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.
In this article
Why are SPF records important?
SPF records prevent spammers from sending messages with bogus From: addresses attached to your domain. This stuff gets fairly technical, but let's keep it simple for now.
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 was created to combat these sorts of fake sender issues.
Unless you set up a custom SMTP connection, Help Scout sends emails on your behalf when you reply to a customer. For the sake of illustration, let's say your mailbox address is email@example.com. When you reply to a customer and the email goes out, the customer's server will ask the following questions:
- Who sent this email?
- Does the sender have permission to send on behalf of this domain?
In our example, the "who" is firstname.lastname@example.org and the "sender" is Help Scout. Without an SPF record specifying Help Scout as an approved sender, it's likely your email will be marked as spam. If there is an SPF record that includes Help Scout as an approved sender, then it's virtually guaranteed to skip the spam filter. That's why this is so important!
What the record looks like
SPF records are added to your domain's DNS as a TXT record. Help Scout only supports TXT type records, as the SPF type records are no longer supported. To authorize emails sent by Help Scout, the TXT record should look something like this in your DNS provider:
v=spf1 a mx include:helpscoutemail.com ~all
If you already have an existing SPF record, you can update the record to include Help Scout:
After you've updated the record with your provider, open your Help Scout mailbox and head over to Settings → Connection Settings and click the Test Settings button. If an SPF record is found for your domain, you'll see the SPF status indicator change to Active. For testing the validity of your SPF record, we'd recommend using an SPF testing tool such as Kitterman.
Only one single SPF record is allowed for a domain, but multiple domains can be listed within that one record using the "include" mechanism (ie. v=spf1 a mx include:helpscoutemail.com include:mydomainemail.com ~all). It's worth noting that all SPF records must limit the number of mechanisms and modifiers that do DNS lookups to a maximum of 10 per SPF check.
If it the lookup does exceed 10, an error will be thrown. The "include", "a", "mx", "ptr", and "exists" mechanisms as well as the "redirect" modifier do count against this limit; while the "all", "ip4", and "ip6" mechanisms do not require DNS lookups and therefore do not count against this limit.
Note: You'll need access to your DNS provider's control panel to add or modify a record. If you're already scratching your head on this one, get in touch with your nearest IT person and tell them what's up. Send them this article and they'll know what to do.
Specific DNS provider information
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.