All about domain branding - or sending with a custom 'from' address (CFA)

Contents

Why is it important to use domain branding?
But why can’t I just use my company's existing email address as a 'from' address?
What should my CFA look like?
How do I implement my subdomain as a CFA?
Can I just provide the MX records for my existing domain?
Can I run a domain myself by being given the DNS records or a copy of the zone file?
Can I move my CFA that I use with my current ESP to you?
I'm not able to delegate an existing subdomain. How do I purchase a new domain for my CFA?
   » Purchasing a new sending 'from' domain name
   » Domain verification
   » Purchasing an alias for a domain already in your account
Can I change the registrant details for my domain post-purchase?
Can I change the renewal status for my domain?
I've just registered my new CFA. Now what should I do?
After purchasing, where can I find and manage my CFAs?
Can I have a dynamic alias in my CFA?
How do I receive replies and emails sent to my CFA?
Can replies to my emails be dynamically forwarded?
Can I transfer my CFA that I registered with you to a new registrar?

Summary

The 'from' address of your campaign is the email address a recipient sees in their inbox when they receive your email. 

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As a user of the platform, you automatically get given a generic 'from' address to use, which looks something like yourcompanyname@rX.dotmailer-email.com

However, using this unbranded 'from' address isn't something we recommend. It can degrade your online brand and trust, and could limit your open and subscription rates.

We recommend setting up domain branding. This makes use of a subdomain, such as email.yourcompanyname.com, so we can then generate a custom 'from' address (CFA) for you, making your email address look branded, friendlier and more familiar to your recipients.

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A custom 'from' address is made up of two parts:

  • the alias, which is the part before the @ sign (e.g. news@...)
  • the domain/subdomain, which is the part after the @ sign (e.g. ...@email.yourcompanyname.com)

To create a CFA, you can either:

  • use or create your own subdomain and ask your domain provider to let you delegate it to us, allowing us to implement it as your CFA
  • purchase a domain/CFA from us

In this article, we'll look at everything you need to know about sending your email with domain branding - from why it's best to have a CFA, to how to generate a subdomain or purchase a new sending domain, to what format it should follow, as well as other useful information that can affect it. 

Why is it important to use domain branding?

There are three simple reasons why it's important to brand your sending subdomain:

  • Achieve better delivery rates
  • Engage your recipients for better open rates
  • Avoid bringing down your firm's transactional email

If you make use of our domain branding service, then you'll be taking advantage of four major benefits:

  1. Get more of your emails into inboxes. Our CFAs are fully configured for authentication, confirming to the ISPs that you are who you say you are. This is essential for getting more of your emails delivered into inboxes.
  2. Build your online brand and trust to improve your open rates. Your recipients will see only your brand in the CFA - no mention of your ESP or webmail provider. Making sure your 'from' address is fully branded like this will help increase your open rates.
  3. Protect your company domain name and your transactional emails. Using domain branding will protect your company's transactional and business emails from being affected by blacklisting from organisations such as Spamhaus due to spam complaints.

    If your CFA's domain does accidentally get blacklisted, our Deliverability team will step in and take the necessary steps to get the domain unblacklisted as soon as possible, using the excellent relationships we hold with ISPs.
  4. Our domain branding service represents great value, as we do all the work for you. For a small admin fee, we'll manage a subdomain for you (or purchase a sending domain if for any reason you are unable to point your subdomain to us), one which is branded to your company domain name, i.e. www.email.yourcompanyname.com. We'll also include custom tracking links in your emails. Then we'll set up all the configuration and authentication required, so you don't need to.

But why can’t I just use my company's existing email address as a 'from' address?

To answer this, the following reasons expand upon some of the benefits of a CFA as opposed to sending bulk email from your regular sending address, as outlined above:

Reputation risk
The primary reason, and why the industry standard is to use a separate domain name, is reputation risk.

Regardless of how much care and attention you put into making your marketing emails relevant to your lists, there are likely to be some subscribers that decide they no longer want to receive them. Rather than clicking unsubscribe, some users will just mark your email as spam/junk. This, and other

Our Deliverability team maintain excellent relationships with ISPs, so in the rare circumstance that someone does get blocked, they can step in and take the necessary steps to get the domain unblacklisted. So as not to prevent your normal business email becoming blocked, regarded best practice is to send from separate domain names for marketing and regular email.

In order to avoid your normal business email becoming blocked, regarded best practice is to send from separate domain names for marketing and regular/transactional email.

Easy infrastructure changes
We do, from time to time, make changes to our infrastructure, which means that the domain records need to be changed. This means that many domain records need to be updated at the same time.

As such, we require access to the records for all the domains we're sending on behalf of so we can make all the changes at the same time. This is easier when the domains are not also accessed by other agencies when used for normal email and for websites.

Avoid delays to your normal business email
As well as a risk to the reputation of your normal business email, there can also be delays to the speed at which it's delivered if it gets queued with bulk email being sent from the same domain.

We recommend either generating a subdomain (e.g. email.yourcompanyname.com) or, failing that, purchasing a CFA from us (e.g. updates@email-yourcompanyname.com), as this protects your company’s normal day-to-day emails from any problems that could be associated with your email marketing.

