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Why you can’t send email marketing campaigns from AOL or Yahoo anymore

AOL and Yahoo recently made changes to their email policies that may affect your email marketing campaigns.

AOL and Yahoo published a DMARC policy that tells all other ISP’s to reject any email sent from AOL or Yahoo that did not originate from their own servers.  This means that if you use ResultsMail or any other Email Service Provider (ESP) to send an email marketing campaign from an AOL or Yahoo email address your email may not be delivered.

Why did they do this?

Have you ever received an email from a friend that you realized was spam?  Your friend probably later freaked out and sent an embarrassed email to everyone they know saying “Don’t open that other email.  It wasn’t me!  I’ve been hacked!”   Spammers figured out that if they could get a hold of a user’s contact list, that they could then send their spam to everyone on that list, and that if they did it from the list owner’s address, then it would be much more likely to get through to the inbox and be opened.  Pretty tricky, right?

Hackers, spammers and cybercriminals have lots of tricks to use email to harm others.  Just like the bank robber that pulls the ski mask over his head, these guys almost always use some technique to hide their true identity.  With an email campaign they don’t even have to use a gun or tie up a security guard…they just go phishing.  They send you a forged email from your bank, your credit card provider or PayPal to try and get you to give them your login credentials.

A group of organizations including AOL, Comcast, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, Bank of America, Facebook, Fidelity, JP Morgan Chase, LinkedIn, PayPal and others got together to form a specification to stop forged email marketing campaigns.  It is called DMARC and it standardizes how email receivers authenticate email.  DMARC allows domain owners to publish a “reject” policy which tells all of the email servers that if they receive an email that says it’s from their domain but did not come directly from their server, they must reject it, i.e. bounce it back.

While this makes a lot of sense for Bank of America or PayPal, it created some problems when implemented by AOL and Yahoo.  Thousands of small businesses use AOL and Yahoo email addresses to send to their lists via third party Email Marketing Service Providers like ResultsMail.  Now, because of the bad guys, they can’t do that anymore.   AOL and Yahoo figured that the security threat of forged email and hacked contact lists was of greater concern than the inconvenience to AOL and Yahoo users that like to use third party Email Marketing Service Providers to send to their lists.  Here is AOL’s explanation of the security threat.

What do we do now?

We recommend using a privately owned domain for your From address instead of AOL or Yahoo.  When you send email marketing campaigns from your own domain, you are in control.  It also looks better for your branding.  Another advantage to using your own domain is that you can make changes to your DNS that will allow receiving email servers to properly identify you as the sender and improve your deliverability. If you add an SPF record to your DNS that says “include,” other email servers will accept the email you send from ResultsMail as legitimate and pass it along to the intended recipient.

Please keep in mind that other big free email providers like Gmail and Hotmail are likely to follow AOL and Yahoo’s lead.  So simply switching to another free email provider isn’t the best long term solution.

What about all my bounced emails?

If you were sending email marketing campaigns From an AOL or Yahoo sender email address, you have most likely seen an increase in your soft bounces.  Don’t worry about these bounced addresses now.  Wait until after you’ve changed your Sender email address to one that is not on AOL or Yahoo.  Once you’ve made that change you should see your bounce percentages drop back down to normal.  If you implement the SPF record as we’ve recommended you could even see an improvement.

Here is the link explaining this change in Yahoo’s policy.

Here is the link explaining this change in AOL’s policy.

As always, if you have any questions about these changes, please send us an email through the Ask Us A Question form in ResultsMail or Contact Us.


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