Why political campaigns shouldn’t send emails from free email addresses

Deliverability is a clunky word for an important concept when it comes to digital campaigning. It’s the idea that simply sending an email doesn’t mean it ends up in someone’s inbox.

All sort of factors can get in the way of the email being delivered, and if it’s not delivered it has no chance of being seen. Bang goes the impact of your email campaigning. Hence the importance of having a high delivery rate.

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The simplest factor is whether or not email addresses are accurate. That’s one of the reasons why it’s sensible to store email data in the same system as other data about voters (Connect for Liberal Democrats), including their names from the electoral register. Most people’s email addresses are based on their names, so if you store the two together it is much easier to spot errors when entering data or checking email bounce messages. Even if you transfer data over to another system for sending emails, that integration of data brings significant benefits.

Another, more mysterious factor, is whether or not spam filters think your email is dodgy.

That is where the ‘from’ address is important. At its simplest, spam filters think that emails sent from a paid-for address are more trustworthy than those from a free address.

It is only one factor among many, but it is also one the sender can directly control. That is why, for example, a few years back – and prompted by a run-in with Gmail’s spam filters – I switched to sending Liberal Democrat Newswire from ‘mark.pack@gmail.com’ to ‘mark.pack@libdemnewswire.com’. Gmail is free, the latter costs (though only a very reasonable rate, thank you Tim).

Beyond this simplicity, there are also several rather technical settings that can be made on the server side. Generally, if you are using a reputable email service and a reputable domain name provider, they will sort these settings. It is a good reason for sticking with the likes of NationBuilder, PraterRaines or MailChimp for mass email services, and why I have Prater Raines look after my domain names.

MailChimp tip

One extra specific tip for MailChimp: login and go to Account, Settings and Verified Domains. There you will find a setting for “DKIM and SPF records” which isn’t enabled by default. The screen gives information on what to do: a pop-up box with some information that needs to be sent to whoever looks after the domain name from which you send your email.

These sort of easy steps won’t revolutionise the impact of your email overnight, but they do help – and do also protect against the nightmare risk of suddenly finding all your emails being blocked a few days before polling day.

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