How to Whitelabel Your SendGrid Account and Improve Your Deliverability

Best Practices, Technical

Getting your email properly delivered to the inbox is becoming more and more difficult for all senders. In addition to keeping your recipients in mind and sending messages they want and expect, you can also whitelabel your email, and with SendGrid, implement subusers to help improve deliverability. Below, I’ll cover some of the reasons for properly configuring IP addresses, whitelabeling, and creating subusers in your SendGrid account.

Inbox providers, such as Gmail and Outlook, have developed sophisticated spam-detection algorithms, which frequently send legitimate emails to the spam folder. While using an email service provider (ESP) like SendGrid mitigates this problem, configuring your email settings correctly can improve deliverability so that your emails are more likely to reach their intended recipients.

A Quick Refresher…

Whitelabeling a dedicated IP address and creating subusers can only be performed with Pro-level accounts or higher. To upgrade your account and take advantage of these features, please visit the Pricing page.

Feel free to skip the rest of this section, if you’re already familiar with IP addresses, whitelabeling, and subusers. However, this is a quick reference if you need it:

  • IP Address: An Internet Protocol (IP) address is a unique numerical address that defines an internet location. As it relates to email, it is important to note that all of your emails are sent from an IP address, and inbox providers assign each sending IP address a reputation score, which influences whether or not your email will be delivered to the spam folder.
  • Whitelabeling: Whitelabeling is the functionality of configuring mail authentication values so inbox providers perceive senders for who they are, and that the content within messages is original and intended by the sender. This configuration is performed by pointing very specific DNS entries from your domain registrar to SendGrid.
  • Subusers: Subusers are sub-accounts that may be used to separate statistics or create accounts with different settings. Subusers can also be whitelabeled to separate sending subdomains, and can be used to send specific types of email.

Summary Recommendations

After performing this process, I’ve pulled together some advice for people that are interested in the whitelabeling and subuser creation processes:

Use Dedicated IP(s)

There are two options when it comes to IP addresses: shared or dedicated. Pro accounts include a single, dedicated IP address, whereas Essentials accounts do not. Inbox providers track reputation scores for each sending IP address, and reputation scores can influence whether they place emails in the inbox or spam folder. Using one or more dedicated IPs allows you to control your own destiny when it comes to deliverability.

Use Whitelabeling

Whitelabels allow you to send through your own custom domain instead of SendGrid’s default settings. This will mask the header information of your emails with your information, and can improve your email deliverability. In addition, whitelabeling provides a branding benefit; without it, emails will read ‘sent via SendGrid.’

whitelabeling

Determine the Type of Interactions an Email Will Get

Different types of emails have different interaction profiles. For example, a recipient is far more likely to open and click on a password reset email than a promotion or sale email. Similarly, the importance of email delivery varies by email type- it is far more important that a user receive a password reset email than your latest newsletter. You can segment emails and send them over separate IPs from different subusers to protect each email type from impacting the reputation score of other types. For example, a poor reputation score related with promotions wouldn’t impact the deliverability of password reset emails.

How to Segment Emails

The most basic way to segment email is between transactional and marketing because users typically want and expect transactional emails, whereas marketing emails are generally intended to benefit the sender. In the whitelabeling process, you can specify whether an email is transactional or marketing and then send that email from a transactional subuser or marketing subuser.

CAN-SPAM regulations specify different criteria for these two types of emails. As a result, inbox providers can quickly determine if messages meet all necessary criteria; the message has a better chance of making it to the inbox if it does. You may also want to segment emails into other categories, especially if a given type of email is expected to have a dramatically different interaction profile. For instance, win-back campaigns have much lower engagement than other marketing emails, so you could send them from a separate IP.

