Gmail Deliverability Issues

Tuesday, January 11th, 2022 - General

Over the past month or so, we’ve noticed a considerable uptick in issues sending mail to Gmail or other Google handled email addresses. Messages that had been going out to Google’s mail servers were now starting to fail. This is a perfect example of how systems on the Internet are always evolving. We receive a lot of statements from users saying “Well, these messages used to work, I haven’t changed anything.” This may very well be true – but you have to understand that all of the framework and systems that control the Internet are always changing. Just because something used to work on the Internet, doesn’t mean it will always work.

From what we have been able to ascertain about the changes Google has made, they have increased their grading on SPF records. SPF is a special DNS TXT record that a domain owner uses to identify what IP addresses should be sending out mail from that domain. It’s an email authenticity check so that receiving mail servers (i.e. Google’s mail servers) can determine if mails from the domain and from that sending server IP address are legitimate.

If you have not already managed an SPF record for your domain name, you can access this in your cPanel by clicking the Email Deliverability link and then clicking the Manage button next to the respective domain name.

If you do not see the Email Deliverability link or if you need help with this, submit a support ticket and our support team will be glad to help you with this.

Email Forwarders

The other issue that this Google deliverability and SPF requirement involves concerns the use of Email Forwarders.

We have for a long, long time strongly discouraged users from setting up email forwarders that forward mail to an external mail server (i.e. Google’s mail servers). If you log into your cPanel and click the Forwarders link, you will see a notice that states that off-site email forwarders are discouraged.

Unfortunately we can’t stop users from setting up these forwarders, but you should understand that if you set up such a forwarder you may encounter issues with email deliverability. Additionally this email deliverability issue can lead to affecting other users on the server.

Email forwarders to an off-site or third-party mail server are just a bad, bad idea. Remember, the systems that control the Internet’s infrastructure is always changing. When SPF first became a thing with identifying email legitimacy, concerns with external mail forwarders was a noted issue. But the developers of SPF had to weigh the usefulness of SPF in identifying email authenticity (which was becoming more and more of an issue) against the use of email forwarders (which was largely in decline, due to smartphones and largely an always connected world).

You should understand that because of the way SPF and forwarding works – if you have any email addresses that forward off of the server, then all mail sent to that address and forwarded on to it’s destination is ALWAYS going to fail SPF.

With Google taking such a hard-nosed stance in regards to SPF authenticity, that means email addresses on our servers that are forwarding to Google mail servers, are always failing SPF. As these failures build and build, Google starts to identify our servers as a possible spam source. This is why forwarding mail off of the server is such a bad idea, and it’s why we have been discouraging it for several years now.

If you have any email addresses that forward off of the server – and I should mention that this includes any off-site server, Hotmail/Outlook/Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, AOL, etc, not just Google – we would really, really encourage you to remove the forwarder and set the email address up as a real email account on the server and check it directly. This is going to benefit you in terms of receiving all of the mail sent to the email address and it’s going to benefit us by lessening the SPF failures sent by our servers that hurts our server’s email deliverability reputation.

You can setup a real email account for the email address by using the Email Accounts link in your cPanel.