Domain authentication for email marketing - DNS, SPF, DKIM and DMARC

As of February 1st, senders of bulk email need to "authenticate" their domains in order for their email newsletters to find a way into subscribers' email inboxes at Gmail and Yahoo.

This change raises lots of questions for authors and small business owners who were using an email address from a free service, such as Gmail, to send their newsletters:

  • Why Email Marketing service providers (ESPs) like MailChimp, MailerLite and ConvertKit are no longer allowing me to send newsletters using my free Gmail address?
  • Do I need to pay for an email service or buy a "business email"?
  • What if I don't have a domain or a website?
  • What is a DNS record? What do terms like SPF, DKIM, and DMARC mean?

Why do you need domain authentication to send bulk email?

First, let's explain why any of this is required at all.

From a technical point of view, anyone can send an email message, listing any email address, in any domain, as a sender. In fact, this is what scammers do when they send you a message "from" your own email address, claiming they have gained access to your computer. They didn't, nor did they know the password to your inbox - all they did was use a very simple script on their server to send an email which specified your address as a sender.

This is what Email Marketing providers like MailChimp and MailerLite, and companies offering "business email" like Zoho, Google Workspace, and Proton do as well. They send emails on your behalf, listing an address in your domain as a sender, but as far as technical measures go, they don't need your permission to do so.

So if sending emails from any address is easy and anyone can do it, how can you be sure the sender's information listed in the email is true? This is where the recipient's inbox provider and DNS records come into play.

Let's say you received an email from [email protected]. Before the email shows up in your inbox, Google (Gmail) automatically checks if the sending server (we use MailerLite for email marketing) is authorized to send emails for this domain ( They do so by checking DNS records - which are publicly available information about the domain, as set by its owner. Their systems will see the following: text = "v=spf1 -all

which, in computer-speak, means:

Dear receiving mail server, make sure this email is authorized by by checking DNS records of domain (the domain used by MailerLite to send emails) to see if the IP address of the server which sent this email matches authorized IPs.

Computer (a.k.a mail server) checks DNS records.

Okay, all good to go: the IP of checks out and it is authorized to send emails on behalf of, so I am accepting the message and putting it in recipient's inbox.

If the email was sent by an unauthorized IP address (the one that does not match the DNS record above), Gmail would do one or more of the following: (A) put the message in your spam (junk) folder, (B) when you opened the message, it would show a warning that the message is "suspicious" and disable any links in it, (C) they would delete the message without delivering it to you because they know the sending server was not authorized by the sending domain (us).

So as frustrating as it might be to have to go through a seemingly complex setup (it's not much more complex than sending an email, actually, once you have tried it) to continue to send newsletters through your email marketing provider, it is beneficial for you in the long term, because no one will be able to send people emails pretending to come from your domain.

Authenticating the domain was always an option with email marketing services, and it was encouraged by MailerLite and other companies, but until the February 1st deadline, not doing so hasn't prevented the email from getting into your recipient's inbox.

Side note: you can't authorize your Gmail address in this way, because you do not own a domain.

Do you need to pay for an email address to send newsletters from it?

No. In fact, when you have your own domain name, you can "create" as many email addresses as you need, both for outgoing email and incoming email, without the need to pay anyone to "use" them.

If you are not much of a technical person or never thought in depth about how the Internet works, this might come as a surprise: sending and receiving emails are independent "services", as far as technical setup is concerned. Free email services like Gmail, and company inboxes you might be familiar with, are bundling the two into one user interface, as that's a better experience for casual users. However, technically speaking, you can have a setup that allows you to send emails from a specific address which does not accept replies (remember those disrespectful 'no-reply' messages, anyone?) and receive emails sent to another address from which you are not able to send a reply.

The bottom line, you do not need to pay for any kind of "business email" or "email at your domain" or "your website email" kind of service if you don't want to receive incoming emails to that address. (Well, you could receive incoming messages to that address, without paying anything for that service, but that's a topic for another article.)

As long as you set the DNS records for your domain correctly (DKIM and SPF), your email marketing provider will be able to send emails as [email protected] and they will show up in your recipient's inboxes.

Do you need to buy a domain or a website?

Yes, you need to register a domain name in order to be able to change the DNS records required to authenticate, so that your Email Marketing service can send emails on your behalf.

On the other hand, you do not need to have a website at this domain to perform the steps necessary to authenticate your domain. However, once you start sending newsletters listing the sender's address in that domain, your subscribers might want to check out what content is available there.

If you would like to give your subscribers something to see but don't have the skills or time to set up the website yourself, and don't want to pay a web developer to do it for you, there are two "workarounds" you can use:

One is ordering a simple book landing page from us. For $50/year (yes, that's fifty dollars) and with no upfront or hidden costs, you get a custom landing page design, hassle-free managed hosting, your own Universal Book Link service and link shortener. Did we mention you also get the support of an author-friendly team with 11 years of experience making authors' lives easier?

A landing page like this can include a newsletter sign-up form (integrated with your email marketing service) to help you grow that email list as well as information and links for your books.

But if $50 per year (even with no long-term commitment required) is too much then you could just redirect your domain to your Amazon Author Page, your book's page at your preferred retailer or any other website where readers can learn more about you and your books. Such a redirect is quite simple to set up with almost any company where you bought the domain and it won't cost you a thing.

How to change those DNS records?

Okay, so you have got the domain name and are ready to cross this task off your to-do list. How do you do that?

The simplest way? Send us an email with the following information:

1) The name of the email marketing service you are using (e.g. MailerLite, MailChimp, ConverKit, Drip)

2) The name of the registrar of your domain (the company where you bought the domain e.g. Namecheap, GoDaddy, Bluehost) or just let us know your domain name (we will be able to check the registrar ourselves)

and we will get back to you with straightforward instructions on how to set things up. Best of all? It's free of charge and commitment to use our paid service.

In case you encounter any issues with applying the instructions provided by our team, you will be one email away from a friendly, experienced person with the technical knowledge needed to get you past any obstacle.