Sending emails in bulk is like heavy lifting: Not something you pull off instantly. Before you’re able to lift heavy loads, you start with the small stuff. You exercise with light dumbbells, gradually increasing the weight, you train every muscle of your body to make sure you won’t lose your footing, you learn how to control your spine. You can see why it’s important when you see a wannabe lifter painfully arching his back as he is trying to deadlift. Your basic human instinct tells you that something is wrong and that there is a hospital in that person’s nearest future.
Sadly, email marketing is less obvious, and sometimes you can’t feel the first pains or side effects. The visible signs manifest when it’s too late for small troubleshooting and minor adjustments. For example, if you start sending a large volume of emails without any previous preparation, you may feel that nothing is wrong and you’re doing great…that is until you start seeing your bounce rate grow and your open rate drop. When you see these changes, it means that a good chunk of your emails has been landing in spam folders for several weeks, if not months. To continue our weightlifting comparison, your newly-made domain or mailbox was unable to handle the weight of the internet service providers scrutinizing its every action. If it had just enough time to get ready, to build up momentum in a natural way, it would have stood strong and ready.
This is why you need domain warm-up and in this post, we will tell you how to get your domain and mailbox ready for massive outreach activities, walking you through every possible scenario. Sounds cool? Then dive in!
What is a warm-up process?
Basically, when we say, “You need to warm up your domain and IP address,” we mean that you need to create a good reputation for your domain and IP address. This is something that must happen naturally. You can't buy a reputation or positive opinion, you must work for it. Of course, it’s a slow process, even monotonous, but if you want your emails delivered, not sent to a virtual bin, you can’t do without it.
Usually, a warm-up process means building either domain reputation or IP address reputation or both of them. People often get confused about it.
“Why would I need to warm up my email address when I have an established domain? This makes no sense!”
Indeed, it feels unfair that after spending so much time on building domain reputation, you still have to do more warm-up just because you added a new mailbox. But let’s discuss several scenarios to see why it’s important to embrace the tediousness and monotony.
Starting with a new domain and IP
So, let’s begin with the most basic things. You're getting started with your outreach, and you got yourself a fresh domain and a dedicated IP address. Both of them are going to be monitored closely by all internet service providers you interact with once you start sending emails. It’s the most vulnerable and fragile phase, so you must be cautious and observant. So, how do you start a domain warm-up?
- Set your limits. Outline a certain number of emails you can send on a daily basis. It can be from 5 to 10 messages a day. Use only warm email addresses, i.e., you can send messages to your long-term loyal customers or colleagues who will certainly interact with them and know that those emails are from you.
- Make a schedule. Select a time slot for sending emails. At the beginning of your warm-up, you’ll be sending emails every day to make sure that internet service providers acknowledge that your new IP is an active one.
- Send and monitor. Continue sending a limited number of emails to trusted recipients for two weeks. Then run a mailbox audit. If you see a good delivery rate, open rate, and low bounces, you’re doing great, and now you can increase your sending volume a bit. Let’s say, if you began with 5 emails, you can now start sending 10 emails.
There are many solutions that help you automate this process and manage it with a couple of clicks, so you don’t have to do all of that manually. However, for better data gathering and more accurate stats on your performance, it’s recommended to reach out to professional email marketing engineers who would monitor this process for you.
Should you warm up a new IP if you have an established domain?
So, imagine this: You’re actively developing your email marketing. Things are going so well that you decided to add another dedicated IP to increase your capacity for campaigns and emails. It shouldn’t be a problem for you, right? Your domain name is well-known at this point, and it’s familiar with handling large volumes of traffic.
Indeed, your domain is familiar with the traffic. But your new IP isn’t. It hasn’t participated in email marketing yet, it doesn’t have a solid reputation, so internet service providers won’t let it off easily if something goes wrong. For all they know, somebody could have hacked your domain, created this new IP address and started sending tons of messages while using your good name to hide their tracks.
A timely warm-up will help you avoid misunderstandings like this.
Should you warm up a domain if you have an established IP?
Now, let’s say you want to make your email marketing more segmented, so you created a new domain for sending marketing content to your subscribers or managing transaction emails. You’re confident about your dedicated IP. It has a solid reputation, so you’re good to go!
