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What Agencies Need to Know about Deliverability & Cold Email Warm-up

The cold email approach is a fantastic way to reach people where they spend the majority of their workday: their inbox.

Even the best cold email in the world will not work if it does not reach the inbox. To get your cold clients' emails delivered, you need to ensure that all preparation work has been done before writing the email. Deliverability is crucial, and you should consider it before writing the email.

It is not a complicated process. By following a few simple steps, agencies can dramatically reduce the likelihood that their clients' emails will be marked as spam. 

You can use this guide to get your clients' domains and email accounts set up correctly and improve the chances they'll end up in their prospects' inboxes.

Set up Burner Domains

Before you begin a cold email campaign, you should register multiple burner domains. If something is wrong with your client's primary domain, the burner domain protects the primary domain.

Let's say your agency works with ABC Inc. ABC.com's owners want to launch a cold email outreach campaign, and this domain looks similar to their primary domain.

It may be possible to send those emails from ABC.com, but if anything goes wrong and the domain is blacklisted, all emails from that domain would be affected. That includes all those essential transactional emails and any other business messages. Thus, your client's sales team could not follow up on leads, their support team could not help existing customers, etc. 

You can avoid this by sending cold emails from a different domain. For ABC Inc, for example, you might use ABC.co, ABC.io, or GetABC.com. In the event of blacklisting or too many spam complaints, sending emails from these burner domains protects your primary domain, preventing interruption of your non-outreach activities. You can throw them away and change your domain if they get burned.

While this might seem like overkill, a fast-growing company can easily get into lots of trouble quickly. The sharp spike in activity can kill a domain before you know it, causing a lot of headaches if you oversee their outreach and several new reps start sending a lot of emails from a new domain.

These risks can be eliminated by setting up different burner domains.

Authenticate & Verify your domains

When you show up to a party without the right equipment, you won't last long: you won't have shoes, no shirt, no service. Authentication must be in place on your client's domains. More precisely, you need three authentication pieces: SPF, DKIM, and DMARC, which all sound very snappy. 

SPF stands for Sender Policy Framework, which verifies the IP address of the sender. If that sentence doesn't make any sense to you, just remember that it's easy to set up and makes your domain look less spammy. 

SPF setup guide for G Suite

SPF setup guide for Microsoft 365

DKIM stands for DomainKeys Identified Mail, which indicates that the email was sent by you, and not by someone pretending to be you. 

DKIM setup guide for G Suite

DKIM setup guide for Microsoft 365

The last system is DMARC, or Domain-Based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance, which protects against direct domain spoofing.

DMARC setup for G Suite

DMARC setup for Microsoft 365

Check your Domain Reputation

Your reputation is neither good nor bad if you use brand-new domains for your clients. 

It's important to make a good first impression to avoid being kicked out of the party before you even take a drink, like an unknown guest at a party. 

It's a good idea to keep to one email address when you start a new domain. While multiple new emails can contribute to your reputation, this is something we're working hard to avoid.

You should always check the reputation of an established domain if you are using it. If your domain is already blacklisted and unwelcome at every party in town, it's pointless to try to use it. Using a site like MX Toolbox, you can easily find out if anyone has blacklisted your domain. 

The process will vary between blacklists, but sometimes it's as simple as emailing and asking nicely. If you've somehow ended up blacklisted, you'll either have to start over with a new burner domain or try to get yourself delisted. 

It is possible, for instance, to remove yourself from the Spamhaus block list by visiting their Blocklist Removal Center. Look into the procedure for your site and hope they are being generous.

Setup Redirects and Automatic Forwarding

In order to manage your disposable domains, you should do a little housekeeping. 

Make sure your burner domains redirect to your client's primary domain first. If someone receives your email and goes to a nonexistent website, it doesn't look good. You can add a redirect to the main domain by logging into the hosting panel of your burner domain.

Similarly, set up automatic forwarding in your burner domain accounts, so that messages sent to them end up in your primary inbox, not a burner inbox you never check.

To enhance the chances of your emails being delivered, ensure that your burner domains are configured properly. Burner domains are merely a precaution.

