Why do my open rates drop when I turn on DKIM?

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After implementing the DKIM and DMARC authentication required following the February 2024 updates to Gmail and Yahoo domain authentication, some senders may experience deliverability issues. By implementing new domain authentication, specifically DKIM, on your sending domains, you appear as a “new” sender, so mailbox providers are “re-learning” your email pattern. This can mean inconsistent inbox placement, deferrals, or, in some cases, can block your emails.

This article walks through troubleshooting DKIM and why this is happening.

How to troubleshoot DKIM

To start, verify that your DKIM records are set up correctly. Click Settings > Advanced to go to your Advanced Settings page. If your domain shows as “Authenticated” on your Advanced Settings page, your domain passed our DNS checks, and DKIM is set up correctly.

In addition, we also recommend verifying that your domain authentication is set up correctly with this third-party tool. To use this tool, you need your domain name (no @ or other characters, just the domain name) and our DKIM selectors: acdkim1 and acdkim2.

 

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Once you confirm that your domain authentication is configured correctly but experience deliverability issues right after you implement domain authentication, you likely have domain reputation issues that you’ll need to resolve.

Here are a few steps you can take to resolve domain reputation issues:

  • Sign up for Google Postmaster Tools to monitor your domain reputation at Gmail
    Google Postmaster Tools is the only place to get vital deliverability data for emails sent to gmail.com, including domain reputation and spam complaint rates. It’s free to use and essential to any sender with contacts at Gmail
  • Reduce your sending to only engaged contacts who have opened or clicked in the past 30 days 
  • Review our Deliverability Guide for Gmail
  • Review our article on How to Repair Your Sending Reputation
  • Submit a ticket to the Customer Experience team for further assistance

Cause

DKIM (Domain Key Identified Mail) is a key that allows mail providers such as Gmail, Microsoft, and Oath (Yahoo, AOL, Verizon) to identify and track the email reputation of the sending domain. Authentication is not a trick senders use to improve deliverability. It is self-identification so that mail providers trust your email. As many in the email industry say, “Authentication gives you the reputation you’ve earned.”

Before February 2024, ActiveCampaign allowed customers to rely on our mail servers to sign DKIM, which gave customers access to our servers’ good reputation.

For example, consider a customer sending email to 100k contacts, 30% of whom are disengaged. If ActiveCampaign is seen as the sender, that 100k list with 30% inactive users is a very small portion of the millions of emails sent daily.

With Google and Yahoo’s new authentication requirements in place, senders are required to sign DKIM for themselves. That means the same sender, with 100k contacts and 30% inactive, now looks like they’ve been sending a lot of mail to inactive contacts. Gmail, Yahoo, and other providers would most likely treat this as spam.

This is part of Google and Yahoo’s intent. They want to identify and filter mail sent to their customers more effectively. Following our recommended best practices, you should have no problems delivering mail to your contacts.

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