Gmail's Bulk Sender Guidelines: How to Secure Your Deliverability

Gmail's Bulk Sender Guidelines: How to Secure Your Deliverability

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To protect regular users, most email providers set requirements for anyone who wants to send a lot of messages. Gmail is no exception. This popular platform already has basic rules to prevent spam. And very soon, Google will be adding new bulk sender guidelines.

Understanding these changes is essential for any organization that wants to reach Gmail users. Failure to comply could mean a drastic cut in email deliverability and engagement. You could even see your email account blocklisted. It’s serious stuff.

This guide aims to help you understand the updated guidelines and successfully navigate your business through the changes.

What Are Bulk Sender Guidelines?

Every major email platform has bulk sender guidelines. These rules are designed to prevent users from being bombarded with unwanted emails. They are generally pretty effective at weeding out the bad actors.

Bulk email sender guidelines often include the following:

  • Compliance with anti-spam laws: Ensuring compliance with anti-spam laws, including adhering to regulations such as the CAN-SPAM Act in the United States and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union, is essential for responsible email marketing practices.
  • Proper list acquisition: Senders are often asked only to use email lists where subscribers have explicitly opted in.
  • Email authentication: Setting up SPF, DKIM, and DMARC is considered good practice.
  • Unsubscribe requests: When sending bulk emails, senders should provide recipients with an easy way to remove themselves from lists (often via an “unsubscribe link”).

Complying with your chosen ESP (email service provider) guidelines is important if you want to maintain strong lines of communication with your audience. The potential repercussions for flouting the rules are pretty serious:

  • Your emails could be marked as spam.
  • Your ESP might slow the delivery of your messages.
  • Your mailing server's IP address could be blocked on ESP records (a list of IPs identified as sources of spam).

illustrative risks of ignoring ESP guidelines like messages marked as spam, slowed delivery, and eventually a blocked IP addressAs a result, you may experience reduced open rates and engagement. In extreme cases, your email account could be blocked or suspended. You could even face legal action for non-compliance with email marketing laws and regulations.

In other words, just stick to the ground rules.

How to Know if You’re a Bulk Email Sender

The exact definition of a bulk sender differs between ESPs. Some of the key factors include:

  • The volume of emails: Sending more than 500 emails per day or 10,000 emails per month categorizes you as a bulk email sender.
  • Frequency of sending messages: Whether you send emails multiple times a day or just a few times a month impacts your classification as a bulk sender.
  • Automation and content: Utilizing automated campaigns to dispatch nearly identical messages increases the likelihood of being identified as a bulk sender.

The definition for anyone sending to Gmail and Google Workspace accounts is much clearer. Google considers any account that sends out 5,000 or more emails per day as a bulk sender.

If you fall into this category, you will be required to meet the new guidelines from February 1, 2024 onwards to continue sending to Gmail accounts without problems.

What Are the Changes to Gmail’s Bulk Sender Guidelines?

Google has released a list of 10 requirements that will soon apply to all bulk senders:

  1. Set up SPF and DKIM email authentication.
  2. Ensure that sending domains or IPs have valid forward and reverse DNS records, also called PTR records.
  3. Use a TLS connection for transmitting email.
  4. Keep spam rates reported in Postmaster Tools below 0.1% and avoid reaching a spam rate of 0.3% or higher.
  5. Format messages according to the Internet Message Format standard.
  6. Don’t impersonate Gmail From: headers.
  7. For those who regularly forward messages, add ARC headers to outgoing email.
  8. Set up DMARC email authentication for your sending domain.
  9. Align the From header domain with either the SPF domain or the DKIM domain.
  10. Support one-click unsubscribe and include a clearly visible unsubscribe link in the message body.

anatomy of a from showing the breakdown of the from [name] and [email] sections that make up the It may look like a significant set of demands. However, it’s possible to group most changes into three main categories: authentication, spam prevention, and unsubscribe links. Let’s examine each of these topics in detail.

How to Prepare for Gmail’s New Bulk Sender Guidelines

Taking swift action is important to ensure your organization meets Google’s new guidelines. Attempting to send messages before you are completely compliant will likely damage your deliverability to Gmail accounts for some time.

Thankfully, completing the necessary chores in only a few hours is possible. You can think of the following steps as your to-do list.

1. Configure Domain Authentication

Before accepting thousands of messages, Gmail wants to know if you are a legitimate sender. This process ensures bad actors can’t use spoofing and other technical trickery to deceive unsuspecting users. Email authentication is the primary method of verifying your identity.

When the updates take effect, Gmail will require bulk senders to authenticate their domains via DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) and SPF (Sender Policy Framework).

Senders must also have a DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance) policy.

How to Authenticate Your Domain

To authenticate your domain using Google’s preferred methods, you will need to have administrator access to the domain you use for outgoing messages. Each framework requires you to add a one-line TXT record to your DNS records for verification purposes.

Our dedicated email authentication guide provides full step-by-step instructions for the process. But here’s a brief summary:

First, set up SPF. Having SPF in place can help to prevent email spoofing. In a TXT record, you must specify the domain or subdomain linked to your email server.

