and what was the reason for delivery errors. Explanations for delivery errors:
- Rate limit exceeded: Sending domain or IP address is sending suspicious amounts of mail. Amount of emails delivered to inboxes has been temporarily limited until the contents of the emails have been verified as safe
- Suspected spam: Email was suspected to be spam and it has been automatically spam filtered. Low domain or IP reputation and user poor user feedback are the usual reasons for this.
- Email content is possibly spam: Your content seems spammy. To fix this make sure that your email copy isn’t overly salesy, doesn’t include mentions of get-rich-quick-schemes, and that it doesn’t resemble Nigerian letters.
- DMARC policy of the sender domain: You have set a DMARC policy that forbids the message to be delivered
- Sending IP has a low reputation: If you are using a 3rd party email marketing provider, the first thing is to contact them. If you are sending via your own SMTP server, make sure to fix your email marketing strategy and then see if you are able to move to use a new IP address
- Sending domain has a low reputation: Your domain has been sending spam. Time to re-think your email marketing strategy
- IP is in one or more public RBLs (black lists): Your IP has been found in one or more “black lists”. Find out which list and follow their guidelines to get yourself removed
- Domain is in one or more public RBLs (black lists): Your domain has been found in one or more “black lists”. Find out which list and follow their guidelines to get yourself removed
- Bad or missing PTR record: Sending IP address can’t be resolved back to your domain name.
Is Google Postmaster Tool Email Marketers New Best Friend?
In many cases, Google Postmaster Tools provides good insights to minimize your deliverability problems. Unfortunately, meaningful data is only provided for high volume senders and occasionally Postmaster Tools fails to display information on all dashboards for them as well. However, if you are a high volume sender it is advisable to try it out, especially if you have recently seen a drop in your open rate. Combining Google Postmaster Tools data with rest of your analytics keeps you on a right track towards more successful email marketing.
What are your experiences with Google Postmaster Tools? Feel free to leave a comment here or on social media!