Creating a branded domain also allows us to include custom tracking links within your emails, plus set up all the configuration and authentication required for deliverability, so you don't need to involve your IT department in this matter.

Please note: If you already own an alternative domain or wish to set up a subdomain that is outside the UK, please contact your account manager.

What should my CFA look like?

When you create your CFA, there are some words to avoid, and some we'd recommend using.

Words we would suggest steering away from to avoid triggering spam filters are:

  • offers
  • special
  • promotions
  • info
  • credit

Words that are often used that work well are:

  • news
  • events
  • latest
  • email
  • updates
  • marketing
  • transactional

Here are some full CFA examples that we'd suggest:

  • updates@news.yourcompanyname.com 
  • latest@email.yourcompany-name.com
  • events@marketing.yourcompanyname.co.uk
  • orders@transactional.yourcompanyname.com

The subdomain must only consist of a combination of the letters a-z, the numbers 0-9 and the hyphen sign (-). Please note that your chosen subdomain cannot start with the hyphen sign.

How do I implement my subdomain as a CFA?

Firstly, you'll need to check with your IT department and/or domain provider whether your subdomain can be pointed to us. This is because some domain providers don't allow subdomains to be pointed to different name servers to those of the parent domain.

Some domain providers will also require an SOA record to be created.

The NS records would need to be set as:

  • ns0.dns.dotmailer.co.uk *(52.208.70.242)
  • ns1.dns.dotmailer.co.uk *(52.58.218.210)
  • ns2.dns.dotmailer.co.uk *(52.70.240.240)

* Note: only use the IP addresses if absolutely necessary, as these are subject to change.

If required by the domain provider, the SOA record needs to be set as:

  • ns0.dns.dotmailer.co.uk

Once the subdomain has been pointed to us, you need to contact accounts@dotmailer.com and let us know the following:

  • confirm that the subdomain is pointing to us
  • provide the alias you want to use for the custom 'from' address (before the @)
  • provide the username of the account that the CFA needs adding to 

We can then set up your CFA for you.

Please note that it can take up to 48 hours for the CFA to be activated.

Can I just provide the MX records for my existing domain?

No. We require the NS records to be pointed to us rather than just the MX records.

This is because we need to set up some of the other services on the subdomain, such as the hosting of landing pages, and the enhanced reporting of opens, clicks and bounces.

If the subdomain is delegated to us only using the MX Records instead of the NS records it isn't possible to set this up.

Can I run a domain myself by being given the DNS records or a copy of the zone file?

No, we don't provide DNS records, or a zone file, or anything of this nature for you to then manage.

In order for you to have your own subdomain, we provide two options:

  • purchase one through us that we manage, or
  • delegate the *subdomain to us that we manage

In the case of the latter, all you need to do is ensure the subdomain is pointing to our name servers (as given above in Can I use an existing/purchased domain or subdomain as a custom 'from' address?). This will ensure full functionality of our services.

* Note: There may be some restrictions and further requirements associated with delegating a subdomain to us.

Can I move my CFA that I use with my current ESP to you?

No, we don't support this due to the negative impact it can have on deliverability, as well as the negative impact it can have on legacy images and links sent in campaigns with your previous ESP.

I'm not able to delegate an existing subdomain. How do I purchase a new domain for my CFA?

It's possible to have a variety of different custom 'from' addresses to send from, as well as multiple sending domains.

To purchase these, go to Campaigns > Advanced features > From addresses.

Option not available?

If this feature is not enabled, the page may not be visible in your account. Please contact us to discuss adding a new 'from' address.

This page lists your available sending addresses; each address may be 'Active' (available to use in campaigns), or 'Pending' (currently being set up).

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You can get a new sending address by clicking on the Purchase new address button.

On the 'Address purchasing' page you can:

  • Set up a whole new sending domain — this will give you exclusive use of a domain name, such as email-mycompany.com.
  • Set up an alias for a domain that you already own — if for example you already have news@email-mycompany.com, this will enable you to have updates@email-mycompany.com.

Domain names can be purchased within the application which end with:

  • .com
  • .net
  • .org
  • .uk.com
  • .org.uk
  • .co.uk

Other domain names are available. Please contact your account manager to discuss options.

Purchasing a new sending 'from' domain name

Enter the email address you want to send campaigns from.

The domain name will need to be one which you don't already own (and no one else owns). To check if it's available, click on Check availability.

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If the name is available, then great, you can go ahead with the purchasing by clicking Purchase. If not, we'll suggest some alternatives.

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When you purchase the new domain name, you'll need to provide some contact information. Your name, address and contact details will be made publicly available for anyone looking up the owner of a domain.

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Enter your details. Upon clicking Purchase address, you'll be asked to confirm your choice, along with details about what your account will be charged or deducted.

Once we have your details, we'll charge your account and start setting up the new address.

As it can take up to four hours for the new email sending address to propagate around the internet, you won't be able to use the address immediately.

Domain verification

You must verify your domain within 15 days of having purchased it, otherwise the domain will get suspended. 

An email containing a verification link will be sent to the email address you registered the domain with, so it's important to make sure it's been entered correctly.

