From address: Don't use an invalid domain name

Here's a common question that I get asked somewhat regularly: "I don't really want to receive or deal with replies to my email messages. Can't I just use a fake email address?"

You should never, ever use a fake email address (or an email address with a fake domain name) as your from or reply-to address. Why not?

1. There's indirect evidence that some ISPs treat a sender better if they note that subscribers actually respond to your messages. Encourage interactivity. Or at least work with your email platform or email service provider to allow people to unsubscribe by replying. The evidence is soft, but I think it helps at least a little bit to keep you in the inbox.

2. Using a fake domain name or non-existing domain name will definitely cause deliverability issues. Big ISPs are likely to bulk or block your mail if you send from a domain name that doesn't exist. Lots of smaller ISPs are definitely going to block your mail. Brian Krebs recently reported on how a well-known company was recently identified as using a fictional, unregistered domain name to respond to HR queries. If you applied for work there and they never responded to your job application, maybe it is because your ISP probably blocked their response, assuming it was as spam.

Side note to email nerds: Your domain name has to resolve. Trying to use a domain name that doesn't resolve is going to cause unexpected deliverability issues. It'll do more than just keep you from getting replies. Don't work this way! The most common mail server platforms in the world, Postfix and Sendmail, both have switches to turn on that will reject mail from unresolvable domain names. Many, many, many system administrators turn those flags on. Your mail will never get delivered to a site with that check enabled.

3. If you really don't want to deal with replies, I suppose you could use an email address that bounces. I don't recommend this. But if you do it, make sure it's an email address truly under your control, at a domain you control. Don't use a webmail address. Don't use an email address at some internet service provider. You'll get tripped up in authentication and DMARC-related issues.

DMARC lets domain owners specify a policy, published to the world, that can tell other ISPs to filter or reject messages that purport to be from a user at their domain, if the message fails authentication checks. AOL and Yahoo are two big ISPs that have implemented this type of policy. Gmail is going to implement it in 2016. Other ISPs are sure to follow. What should you take away from this? You need to use your own domain name in your from address today. You can't use your AOL, Yahoo, Gmail, or other webmail or ISP email address in your from address any more. Even if DMARC weren't the big issue (and it is), your mail would still be more likely to get bulk foldered.

2 comments:

  1. A fourth alternative would be to send from a "sink" subdomain that you control, instead of creating a bunch of bounces.

    If your domain is example.com, set up:

    1. noreply.example.com in virtusertable

    @noreply.example.com devnull

    2. devnull is an alias in aliases for /dev/null

    devnull: /dev/null


    Any replies to anything @noreply.example.com are discarded

    ReplyDelete
  2. True, that would also work! Though I feel a little yucky about telling people to /dev/null what potentially could be legitimate replies.

    ReplyDelete

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