Yes, but no. Maybe you will see the first red flags a little bit later, but they will still emerge. Your IP reputation adds a lot to your sender reputation, but it is also very sensitive to the slightest changes in your behavior. Creating a new domain and sending around 200 emails from it in the very first day would make a very negative impact on your dedicated IP reputation, so it won’t save you from internet service providers and blacklists. So, you must juice your new domain up instead of letting your established IP do all the heavy lifting.
General domain warm-up recommendations
- No cheating! The reason why we recommend sending emails on a daily basis is that if you skip a couple of days and then go back to sending, you will have to continue sending your daily limit for two days more before you can increase the volume. Internet service providers are quite sensitive to any changes in sender behavior, so don’t give them a reason to add you to the suspects’ list.
- Remember about the list hygiene. Before you start your warm-up process, you must put together a list of email addresses. Make sure to do it by hand, verifying and validating each contact. It will let you rest assured that your messages get opened and interacted with. It also helps to inform your recipients about incoming emails from new domain/IP addresses and ask them to engage with those emails.
- Meet every requirement. Some email service providers have very specific opinions about how an incoming email should look like. For example, Outlook doesn’t download all HTML elements of an incoming email, and it often alerts spam filters about a potential security threat. Therefore, you should be aware of picky email providers and create a separate set of templates that won’t cause any trouble. Also, remember that some mailbox providers need more time before they start acknowledging you as a legitimate sender.
- Scan blacklists. Even if your sending list is super clean, we still suggest that you run regular mailbox audits and deliverability tests to check on your domain name, just to be safe. Sometimes, legitimate senders end up in blacklist databases, and the sooner they learn about it, the better it is for them. If you’re warming up a new IP with an established domain, this monitoring is particularly important — you have to be sure that your activity doesn’t harm your domain reputation.
- Don’t use purchased contact data. When you see that your domain and IP address are juiced up enough for reaching out to cold prospects (when your sending limit increases up to 800-1000 emails per day), the biggest mistake you can make is to mix your warm contacts with a purchased email database. Whenever you buy a list of emails, you have to know the state of email addresses you intend to send to. Are they still active? Haven’t they been turned into spam traps? Would the title using this address find your unique value proposition relevant? This is terra incognita, and there can be dragons. Don’t risk your reputation like that. Using hand-picked contact data verified by your sales representatives and marketing experts is the only way to accelerate your email marketing and take your outreach to a new level.
How to monitor email domain warm-up?
There are many ways to monitor the warm-up process and keep an eye on both negative and positive changes.
- Event logs. If your message fails to reach the recipients’ inboxes, you will receive an error notification. As a rule, email service providers offer special features that allow users to keep track of their message history. For example, Gmail has an Email Log Search that lets you view all messages sent and received by users in your domain.
- Reputation monitoring tools. Google Postmaster Tools provides a lot of utilities for monitoring your domain and IP reputation and let you know Google’s opinion about your email marketing activity. However, these tools are only helpful if you work with Gmail recipients only.
- Deliverability audits. Tools like Folderly let you peer deeply into the inner workings of email outreach and see how your domain and IP address fare against the challenges. A standard Folderly test looks up your domain name in blacklists, checks your template’s compatibility with the requirements of your chosen email service providers, informs you about the DNS record issues (if any) and sends you detailed reports with customized tips on improving your progress. It’s the next step in making domain warm-up and other email deliverability practices a lot more user-friendly.
Whether you’re starting from scratch and getting your domain ready for sending emails in bulk or found yourself in the loop of constant warm-ups due to adding new domains and IP addresses, remember — the result will be worth it. An email domain warm-up or an IP address warm-up contributes to the future of your email marketing, your visibility, and the impression you make with your recipients. So, no matter how tempting it feels to skip a couple of steps and start with sending a little bit more emails than on the previous days, resist this urge. Modern technology provides you with solutions for extra visibility, letting you know when you can get to the next stage of domain warm-up and start increasing the volume of messages. Feel free to use it and succeed with your plans.
If you want to know more about domain warmup, how about reading a detailed outbound marketing guide? It contains information about building a sending schedule, fine-tuning DNS records, crafting templates and much, much more.