How to set up your email accounts for better outreach deliverability
When you’re looking to scale a linkbuilding campaign, you’ll need to make sure your email accounts are properly set up to keep your messages landing in people’s inboxes. If your emails aren’t getting in front of your prospects, you’re not going to get links.
Here are the basic email account items you need to set up before you start sending any emails:
Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) is an email authentication protocol that shows the receiver where the email came from, who sent it, and reputation of the sender. DKIM adds a cryptographic signature to the email’s header in the form of a hash value.
The receiving email server then looks up the public key of the domain that sent the email (the DNS record), and uses this key to simultaneously decrypt the hash value of the email header, and recalculate a new hash value based on the email content.
If the two match, then the server knows the email is in fact from the domain it claims to be from, and that the message hasn’t been modified since it left the sender’s server.
Why should you use a DKIM record?
It’s not compulsory to set up a DKIM record for your domain, but you’ll find fewer of your emails going to spam if you do use it.
Additionally, you can be sure that the content of your emails isn’t being modified whilst in transit from your email server and the recipient.Another reason to use DKIM is to discourage spammers from attempting to forge emails from your domain to make it look like you’re sending them, as they know their emails are likely to be blocked by spam filters if the DKIM isn’t authenticated.
How to set up DKIM
Step one: Generate a public domain key for your domain.
To do this you’ll need to go into your email provider and find the authentication area.
If you’ve already added your domain to your email hosting, choose that domain and click generate.
You’ll get a code that is unique to you, and will be used to validate your emails.
Step two: Update your DNS records
Next you’ll need to go to either your domain host’s DNS settings, or your SSL provider’s DNS settings, and add a TXT record.
Use the code you got in step one as the VALUE of the TXT record, and the name you got as the NAME.
SPF stops spammers from forging your domain email addresses by authorising specific email hosts to send on behalf of the domain. Like DKIM, Sender Policy Framework (SPF) is used to authenticate that an email that says it was sent by you, was actually sent by you. Unlike DKIM, SPF uses only a simple authorisation of the IP addresses allowed to send emails, rather than a cryptographic model.
If you set up SPF for your domain email in GSuite, for example, when you send an email, the receiving server will see the SPF record in the email header, and check your domain’s DNS for that SPF record. If it finds it, the receiving server knows that the sending server is authorised to send emails on behalf of that domain.
Why should you use an SPF record?
You’ve probably noticed that SPF doesn’t do use any cryptographically secure systems to authenticate your emails. So why does it help?
Well, SPF simply shows the receiving server that the sending server was authorised to send the email. I.e. if you’re using GSuite, the receiving server knows to check your domain to see if Google’s servers are allowed to send emails.
This adds a layer of protection against email spoofing, because if someone sends an email from another server and makes it look like it was sent by you, the DNS records on your domain will tell the receiving server that the email should have been sent from GSuite, and therefore isn’t valid.
How to set up SPF
SPF records are quick and easy to add. Most email sending hosts will have their own SPF records ready to go. GSuite, for example, uses: v=spf1 include:_spf.google.com ~all to authenticate emails from their servers for your domain.
Simply go to your DNS records, and add a TXT record with the VALUE from your email provider, e.g.
v=spf1 include:_spf.google.com ~all for GSuite
v=spf1 include:spf.protection.outlook.com -all for office 365
Unlike SPF and DKIM, DMARC isn’t actually an authentication protocol at all, but rather an instruction in your email header to tell the receiving server to check SPF and DKIM on your domains DNS records.
Why should you need to tell the server that? Well, different email systems use different authentication methods, and some don’t automatically check SPF and DKIM.
With DMARC, you tell the server specifically to check SPF and DKIM, and what to do with the email if it doesn’t pass.
Why should you use a DMARC record?
From a linkbuilding perspective, showing your receivers that you have DMARC set up (along with SPF and DKIM) is another step to removing possible reasons for the receiving server to reject your email.
Although it doesn’t automatically qualify you as a trusted source, DMARK does help the receiving server identify that your email came from you and therefore is less likely to be spam.
How to set up DMARC
Before you begin setting up DMARC, you should have SPF and DKIM in place already.
You need to go back to your DNS settings page and create a new TXT record.
Many email providers will give you a ready made DMARC record that can be used in combination with their SPF and DKIM.
4. Testing your email settings and deliverability
Now that you have the essential DNS settings taken care of, your emails are far more likely to be delivered to the inbox of your outreach prospects.
However, before you start any outreach at all, make sure you check that your settings are correct and fully authenticated.
There are several tools that you can use to check your email DNS settings. One of the simplest and most user friendly is Mail Tester.
How to use Mail Tester
First – go to https://www.mail-tester.com/ and copy the email address in the box. Keep this tab open.
Then send an email from your normal account to that address.
Now go back to the Mail Tester tab and click the blue button labeled Then Check Your Score.
After a short wait, you’ll be redirected to a new page that gives your email a spammyness score from 0-10, with 0 being unlikely to ever see an inbox, and 10 being almost certain to be delivered every time.
Now, the part we’re most interested in, at this point, is the authentication.
Click on the third row of the results to see details on whether your SPF, DKIM, and DMARC are set up correctly. You should get something that looks like this (but with the missing information filled in):
If you see all green icons going down the right hand side, you’ve set up your DNS records perfectly!
If there are yellow icons, or even worse – red! – then you’ll have to go back and check your DNS records.
Mail Tester does tell you which authentication types are not working correctly, so at least you’ll know what the problem is, rather than having to test each record individually.
5. Email from outreach management tools
There are many services that help linkbuilders optimize the workflow of their outreach. Outreach management systems such as Buzzstream, NinjaOutreach, and YourOutreach are especially popular, and save us hours of precious time.
However, they should be used with due diligence.
Make sure you thoroughly test the emails sent by your outreach management tool.
Beware that using the open and click tracking features can reduce deliverability because they add a pixel to the email that notifies the tool of the open/click.
6. Don’t send non-secure links
There are many techniques to creating great linkbuilding outreach emails.
Many templates that you find online have the URL of the piece you’re looking to get a link to, which is probably why so many outreach emails we receive look the same, and have the ‘suggested link’ in the email.
If you are sending a link in your first email to the prospect, only send links that are secured with SSL (https). I know that Google is more likely to deliver your emails if the links are secured with SSL. So that means include the https as part of the link.
Send great outreach emails
So, now you’ve got your email all set up and ready to go.
You’re unlikely to encounter any issues with spam filters, so it’s time to start crafting some great outreach emails and get some high-quality backlinks.
Please don’t use this information for evil! Only send your outreach emails to people who are actually going to be interested in your content.
The last thing I’ll mention, is that it’s always best to send emails one at a time, rather than in bulk. You cant personalise bulk emails, and people are way more likely to respond to a personalised email than a generic one.