Know your Limits

Depending on your email provider, you can send a certain number of emails per day. G Suite, for instance, limits users to 2,000 messages per day. A maximum of 30 messages per minute can be sent through Microsoft 365 to up to 10,000 recipients per day.

On the other hand, you don't need to start with 2,000 messages or 10,000 recipients on day one. Before sending any significant number of emails, you need to build a good reputation. 

When your email address has warmed up, you can consistently send more, but that doesn't mean you should send more. You won't be able to reply to messages if you're at the limit. Per domain and per email account, I keep it at 70 emails.

Additionally, regularly exceeding the limits is a red flag. An attempt to exceed those limits will bring unwanted attention to your account, as they are far beyond what a typical email user needs. 

The fact that you can send 2,000 emails doesn't mean you should.

Warm-up your Email Accounts

In order to get the right signals sent to the email hosts, you need to show them you're human, are a good person to spend time with, and are fun to hang out with. 

There are several important signals to look out for, including volume. You should warm up your accounts, gradually increasing the number of emails you send on behalf of your clients. Nothing screams spammer like sending 1,000 emails in one day from a brand-new account. It could take 12 weeks or more to start a cold email outreach campaign for a brand-new account, depending on the host. The exact time it takes to build a good reputation will vary from host to host, but the longer you can spend on it, the better. 

The easiest way to begin is to send out a few emails each day. I begin by sending out ten emails a day. As time goes on, you can gradually build your volume. After the first week, I send up to 20 emails a day. After the following week, I send 30, and so on until I send 70. 

With gradual increases and consistency, together with the right authentication and additional positive signals, you prove to email hosts you are not spamming.

Send Emails that Follow Best Practices

It is important to remember that not all emails are the same when warming up your email account. It is still important to send the right kind of warm-up emails that send the right signals, even though a warm-up campaign involves low numbers. Sending too many of the wrong kind of email can still result in trouble, regardless of the low numbers involved. 

There are some activities that send positive signals. If people open your email, that's good. If they reply to your email, that's even better. However, emails can also send negative signals. In the event your email does not reach its recipients, that's a bad sign. If they report it as spam, that's a bad sign. 

It is important to generate as many positive signals as possible while keeping as few negative signals as possible. You need to do this for all emails, but it is especially important when warming up your inbox. Sending too many negative signals too soon could result in your client's domain being shut down before you can make use of it effectively. 

Here's how to keep things positive. 

In order to get the best results, only send emails to valid addresses. Some bounces are inevitable, but too many will show you're sending emails to strangers. For best results, verify your email addresses before adding them to campaigns. 

You can increase your credibility by sending emails to folks you know. Ask them to respond. Starting a conversation adds credibility to your email account. 

The best way to engage with other businesses is to send them emails (but only if you're sure you'll get a positive response).

Sending emails with lots of people CCed/BCCed is a common spammer technique, so you should avoid it at all costs.

Do not forget to sign up for newsletters. It's not just about the emails you send. You're trying to demonstrate to email service providers that you're human, and every human I know has a long list of newsletters they're subscribed to.

The easiest way to get responses to your emails when your friends and family have grown tired of replying to your emails is to send emails that are worth responding to. Make your emails relevant. Show empathy. It's a great opportunity to research your prospects when you're only sending a few emails in the warm-up phase so you can send emails they'll want to read.

Our goal is to prove that we are cool people, not spammers. By keeping it plain and text-based, we can prove that we are not spammers. 

If you want people to unsubscribe from our client's amazing emails, include an unsubscribe link. This might sound counter-productive. If the recipient does not value the message for whatever reason, it's far better than marking the email spam to unsubscribe via a link.

Final Thoughts

You need a high email deliverability rate both to connect with your customers and to keep your domain reputation healthy at the same time. Fortunately, you can achieve both by planning ahead. 

It is important that you have a proper authentication setup, carefully warm up your email account, and gradually increase the number of emails you send while sending positive signals in order to build a strong reputation for your account which will serve as a strong foundation for cold email outreach for your client.

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