DMARC: Definition and Importance
What Is DMARC?
Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC) is a DNS protocol that utilizes the Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM).
DMARC was created to help ISPs validate the authenticity of incoming and outgoing email messages coming in from a specific domain. The protocol assists in ensuring that spam, spoofed, malicious, or illegitimate mail doesn’t make it into consumer inboxes.
DMARC works as an extension of the two existing email authentication protocols to enable a domain user to publicly publish a policy in their DNS records that specifies which protocols they implement when they receive a message. This record also indicates how the server should handle rejected or malicious messages, indicating whether the message should be bounced back to the sender or redirected to another inbox for quarantine.
How Does DMARC Work?
Unfortunately, DMARC doesn’t work as an automatic entry to your recipient’s mailboxes, but it does help you get to your subscribers’ inboxes rather than their spam folders.
Authenticating your email with DMARC allows ISPs and receiving email servers to quickly verify that your email is sent by you rather than someone pretending to be you. DMARC uses SPF and DKIM to validate that you are who you say you are and that the message hasn’t been tampered with since it left your server.
DMARC also sends you reports that help you understand why certain emails cannot be delivered so you can improve your sending practices.
Does DMARC Affect Deliverability?
Yes. While DMARC isn’t the only element that determines deliverability, it can definitely help you improve your deliverability rate.
When executed strategically and consciously, email campaigns can be extremely effective for businesses to move people through their sales funnel. Email campaigns are known to have high returns on investment, and you can reach a wide audience in a small amount of time. However, if you neglect your sender reputation, you could end up accumulating spam reports and could potentially have your domain or IP placed on a blocklist. And since blocklists are the worst possible thing for deliverability, it’s best to do everything you can to stay off blocklists.
ISPs are more likely to trust DMARC-authenticated senders and to put their messages into the recipient’s inbox. A DMARC record shows ISPs that you’re working to establish a secure domain and make the Internet a safer place. The record improves your deliverability because it allows ISPs to process your messages faster. In turn, you get more messages into people’s inboxes instead of their spam folders and can make the most of your email campaigns.
Is DMARC Required for Deliverability?
Technically, no. No law requires you to set up DMARC authentication.
However, having a public DMARC can significantly help you improve your deliverability rates by enabling ISPs to identify your domain as a safe sender easily. DMARC authentication shows ISPs that you are concerned with your recipients’ online security. And for ISPs who are constantly trying to keep spam out of people’s mailboxes, that’s a pretty big deal.
How to Implement DMARC
You’ll implement DMARC through your DNS hosting provider. Once you log in, locate the option to create a new record or the TXT section to alter. The placement of this option will differ depending on your hosting provider. If you have any concerns about getting started with setting DMARC with your provider, reach out to them directly.
When you create a new record, you’ll have to enter information about the Host/Name, Record Type, and Value. Like the location of the setup, the wording used for these labels may vary based on your provider. If you’re unsure of where to put specific information, it’s best to contact your host provider directly.
For the Host/Name, you’ll typically enter “_DMARC,” and the hosting provider will automatically add your domain name to the end of it. If you’re registering a subdomain, you’ll use “_dmarc.subdomain.”
For the Record Type, you’ll always choose “TXT” for DMARC authentication.
For the Value, you’ll include at least two tag-value pairs: “p” and “v.” Your value for “v” will be v=DMARC1, and the value for “p” is combined with “none,” “quarantine,” or “reject” to indicate what should be done with an incoming message. So your “p” tag will look like “p=none.”
We recommend starting the Value of your DMARC record with “p=none” so you can identify any issues through your domain’s SPF or DKIM without blocking any messages from coming through.
If you want to insert an additional value, you can use a “rua” tag to receive reports to the address you specify. Each tag in the value list needs to be separated by a semi-colon for the command to work, so if you include the rua tag, your value might read “v=DMARC1; p=none; email@example.com.”
It’s best to start with the basics for a new DMARC record, but as you get more comfortable with the system, you can explore more advanced tags.
Once the information is entered properly, you just have to hit the create or save button to process your new record.
Benefits of DMARC
- Higher Deliverability Rate: As we mentioned before, having a public DMARC record improves your deliverability rate because it enables ISPs to recognize your domain rapidly. As long as you keep up good sending habits, you’ll have an easier time of making it into your recipients’ inboxes.
- Better Security: As we discussed, publishing a DMARC record keeps your subscribers safe. But it also keeps you and your business safe from cybercriminals. Spoofed emails that are tailored to look like they came from you can be identified immediately because they won’t have DMARC authentication. This helps ISPs know that you aren’t the one sending out spam or malicious content.
- More Visibility: DMARC makes it easy to oversee all of the content sent from your domain. Let’s say a cybercriminal hacks your domain. Unauthenticated accounts that don’t receive reports may not realize their domain has been compromised until they run out of storage, or a recipient tells the sender about a strange message they got from the sender’s address. With DMARC authentication, you’ll receive reports detailing how many emails you send out, how many were rejected, and who they were sent to. If you don’t recognize the emails that were sent or the addresses they were sent to, you can begin to resolve the problem faster than you would without having DMARC in place.
- Easy Identification: A DMARC record allows your ISPs to identify your address and verify that you are a safe sender quickly. Without authentication, ISPs have to do more work to verify who you are and run a search on your domain. On top of that, warming up your inbox is more straightforward when you employ the assistance of DMARC.
- Improved Problem Solving: By using SPF and DKIM in tandem, DMARC provides insights into why certain emails are undeliverable. These insights allow you to make adjustments to your sending practices so you can keep working toward improving or maintaining your sender reputation.
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