How to Configure Your Account

You now know the importance of whitelabeling your IPs, segmenting your email traffic, and assigning subusers to each segment. The following section walks through the configuration process for basic transactional vs. marketing segmentation using the fictional domain: meetinghop.com

1. Obtain a second dedicated IP address

By default, Pro accounts include a single dedicated IP. In order to segment traffic over two IPs, you will need a second IP, which you can purchase by contacting support. In the future, if you decide you’d like to further segment mail types, you can always add IPs to your Pro SendGrid account.

2. Create two subusers for managing transactional and marketing email

First, go to the lefthand sidebar, then navigate to  Settings -> Subuser Management. Click the blue Create New Subuser button on the top right of the screen in order to begin creating your new subuser and follow the prompts to complete the process. While the username must be unique, you may use an email address already associated with an existing SendGrid account. It’s important to select an IP address to be associated with each particular subuser, and that you select different IP addresses for your transactional and marketing subusers.

The image below shows this section of the subuser creation form. As you can see, there is already one user assigned to the first IP address, which is the parent account. You may assign multiple subusers to a given IP, and in the example below, we will be assigning the first IP to the new subuser we are creating.subuser IP selection

Complete this process for each subuser, selecting different IPs for each. When complete, your subuser setup should look similar to the image below:Subuser Example

3. Whitelabel Domains

The next step is to whitelabel your domains/subdomains. Because we will be segmenting our traffic into two separate transactional and marketing streams, we will create a whitelabel for each. To create a new whitelabel, navigate to Settings -> Whitelabels -> Domains, and then click the blue Add Whitelabel button. The example below demonstrates domain whitelabeling for a transactional segment. It’s import to select the transactional user in the On Behalf of User field. In this example, dev-transactional (our transactional subuser) is selected. You will not be able to change this once the whitelabel has been created. I recommend writing email as the subdomain and transactional.domain.com (or marketing.domain.com) as the domain, as appropriate.  Domain WhitelabelUpon clicking save, you will be provided with CNAME records, which you must add to your DNS settings. The final step is to validate the domain whitelabel. Click the Validate option under the whitelabel dropdown:Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 5.02.31 PM

Please note it may take up to 48 hours for your DNS records to update, and the whitelabel will not validate until then. When complete, your domain whitelabel page should look similar to the image below:Domain Whitelabel

4. Whitelabel Email Links

Next, whitelabel your email links. In order to do so, click Email Links under Settings -> Whitelabels, and follow the same instructions outlined in Step 3. The only difference is that you should enter link as the subdomain.
Link Whitelabeling
The completed email link whitelabel page should look similar to the image below:

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 5.01.01 PM

5. Whitelabel IP Addresses

Finally, whitelabel your IPs. In order to do so, click IPs under Settings -> Whitelabels, and follow the same instructions outlined in Step 3. When creating the IP whitelabel, select an IP for each subuser. Then, enter transactional (or marketing) as the subdomain.  
The completed IP whitelabel page should look similar to the image below:

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 5.01.39 PM

6. Change Subuser Sending Settings

The final step is to change the subuser sending settings to utilize the whitelabels you have created. To do so, navigate to the Subusers page, select a subuser, and change the sending settings in the middle of the page as shown below:

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 5.36.25 PM
After changing sending preferences, the sending section of your subuser page should look like the image below:

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 5.37.58 PM

You’re all set!

Congratulations! You’ve taken the first steps toward improving your deliverability and getting your emails to the inbox. As a best practice moving forward, we recommend using the parent account as an administrative panel and conducting all of your email activities under each subuser account. You can easily switch between subusers and the parent account by clicking the dropdown arrow at the top left of the page and selecting Switch User as shown below:

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 5.50.14 PM

If you’re looking for more deliverability advice, check out SendGrid’s 2016 Email Deliverability Guide for even more ways to help get your email delivered to the inbox correctly.


Devin Chasanoff
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Devin is a Developer Evangelist at SendGrid. As part of the Community Development team, Devin helps run the SendGrid Accelerate program. Devin loves hacking, hustling and helping start-ups change the world.
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