Use an SPF Record to Help With Email Delivery

A Sender Policy Framework (SPF) record is a DNS record that identifies specific mail servers that are allowed to send email on behalf of your domain. 

This article will help you understand why these records are important, and why you should create a record for Help Scout if you're using your own email address with Help Scout and want to use Help Scout servers to send your email. 

You do not need to set this up if you are using the default Help Scout Inbox Address (e.g or sending through your own servers using SMTP or OAuth. 

In this article

Why SPF Matters

Have you ever received one of those nonsense emails that looks like it's from PayPal, but is actually from a spammer posing as PayPal? This is called a "spoof" email, because it's quite easy to fake the domain associated with an email (like PayPal in this case). SPF is a widely adopted standard that was created to battle spoofing. 

An SPF record at your DNS hosting provider is essentially a list of the servers that are allowed to send email for your domain. It does need to be formatted in a very specific way and can look a little scary if you don't work with DNS records regularly, but at its heart, that's all it is! 

SPF & Emails Sent From Help Scout Servers

If you're using our servers to send without SPF, we send emails on your behalf when you reply to or start a new conversation. This means that the emails will show to your recipients as "via" or "on behalf of" your domain. This keeps emails you send from Help Scout from being seen as spoofs, but some email blockers aren't really happy about us sending on your behalf. You can improve your chances of getting past their snares even more by adding our servers to your SPF records so that we can send as your domain directly. 

Once we're able to verify that your SPF record gives us that authorization, we'll make that switch! 

If you've got folks that handle your website and domain, like a designer or an IT team, you will likely want to reach out to them to ask about changing your DNS records. If you're a leaner team without those techie folks though, keep reading and we'll get you through this. 

Add Help Scout to Your SPF

First things first, you'll need to log in to your account with your DNS hosting provider and navigate to their DNS management tools. You'll either be editing a TXT record that already exists or creating a new one. 

Don't know who your DNS hosting provider is? Your DNS hosting provider is likely to be the service where you've registered the domain name or the hosting service where you host your website. MX Toolbox's DNS Lookup is a super helpful tool to discover public information about your domain — enter your domain there and you'll see a box near the bottom that will show the provider for your domain. 

Edit an Existing SPF Record

It is very likely that you already have an SPF record for your domain. If so, all you need to do is find that existing record and add our servers into it. Do not create an additional SPF record for Help Scout as you are only allowed to have a single SPF record for a domain. 

Look through your records there for any that are type TXT that starts with v=spf1. (If you do not find one there, you'll need to skip ahead just a bit here to create a new one.) Edit that record to add in that record, after the v=sp1 but before the closing end. The end of an SPF record will be either -all, ~all, ?all, or +all — our include needs to be before that closing. 

For example, if your current record looks like this: 

v=spf1 a mx ~all

You will just edit that record to add and it will look like this when you're finished: 

v=spf1 a mx ~all

Create a New SPF Record at Your DNS Hosting Provider

If you do not have an SPF record at your DNS hosting provider, you will need to create one to include our servers. 

SPF records are added to your DNS as a TXT type record. Help Scout only supports TXT type records, as the SPF type records are no longer supported. We recommend you set the TXT record to this:

v=spf1 ~all

This record tells other email servers that email that comes from your website, your email server, or Help Scout servers that says it's from your domain is valid. 

Specific DNS Hosting Provider Help

Each DNS provider will have their own panel and specific directions to create or edit the SPF TXT record. We've collected links to some of the more popular providers help articles below. 

After you've updated the record with your provider, open your Help Scout Inbox and head over to Settings > Outgoing Email and click the Test Settings button. If a valid SPF record is found for your domain, you'll see the SPF status indicator change to Active

Troubleshooting SPF Verification

Not seeing that turn to green? If it's been less than an hour since you modified your existing SPF record, hang tight! DNS propagation can take a little time to update. Check back after an hour to test settings again. 

If it's been more than an hour and the checker in Help Scout is still not showing that we're able to verify it, this usually means there's a problem with your SPF record. What seem like tiny little things can cause big problems with SPF! Your best first step is to check your SPF record with a tool like MX Toolbox to diagnose problems. They'll tell you what error they're seeing, and look for the "More info" link for more details there. 

Still stuck? Give support a shout and we'll take a peek — let us know what domain you're working with and which DNS hosting provider you're using to help us get started!

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