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7 minute read

Google is tightening the reins on email marketing practices, and these changes are particularly relevant for real estate agents in Australia who rely on email campaigns to reach prospective homebuyers and sellers.

Effective from February 2024, Google’s new policies focus on enhancing email security and reducing spam, aiming primarily at businesses that send out more than 5,000 bulk emails at a time (which is a significant portion of the real estate industry).

What Changes Are Coming?

If you’re a real estate agent sending more than 5,000 emails at a time to Gmail accounts, Google’s updated regulations require you to adhere to the following:

Email Authentication

You must validate your emails using trusted methods such as SPF (Sender Policy Framework), DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), or DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance). These authentication protocols ensure that the emails you send are legitimate and not spam, thereby increasing the likelihood of them landing in the recipient’s inbox rather than the spam folder.

These tasks are typically performed by your IT provider, CRM provider or internal IT team if you manage your email configuration in-house.

If you haven’t spoken to your IT team, CRM provider or email marketing provider for a while, now might be a good time to check in with them to ensure your email configurations are following current best practice guidelines.

Why is Email Authentication Important?

Email authentication adds a layer of credibility to your emails. For real estate agents, this is crucial. Imagine a potential homebuyer missing out on your latest property listing because your email got flagged as spam. Not only do you miss a lead, but it also diminishes the reputation of your agency.

Easy Unsubscription

Google will also require a straightforward, one-click unsubscription option in your emails. Any requests to unsubscribe must be processed within two days.

Maintain Low Spam Rates

Your email campaigns must adhere to a clearly defined spam rate, which Google will be enforcing.

Impact on Real Estate Email Marketing

The new rules highlight the importance of two key metrics: bounce rate and spam rate.

Understanding Bounce Rate

The bounce rate refers to the percentage of emails that couldn’t be delivered and were returned to the sender. A high bounce rate could be due to various reasons, such as incorrect email addresses or full inboxes. This is particularly concerning because a bounce rate of just 4% can trigger spam filters, which negatively impacts your email deliverability.

Importance of ‘List Washing’

Before uploading any contacts to your email marketing program, it’s highly advisable to ‘wash’ your email list using a service like NeverBounce. These services weed out invalid or inactive email addresses, thereby reducing your bounce rate and improving deliverability.

Take this example below from a real estate business with an email list of 14,072 contacts. After washing the list with Neverbounce, it returned 9,886 valid email addresses. Only the ‘valid’ contacts were added to their email marketing program.

Most businesses would upload every contact for fear of not missing anyone. Resisting this urge to add every single contact and instead only sending your bulk emails to valid contacts will ensure that more people receive your emails more often.

Status Code meanings:

Valid

A valid email address has been verified as a real email that is currently accepting mail.

SAFE – These emails exist and have been verified for safe sending.

Invalid

An invalid email address has been verified as a bad recipient address that does not exist or is not accepting mail. Invalid emails will result in a bounce.

DON’T SEND – These emails do not exist and are not safe for sending.

Disposable

Disposable emails are temporary accounts used to avoid using a real personal account during a sign-up process. Common providers of disposable emails include Mailinator, Guerilla Mail, AirMail, and 10 Minute Mail.

DON’T SEND – These emails are fake or temporary emails and are not safe for sending.

Accept All (Unverifiable)

This is also known as an “catch all”. This is a domain-wide setting where all emails on this domain will be reported as an “accept all”. There is no definitive way to determine whether this email is valid or invalid.

An accept all address is commonly used in small businesses to ensure a company receives any email that has been sent to them, regardless of typos. Additionally, these are also found in larger government, medical and educational organizations. Oftentimes these are infact valid emails. However some organizations may utilize this setting as a security feature to prevent unsolicited emails.

SAFE – If you have a dedicated email server with your own IPs, accept all emails may be safe for sending dependent on the overall health of your list.

DON’T SEND – If you use a third party email provider that requires a bounce rate below 4%, these emails are not safe for sending.

Unknown

We are unable to definitively determine this email’s status. This email appears to be OK, however the domain and/or server is not responding to our requests. This may be due to an issue with their internal network or expired domain names. Unknown addresses are checked up to 75 times before this result code is given.

SAFE – If you have a dedicated email server with your own IPs, unknown emails are normally safe for sending.

DON’T SEND – If you use a third party email provider that requires a bounce rate below 4%, these emails are not safe for sending.

For real estate agents, every email counts. A cleaned list ensures that your property listings and updates reach as many potential clients as possible.

Tips for Compliance

  • Use a reputable email service provider that understands real estate needs.
  • Keep your email lists clean by regularly ‘washing’ them.
  • Segment your lists for targeted campaigns, such as new listings for buyers and market updates for sellers.
  • Personalise your emails to increase engagement.

Even if your email list comprises fewer than 5,000 recipients, adopting these best practices is still beneficial. They can help you navigate Google’s changing landscape while maintaining effective communication with your clients.

Extra tip

One feature that can significantly elevate your email marketing strategy is the use of BIMI (Brand Indicators for Message Identification). BIMI is a standard that allows you to display your brand’s logo next to your emails in the recipient’s inbox, but it does more than just make your emails look good.

When you implement BIMI, you also get a coveted blue check mark next to your email in Gmail inboxes, symbolising that your email is authenticated and secure.

How Does BIMI Work?

BIMI works in tandem with email authentication protocols like DMARC. Once you have DMARC set up and your emails are authenticated, you can implement BIMI to display your brand’s logo. This visual cue gives immediate recognition and credibility to your emails, a feature that’s particularly useful for real estate agents where trust is paramount.

The Blue Check Mark Advantage

The blue check mark that accompanies BIMI implementation is a universally recognised symbol of authentication. This mark can dramatically increase your email open rates for several reasons:

  1. Trust: When potential homebuyers or sellers see that your emails are authenticated, they’re more likely to trust your content, making them more inclined to open your email.
  2. Visibility: The blue check mark and brand logo make your emails stand out in a cluttered inbox, increasing the chances of your emails being opened.
  3. Security: The blue check mark also signifies that the email is secure and free from phishing scams, making recipients more comfortable in engaging with the email’s content.

Why This All Matters for Real Estate Agents

In the highly competitive real estate market, every interaction with your potential or current clients matters. The blue check mark not only assures your email recipients that your communications are legitimate, but it also subtly elevates your brand, making it seem more reputable and trustworthy. This could be the difference between a potential client opening your email about a new property listing or market update and ignoring it OR not seeing it all because it’s going to spam.

To sum it up, BIMI and the blue check mark serve as small but powerful enhancements to your email marketing strategy. They can increase open rates, enhance security, and most importantly, build trust with your clientele, a vital asset in the real estate business.

Looking Forward

Google’s new policies are not just for Gmail; they align with open Internet standards and will likely become the norm across other email providers. Therefore, adapting to these practices ensures your real estate agency remains at the forefront as email marketing continues to evolve.

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