Verifying Email Addresses and Sending Domains

If you are looking for help with verifiying a new account signup, then see Signing Up and Upgrading

If you want to contact your respondents via email, there are two verification processes to perform (these steps are necessary to confirm that you control that address and therefore have the rights to send mail from it):

  1. The email address verification
  2. The domain verification

You can, if you want, just do the address verification and you'll be able to send email. Domain verification is best described as being optional, but recommended for the best results. Note that these instructions are technical and require a knowledge of DNS records to implement.

If you verify an email and NOT the domain it belongs to, emails sent from that address will be "mangled" and actually be sent from ssmx.net or smartsurveyuser.com. This is to ensure that the email will pass validation checks at the recipient's end, which is not usually possible if you control an email but don't control its parent domain.

Verifying an Email Address

To Access the Email Sender Settings page, please follow the steps below:

  1. Hover over Account on the top black menu bar, then click on My Account from the drop-down menu
  2. Click on Email Sender Settings in the menu on the left

​​​Email Sender Settings​​

  • If you're the master account holder for an account with multiple users, there is a checkbox that reads Verify this email for all sub-accounts. When this is checked, the entered email address will be available for use as an email sender by any user on your SmartSurvey account. When left unchecked, only you will be able to use the email sender 
  • Enter email address in the box under Add Email and click Add Email - this will send an automated email to the entered address containing a verification link
  • Once you have clicked on Add Email the email address will go into the list of usable email addresses just under the Add Email box, and be marked as pending
  • Click the link in the email that was sent to the email address to be verified. If the receiving computer is not logged in to SmartSurvey, a login prompt will appear
  • Once clicked, the email address will show verified in your account and be available for use as an email sender

Verifying a Sender Domain

Why Verify the Domain?

As stated above, you don't have to verify a domain to be able to send email, but we recommend users who can do it, set it up.

This is because, while verifying the email address alone will allow you to send emails out, they will appear as sent "on behalf of" in the email header rather than looking like they've been sent directly. See example below:

Example:

The "From" Field on email from an unverified domain will appear like this on some email clients:
"john=example.com@ms1.ssmx.net; on behalf of John Smith <John@example.com>"

When the domain is verified, it will look like this:
"John Smith <John@example.com>"

Not verifying the domain can also cause some receiving mail servers to block the email or mark it as spam. A common issue we get from our customers is where they've sent out a batch of invitations for an internal survey or test and those emails haven't been delivered. This happens because when an email server receives a message that claims to be from itself, but knows it didn't send it, it will in all likeliood assume that it is not legitimate. Verifying the domain tells the email server that our email server has permission to send emails on its behalf.

Setting it up

This is accessed from the same "Email Sender Settings" area as above. For guidance about choosing a sending domain, see the information section at the bottom of this guide.

If you’re not sure about any of the following steps, please talk to your IT team or whoever looks after your website or domain – they will be able to do what’s necessary

  • Under Add Domain, enter your domain name and click Add Domain - the domain will be added to the box below (tick Verify this domain for all sub-accounts if you have sub users who you want sending from this domain)
  • The domain name will show in the box below.
  • ​Next to the domain name, click on the blue Email Verification Required.
  • In the pop-up window, enter an email address that exists on the domain you're trying to verify - this can be any address you have access to and that can receive email.
  • Click on Send Verification Request.
  • As with verifying an email address, an email will be sent to the address entered.
  • Clicking the link in the email while logged in to SmartSurvey will complete this step.
  • The status of the domain name will change to a green tick and black font.

SPF Settings

SPF (Sender Policy Framework) is a simple system to communicate to email servers that a server has permission to send email on behalf of a specified domain.

