DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) and SPF (Sender Policy Framework) are email authentication protocols used to enhance email deliverability and mitigate spam. DKIM involves adding a digital signature to outgoing emails, linking them to the sending domain, which recipients' email servers can verify for authenticity. SPF, on the other hand, specifies authorized sending servers for a domain by publishing DNS records, helping receivers verify whether an incoming email comes from an approved source. Both DKIM and SPF contribute to reducing email fraud, phishing, and spoofing by ensuring that incoming emails are from legitimate senders and have not been tampered with during transit.

How do DKIM and SPF work?

Now, you might be asking, "What's the deal with DKIM and SPF?" They're like email security's dynamic duo. While DKIM certifies an email's content integrity, Sender Policy Framework (SPF) validates if the email was sent from a server authorized by the domain's owners. In essence, DKIM checks the "what", while SPF checks the "where" of an email.

What is DKIM?

DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) is an email authentication method designed to combat email spoofing. It allows the receiving mail server to check if the email was actually sent by the domain it claims to be sent from and verifies that the content of the email wasn't tampered with during transmission.

Here's how it works: When an email is sent, the sending server generates a unique DKIM signature for that email in the header. This signature is a string of characters, created using a private key known only to the sending server.

On the receiving side, the server uses the public key - published in the sender's DNS records - to decode the DKIM signature and verify the email's authenticity. This process confirms that the email did indeed come from the domain it claims to have come from and that the contents of the email have not been altered during transit.

By providing a mechanism for validating an email's origin and integrity, DKIM helps to build trust in email communication and is a critical tool in the fight against phishing and email spam.

Just like SPF (Sender Policy Framework), DKIM is an important component of a comprehensive email security strategy and is often used together with SPF and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance) for maximum email security and deliverability.

What is SPF?

Sender Policy Framework (SPF) is an email authentication protocol that helps combat spam and phishing attempts. It verifies that the email message is being sent from an IP address that is authorized by the owner of the domain found in the "envelope from" or "return-path" field, which is usually invisible to the end-user.

In more layman's terms, SPF is like a bouncer for a domain's email system. When an email shows up, SPF checks if it came from a server that's on the domain owner's approved list. If it is, then the email gets the green light to head into the recipient's inbox. If it isn't, the email gets turned away.

The goal of SPF is to help prevent malicious individuals or programs from sending emails that appear to come from your domain, a practice known as email spoofing. This can help protect your domain's reputation from spammers or phishers trying to use it for their nefarious purposes.

To implement SPF, you create a TXT record in your domain's DNS settings. This record contains the IP addresses of all servers that are authorized to send email for your domain. Whenever an email claiming to be from your domain arrives at a server, that server can look at the SPF record to see if the IP address is authorized.

Just remember that while SPF is an important tool in email security, it's not a one-stop solution. It's most effective when used in combination with other authentication protocols like DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance).

How to generate DKIM keys

Generating DKIM keys involves a few steps and can be accomplished using a DKIM key generator tool or directly from the command line if you're comfortable with that.

Here's a simple step-by-step process:

Note: The steps might slightly vary depending on your hosting provider or the software you're using to generate and implement the keys.

Step 1: Choose a DKIM key generator: There are several online tools that generate DKIM keys, or you can use a command line tool like OpenSSL.

Step 2: Generate the keys: Input your domain and select a selector name. This is a specific term you choose to help differentiate between multiple DKIM keys on a single domain. Once you input this data, the tool will create a private key and a public key pair.

Step 3: Secure the private key: The private key should be secured on your mail server. It will be used to sign each outgoing email from your domain.

Step 4: Add the public key to your DNS records: The public key should be added to your domain's DNS records as a TXT record. The DNS record will look something like this:

Here "selector" is the name you've chosen, "_domainkey" is a fixed part of every DKIM record, and "" is your actual domain name.

The corresponding value will look something like this:

v=DKIM1; k=rsa; p=MIGfMA0GCS...

Here, "v=DKIM1" defines the DKIM version, "k=rsa" defines the key type, and "p=MIGf..." is the actual public key.

Step 5: Verify the DKIM record: After setting up the DKIM keys, you should validate that they're functioning correctly. There are several online tools that can help you with this by checking your DKIM DNS records.

And there you go, your DKIM keys are generated and ready to use! Always remember to keep your private key confidential. If it gets into the wrong hands, they could send emails pretending to be from your domain.

The DKIM key in DNS is basically the public key we mentioned earlier. It's stored as a DKIM record in your DNS entries and is used by receiving servers to validate your email's DKIM signature. Remember, it's the key to ensuring your email gets the thumbs-up for authenticity.

So there you have it! The 411 on DKIM. Email security may seem complex, but once you understand the players like DKIM, SPF, and DMARC, it all starts to click into place.

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