Email Marketing

New Gmail and Yahoo Policies Impact Ecommerce

Google and Yahoo announced this month new email-sending policies that could impact ecommerce and omnichannel marketers.

The policies require email authentication, single-click unsubscribes, and low complaint rates.

The new rules take effect in February 2024 for Gmail and “in the first quarter of 2024” for Yahoo and AOL email clients

Messages from noncomplying senders will likely be automatically marked as spam, damaging deliverability and, for marketing emails, reducing clicks and conversions.

Screenshot of a Gmail inbox on a laptop screen

New policies from Gmail (shown here) and Yahoo aim to reduce unwanted email messages.

Less Spam, More Security

The new policies aim to slash the number of unwanted email messages.

“We firmly believe that users worldwide deserve a more secure email environment, with fewer unwanted messages for an improved overall experience. We look forward to working with peers across the industry to boost the adoption of these email standards that benefit everyone,” said Neil Kumaran, a Gmail group product manager, in a published statement.

Changes for Email Senders

The policies reflect practices already adopted by most reputable senders. 

Authenticate email messages. For years the best marketers have authenticated their emails, but starting in 2024, unauthenticated messages will be spam.

This requirement means email senders must implement by 2024 the Sender Policy Framework (SPF) or DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) — using both is optimal — and Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC) records. The policy applies to all emails: transactional and marketing.

Finally, senders with frequently forwarded emails — likely not ecommerce — should also use the Authenticated Received Chain (ARC) to preserve authentication from one email server to another.

Easy to unsubscribe. Senders who deploy 5,000 emails to Gmail or Yahoo Mail in one day must offer a one-click unsubscribe link.

The link is necessary only for “subscriptions,” — i.e., email marketing, not transactional messages such as order confirmation or delivery notifications.

Businesses using email service providers almost certainly comply with this requirement. However, the risk to those merchants could be over-implementation if ESPs attach the one-click link to all messages, including transactions.  

Send emails folks want. The next policy is not a change. Google and Yahoo want email senders to deploy messages recipients want. This has always been the case, but it’s now required.

Specifically, email senders must keep spam rates reported in Google Postmaster Tools below 0.3%. Yahoo has shared this rate with select email senders but could soon expose it publicly in its Sender Hub.

Impact on Marketing

There are other new requirements, but authentication, one-click unsubscribe, and low spam rates are the most likely to impact commerce — online or in-store. Google stated it does not want businesses to delay implementation until February, adding that early adoption could improve email deliverability.

Meeting these new requirements should result in more email marketing messages landing in inboxes.

But there are a few things to watch for. 

Deliverability. Businesses using external domains for sending emails could add their own domain with DMARC to build a trusted reputation and thus improve deliverability.

More unsubscribes. Some email professionals have wondered if the single-click unsubscribe link will lead to accidental cancellations from humans or spam-prevention bots. 

List hygiene. Keeping reported spam rates low typically requires list hygiene — removing unengaged subscribers.

Different from Apple

The announcements from Google and Yahoo differ from Apple’s email privacy protection initiative.

The Google and Yahoo policies primarily focus on ensuring emails are legitimate, authenticated, and wanted. The goal is to reduce spam and fraud. Apple’s focus is preventing senders from collecting actionable information about opens or clicks.

Google’s and Yahoo’s policies should improve email performance, while Apple’s could complicate measurement.

Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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