Acing Your Inbox: Understanding Google & Yahoo’s New Email Deliverability Rules for Colleges & Universities

Posted: May 29, 2024

Kendra Oswald Company Marketing Manager

Colleges and universities have long depended on email to connect with prospective students, admitted students, and their parents. But with recent changes implemented by Google and Yahoo in February 2024, email deliverability rates have taken a hit. So, what exactly has changed, and how can you ensure your institution’s emails still reach the right inboxes? Let’s break it down and explore the actionable steps you can take to adapt to these new standards.

Recent Changes to Email Deliverability Standards

Beginning in February 2024, Google and Yahoo implemented stricter standards for email authentication, unsubscribe mechanisms, and spam complaint rates. These changes aim to improve user experience by reducing the prevalence of spam and phishing attempts.

  • Enhanced Authentication: Both platforms now mandate the use of Sender Policy Framework (SPF), DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), and Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC) protocols. These protocols verify the legitimacy of email senders, reducing the risk of spoofing and protecting student data.
  • Simplified Unsubscribe Process: A one-click unsubscribe option is now mandatory for all emails sent through Google and Yahoo. This ensures a seamless and user-friendly unsubscribe experience for recipients.
  • Stricter Spam Complaint Thresholds: Maintaining a low spam complaint rate is crucial for optimal deliverability. Google expects a spam complaint rate below 0.1%, with a maximum threshold of 0.3%. Yahoo enforces a similar limit of 0.3% maximum spam complaints.
Maintaining a low spam complaint rate is crucial for optimal deliverability.

Failure to adhere to these updated standards can have detrimental consequences for higher education institutions. Emails sent from non-compliant institutions may be:

  • Filtered into Spam Folders: Important information regarding financial aid deadlines, registration procedures, or campus events may be missed by students and staff.
  • Blocked Entirely: Repeatedly exceeding spam complaint thresholds could result in complete email blocking by Google and Yahoo, severely hindering communication efforts.

Many college and university marketing departments have noticed a rise in their emails landing in recipients’ spam or promotional folders lately. This increase could be directly related to the recent updates from Google and Yahoo, however, there’s no need to panic! By taking specific steps, you can improve your sender reputation and ensure your emails reach the inboxes you need them to.

Leveraging CRM Tools for Improved Deliverability

Now that we’ve addressed the new landscape for email deliverability set by Google and Yahoo, let’s dive into some tools available within your CRM that can be leveraged to optimize your email marketing efforts. By implementing these strategies, you can significantly improve your deliverability rates and maximize the impact of your email campaigns.

Please note: many of the included tools/suggestions are specific to Salesforce Marketing Cloud but there may be equivalent types of tools that can be implemented in other CRMs.

Sender Reputation Management:

  • Utilize Sender Authentication Package (Salesforce Marketing Cloud): This SFMC built-in tool simplifies implementation of SPF, DKIM, and DMARC protocols for email authentication. 
  • Monitor Email Studio’s Reputation Management dashboard (SFMC): Track sender reputation metrics and identify potential issues. For more information on navigating the dashboard, refer to the Salesforce Marketing Cloud Email Studio User Guide.

List Hygiene & Segmentation with Salesforce:

  • Designate clear opt-in methods within Salesforce forms: Ensure explicit consent when capturing email addresses. Refer to the Salesforce Knowledge Base article on Creating Opt-In Email Forms. 
  • Utilize Salesforce Data Management Platform (DMP): Leverage DMP’s audience segmentation features to create targeted email lists based on demographics, interests, and engagement history. Refer to the Salesforce DMP documentation.
  • Run automated suppression lists in SFMC: Automatically remove inactive subscribers and hard bounces from email campaigns. Instructions for creating suppression lists can be found in the Salesforce Marketing Cloud Email Studio User Guide.

Engagement Optimization with SFMC Journey Builder:

  • Design automated nurture campaigns in Journey Builder: Craft personalized email sequences based on recipient behavior and engagement levels. 
  • Utilize SFMC’s A/B Testing feature: Test different subject lines and email content variations to optimize open rates and click-through rates. 
  • Include clear unsubscribe options within Email Studio templates: Make it easy for recipients to manage their email preferences. 
Optimize engagement by crafting personalized email sequences based on behavior and engagement. 

Maintaining and Improving Deliverability

Building a strong foundation for deliverability is just the beginning. By continuously monitoring key performance indicators (KPIs) within your CRM, you can identify areas for improvement and adapt your strategies. Additionally, consider exploring add-on solutions offered by your CRM provider and staying informed about evolving best practices.

By implementing these strategies and remaining proactive, colleges and universities can ensure seamless communication with their various audiences and achieve their marketing goals in this new era of email deliverability.

Ready to take your email marketing and yield efforts to the next level? Schedule a meeting with a VisionPoint expert today to learn how we can help you navigate these changes and ensure your institution’s emails hit the mark every time. We even have some complimentary diagnostics that can get you a head start on improving your communications.