Gmail and SPF records

I’m confused about exactly how gmail uses SPF records. With my wordpress sites which are currently hosted at bluehost and siteground I had been getting much/most of the site notification email delivered to people’s spam folders on gmail.

When I did google’s check here:
toolbox.googleapps.com/apps/checkmx

It used to say (a “red” level warning): “SPF must allow Google servers to send mail on behalf of your domain.”

Note that I’m NOT “sending” mail through google, in the sense of using google as an outgoing SMTP mailer. I just want gmail to accept incoming mail from me and not mark it as spam.

When I added all the junk that google wanted in my SPF record that SPF check turned green and it appeared to help with getting gmail not to treat my sites’ email as spam.

This never did make a lot of sense to me, and now that I’m starting to set things up here on MXroute I wonder if anyone here has thoughts on this topic, or any experience to share.

One final note. A possible complication is that I have no idea what siteground or bluehosts email servers “reputations” are. There’s some reason to believe that they are not perfect, and that may be a part of the story.

@Alento That was a good idea! (I didn’t realize the link from mail-tester was sharable.) It turns out I didn’t get the “free email account” thing this time. Now I wonder if I made a mistake and actually sent the previous test message through gmail instead of taylor. I checked everything and tried again, and it looks like (once I get a DMARC record set up) the only thing it’s complaining about is:

" Your message does not contain a List-Unsubscribe header"

Which I assume I can ignore, right? I mean I’m not going to send any mass-mails.

I don’t see any reason not to just post the results here:

https://www.mail-tester.com/test-rqz2jgolv&reloaded=1

That tool was intended for people using Gsuite, so that recommendation that you allow them in your SPF is incorrect. Use mail-tester.com and aim for a 10/10 score. These may be helpful if you hit a snag: https://mxroute.com/docs-category/dns/

That said if all else fails and your score is great there, and Gmail is still putting you in the spam folder, it’s time to consider that it’s one of three things that they don’t like:

  1. Your content
  2. Your domain
  3. Your face

I joke on the last one but the joke is actually for a purpose. The purpose being: How can any of us prove that they didn’t literally look at you one day and say “Yeah we don’t like him.” We can’t. We can read their docs, conform to their stated best practices, and then at best trust blindly that they’re not doing weird things behind the scenes. With a “black box” spam filter you get the benefit of not telling spammers how to improve their inbox delivery, and you get the down side of not telling real people (because spammers aren’t people) what they’ve done to offend you.

So if it’s your content or domain, what can you do? Besides continually report the emails as not spam and experimenting with changes to your content, not much. You can buy a new domain and spend a few months warming it up, and even that’s just an experiment.

I am definitely going to test everything with mail-tester.com. I still have some work to do there (DKIM record) and there are some things I don’t get, like it complains that “You’re sending from a free email account.”

In terms of the Google spf thing. There seemed to be an idea going around that gmail simply “doesn’t like” things like password update message and other such stuff from Wordpress. Also I am (unfortunately) sharing IP addresses with other Siteground customers, and who knows what they are doing.

If appeared that putting that extra google stuff in the spf record somehow mitigated whatever the problem was. But perhaps (hopefully!) it’s a problem I won’t have once off of siteground.

I was just kind of curious if anyone else had similar experiences with gmail. (I did see a couple of older posts here that were sort of similar, although not quite the same).

When you say it complaints that you’re sending from a free email account, that could be a key insight. Check the From header of the email you’re sending and make sure it has the email account/domain you host with us and not an email account for another email provider.

I just did some digging now if I could find you some context appropriate information, and I think I may have found the key to all of it. I actually have no record of any email sent to Gmail from your account, through our server, except the one you sent yourself from an email client referencing a meeting.

I see the email you sent to mail-tester.com, and a few other tests. But if you’re sending from a Wordpress site it hasn’t been sending through us. That’d be a big reason why all efforts to perfect things on this side would have had no impact.

I got the “sending from a free account message” from mail-tester.com when I sent through Taylor, using a Pop connection from my computer. (I was using a linux mailer called “Balsa” for whatever that’s worth.)

I have not sent anything to gmail from my domain at mxroute. I was talking about the hoops I’d had to jump through in the past to get gmail to take mail from my sites at siteground. Sorry about the confusion. I have NOT hooked up any of my WP sites to mxroute yet. Still trying to make sure I understand how things work first.

@Mike.Witt Perhaps you could share a link to those test results in PM (if you prefer) and I or @Jarland can offer more insight?

Looks good!! :slight_smile: And yes.