The next step is to configure DKIM. This system tries to establish whether your emails have been changed en route. To use this form of authentication, you must generate a public DKIM key through your chosen email platform and publish the key as a TXT record.

Finally, you can set up DMARC. This framework allows you to specify what will happen to email messages that fail authentication checks. You do this through publishing in another TXT record.

There are a couple of key details to note here:

  • For emails that don’t pass the test, Google says that your DMARC policy can be set to none (i.e., no action).
  • As you set up DMARC, make sure your From: header matches your authenticated domain.

2. Make Unsubscribing Easier

To comply with the existing CAN-SPAM Act in the U.S., bulk senders should provide a clear unsubscribe link in the body of every email. Every reputable email platform inserts a link in the footer area automatically.

Google’s new guidelines also ask senders to include a List-Unsubscribe header. This short instruction allows Gmail to display an unsubscribe link next to information about the sender. The idea is that recipients shouldn’t have to search the whole message to opt-out.

example of a received bulk email with a box around the In addition, the new guidelines state that any unsubscribe request should be honored within two days.

How to Set Up List-Unsubscribe Headers

A List-Unsubscribe header creates a link within Gmail (and other clients) that users can click to send an unsubscribe request. There are two main delivery channels for such requests.

The mailto method directs unsubscribe requests via email. It is the option recommended by Google, and it’s supported natively by most popular ESPs.

In most cases, your provider will include the header automatically. At most, you might need to toggle the option in your account settings.

To manually set up the mailto method, you need to create a dedicated email address for receiving unsubscribe requests. You then have to add a List-Unsubscribe header containing a mailto link to your new email address to your standard email header. The format looks like this:


ESPs handle incoming requests automatically. With a manual setup, you need to monitor your dedicated inbox and respond to requests by removing the relevant subscriber by hand.

The other type of List-Unsubscribe header uses the HTTP method. In this case, requests are sent via a dedicated URL rather than an email.

As with the mailto method, most ESPs can embed an HTTP-based List-Unsubscribe header for you. For manual setup, you would use the following format:

List-Unsubscribe: <>

While Gmail supports both List-Unsubscribe methods, it’s worth noting that several clients do not welcome HTTP links. For this reason, and for contingency, it’s a good idea to configure both methods in your email headers.

3. Control Your Spam Rate

Google wants bulk senders to be really mindful of spam rates.

According to the updated guidelines, senders should aim to keep spam below 0.1%. And you must absolutely stay under the 0.3% spam rate threshold to avoid being blocklisted.

While there is no unified way of measuring spam rates, you can use Google’s Postmaster Tools to monitor your current stats.

How to Reduce Your Spam Rate

Several factors influence spam rate. Perhaps the most important is bounce rate — referring to the percentage of emails returned to sender—arguably being the most important.

bounce rate chart from 0% to 5% where less than 2% is acceptable and 0.3% or less is ideal If too many of your messages find inactive inboxes, ESPs will assume you are sending messages indiscriminately. As a result, your spam rate is likely to climb.

To stop this trend, you need to clean your email list regularly. Gartner estimates that B2B data, including subscriber data, decays at about 3% per month. Without regular maintenance, your list can quickly become out of date.

NeverBounce makes it easy to verify your entire list. Our bulk email list-cleaning tools can find inactive email addresses automatically. Think of it as basic email hygiene.

We also provide real-time verification for new subscribers, so users can’t accidentally submit an address with typos. You can even connect your ESP to NeverBounce for automated cleaning.

Here are some more tips for maintaining your sender reputation and avoiding the spam folder:

  • Double opt-in: Ask new subscribers to confirm their intention via a follow-up email.
  • Don’t purchase email lists: As a general rule, purchasing lists is a bad idea. Rarely you'll have genuine permission to contact the individuals on such lists.
  • Avoid sending too much sales-led content: Accounts that send too many promotional messages and marketing emails tend to trigger spam filters.
  • Don’t harass your subscribers: Sending multiple messages daily is guaranteed to drive your spam rate upward.
  • Monitor engagement metrics: If a subscriber hasn’t opened or interacted with your email for some time (e.g., three months), remove them from your list. This pattern of behavior suggests a lack of interest in your messages; continuing to send messages may be regarded as “spamming.”
  • Honor unsubscribe requests: If you’re handling these requests manually, do so quickly. Continuing to send unwanted messages will set up future email delivery issues.
  • Take notice of spam complaints: Your ESP will notify you when someone marks your message as spam. If you start seeing a growing pattern here, you may need to check whether subscribers want to stay on your list or change the types of content you’re sending.

Improve Your Email Deliverability Today

Google designed the new guidelines to protect Gmail and Google Workspace users from unsolicited messages.

Although implementing the necessary changes may initially seem like a hassle, your future campaigns will benefit from reduced spam and malicious messages. This improvement is good for business and contributes positively to the entire email community.

It’s not just Gmail — many other email platforms (including Yahoo Mail) implement similar rules.

If you want to maintain strong email deliverability in the coming years, find a solid email-cleaning solution. Sign up free with NeverBounce today to give our tools a try!

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