Please note that these verification emails are not sent from us.

All generic top-level domains (TLDs) will receive an email from registrant-verification@ispapi.net.

.uk domains will receive an email from serviceapplications@nominet.org.uk.

Note that we're able to request the resending of a verification email for all TLDs except .co.uk.

You're able to tell if a domain has been suspended by looking at the NS records. If suspended, they'll read:

  • ns1.registrant-verification.ispapi.net 194.50.187.225
  • ns2.registrant-verification.ispapi.net 194.0.182.225
  • ns3.registrant-verification.ispapi.net 193.227.117.225

If a .uk domain is suspended, you'll need to contact Nominet. Unfortunately we won't be able to assist you.

Here's some further information that it might be useful to familiarise yourself with about purchasing a new domain name:
Important information for domain purchasers - complying with ICANN's updated Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA)

Purchasing an alias for a domain already in your account

Let's say, for example, you already have the sending address news@email.company123.com. This means purchasing a new alias, such as 'updates,' will enable you to send from updates@email.company123.com.

Select the domain name you want the address to be sent from, and enter the alias you want to use before the '@'.

Upon clicking on Purchase alias, you'll be asked to confirm your choice, along with details about what your account will be charged or deducted.

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This will charge your account.

It can take up to 30 minutes to set up the new alias. This setup time ensures all of our servers are ready to receive replies and responses to your campaigns.

Afterwards, you'll be able to use the alias as one of your custom 'from' addresses. 

Can I change the registrant details for my domain post-purchase?

Yes, you can. You're able to do this yourself by clicking the person-and-cog icon in the bottom left corner of the screen to produce the settings menu and selecting Domain names.

On the 'Domain names' page, click on the Edit pencil under ‘View and edit registrant’ for the domain you want to edit details for. 

Please note: You could be required to reverify your domain due to changing registrant details. This will be an email sent from either ICANN or Nominet. It's not always the case that reverification is required but it's best to keep a lookout for one, otherwise your domain could become suspended.

Can I change the renewal status for my domain?

Yes, you can. You're able to do this yourself by clicking the person-and-cog icon in the bottom left corner of the screen to produce the settings menu and selecting Domain names.

On the 'Domain names' page, click on the Edit pencil under ‘Renewal options’ for the domain you want to change. 

Ticking Renew domain will renew the domain, whilst ticking Auto renew will ensure the domain is renewed every year automatically.

I've just registered my new CFA. Now what should I do?

Please ask your account manager to send you a deliverability DIY ramp up plan.

After purchasing, where can I find and manage my CFAs?

You'll be able to find them in two places:

  1. Once available, they can be selected from the 'From address' dropdown in the 'Provide a few campaign setup details' page (the 'Create' stage of the campaign creation process).
  2. They can be managed in Campaigns > Advanced features > From addresses, where you can set a default 'from' address and edit your custom 'from' addresses

Can I have a dynamic alias in my CFA?

No, not currently. Our infrastructure doesn't support dynamic aliases.

You can, however, use a personalised friendly 'from' name by using the relevant personalisation placeholder.

There's an option to apply this in the 'Create' stage of the campaign creation process (the 'Provide a few campaign setup details' page).

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As long as the staff member/adviser's name is included as a contact data field against the contact, then this will dynamically populate.

Contact data fields have an option to set a default value when setting them up, so if there's an instance where a contact doesn't have a staff member/adviser assigned to them, then the default value (e.g. 'Your [company name] adviser') will be used instead.

How do I receive replies and emails sent to my CFA?

Replies are handled directly by us and can be viewed in the 'Replies' report in campaign reporting

Replies can also be handled and forwarded at either:

Read more about handling replies to campaigns »

Can replies to my emails be dynamically forwarded?

Yes. As well as the friendly 'from' name, the forwarding address can also be a personalised, dynamic value taken from a contact data field. It means that replies from contacts can be forwarded to an address you set on a per contact basis.

For example, let's say you have three account managers that look after all of your customers, and these customers are all contacts stored with us. You'd create a contact data field called something like 'ACCOUNTMANAGEREMAIL', and making sure each contact has the email address of their account manager stored under it.

When creating your campaign, you'd enter @ACCOUNTMANAGEREMAIL@ in the 'Forwarding address' field. 

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If a contact replies, you'll get their response not only stored in the app (in campaign reporting), but it will also get sent directly to their account manager. 

Can I transfer my CFA that I registered with you to a new registrar?

Yes, you can. What needs to happen differs on the type of domain the CFA uses.

For .co.uk domains: You'll need to provide us with the TAG code of your new registrar and we'll then push the domain to them via Hexonet.

For any other domains: We'll provide you with your domain's authorisation code and you'll need to give this to your new regsitrar to initiate the transfer.

It could be the case that you're transferring the domain so that you own it but you still wish to use it in your account with us. If so, you need to be aware of the following:

  • You can't use the domain whilst the transferral process is taking place
  • Once the domain is transferred, you need to point the name servers to us
  • You must let accounts@dotmailer.com know when the domain is with your new registrar, so that we can check to see that the domain is ready to use
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