  1. Click SPF Settings Required in Status under Email Verification Required
  2. The pop-up box that appears will show you the current state of the appropriate TXT record, along with what to change it to. If you are familiar with SPF you can make the changes shown yourself or, if not, pass the instructions to your IT department. Keep the DNS TTL value short initially so that any mistakes won't be cached for a long period. After it is verified, you can increase the TTL to, say, 1 hour.
  3. When the record has been added, click the green Verify SPF. This will look at your domain records to see if the new value has been added, and if it has been, should come back as verified

You must add the entire spf record and not the individual IP addresses and currently, this must be added to the root SPF record, not a sub-record

The SPF system limits the number of DNS lookups for spf records to 10. This means if you are using the same email domain in many email providers and some of these records point to other records, the number of spf lookups might exceed 10 which can cause spf checks to fail (the emails will still be sent). You can use https://www.dmarcanalyzer.com/spf/checker/ to see whether your spf record is valid.

If this is a problem, we recommend you choosing another domain to send your smartsurvey emails from e.g. surveys.example.com

DKIM Settings.

DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) serves a similar function to SPF, but is a bit more complex, using an encryption key. It is activated in the same way, by adding a TXT record to the domain.

  1. Under SPF Settings Required, click DKIM Settings Required
  2. You will be shown the instructions on what needs to be added to your domain as a TXT record. Carry out the instructions yourself or pass them to your IT department. Keep the DNS TTL value short initially so that any mistakes won't be cached for a long period. After it is verified, you can increase the TTL to, say, 1 hour.
  3. Once the changes have been made, clicking the green Verify DKIM will again check your domain records, and if it finds the correct value, this will complete the step

DNS records are limited to 255 characters, and most DKIM keys are now longer than this. Your DNS hosting provider might automatically split any records over this length into multiple DNS records, which is perfectly valid. If your hosting provider does not do this and shows you an error due to the size of the DKIM record, please use the DNS Record Splitter tool linked below, paste in your DKIM key and it will split the record into two smaller parts. Each part can then be added as a separate TXT record in your DNS settings (with the same domain name). If this doesn't work, please contact your DNS hosting provider for support.

In AWS, you can paste the separate parts, quoted and separated by a space (not a new line like it says!) into the same text box and this will be treated as a single record.

Link to DNS Record Splitter

Important: Because changes to domain records need to propagate across the internet, it may take from a few minutes to as long as 24 hours after making the TXT record changes for Verify SPF and Verify DKIM steps to come back with a positive result, even if everything’s been set up correctly. In the event of a failed attempt, get the values checked, and if they’re correct, try again in a few hours

Once the domain is verified, all email addresses for that domain will be verified as well and you won’t need to enter individual addresses for verification. Now you’re set up, why not check out our guides to using the email tool?

Choosing a Sending Domain

It is likely that you will want to choose a domain that matches one of your existing company domains but there are two things you should consider.

Firstly, you will need access to the DNS settings for the domain you want to choose in order to verify that you own the domain and are permitted to use it for your surveys. If some domains/DNS entries are harder to access than others (perhaps through another remote IT team) then you might prefer to either create a new domain/sub-domain just for your surveys or choose one that you can access easily.

Secondly, if you are also setting up Email Sending Domains, you cannot use the same domain for your survey link (custom domain) and your email sending domain. The reason for this restriction is that Email Sending Domains uses a TXT DNS record to route failed emails back to SmartSurvey so that failures can be tracked (this record would also exist if you used your own email server). Custom domains for the survey link, on the other hand, uses a CNAME which points the browser to a different IP address hosted by SmartSurvey. CNAME is not allowed at the same host name as A, TXT, or MX records since a CNAME is like "see another domain", which would conflict with A, TXT and MX records. e.g. info@surveys.example.com and https://surveys.example.com/mysurvey would not be possible whereas surveys@example.com and https://surveys.example.com/mysurvey would be possible.

To get around this restriction, it is common to use a single custom sub-domain for the surveys like surveys.example.com and then to have individual email addresses at the base domain (or another sub domain) for each survey like mysurvey1@example.com and mysurvey2@example.com. If you cannot easily add these mailboxes at your base domain, you can, of course, use your own sub-domain for emails also like mysurvey@surveyfeedback.example.com or mysurvey@polls.example.com

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