Last week I attended the Email Sender & Provider Coalition’s (ESPC) Semi-Annual Meeting in Palo Alto, California. The ESPC is a group that works towards solutions to spam and deliverability concerns. The 2016 Semi-Annual Meeting featured an agenda jam-packed with information about security, privacy, and deliverability.
As a deliverability specialist, I was most excited about the receiver relations panel, which featured an insightful discussion between representatives from Comcast, AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo!, and Gmail. There was a ton of excellent information discussed during the session, with one of the main topics being warming up new IPs and domains. Through my daily work with Oracle Marketing Cloud clients, I know that this area of deliverability tends to produce a lot of questions, so I’d like to share some best practices here to hopefully de-mystify the process for marketers.
When beginning to mail off of a new IP or a new domain, senders need to keep in mind that they’re in the company of many spammers. In fact, the AOL representative noted that 99% of new IPs are being utilized by spammers. That’s a ton of spam that ISPs need to contend with, so naturally they are going to look at new IPs and domains with a ton of scrutiny. Legitimate marketers can best help themselves by not following the same practices that the spammers do. Putting your best (and least spammy) foot forward by sending low volumes to your most active and engaged audience will show the ISPs that your recipients want to receive your email and that you should be rewarded with inbox placement.
Once you have sent out your first few mailings to a small, select audience and have seen positive deliverability results, you can slowly increase your volume and expand your audience. If you see any signs that the reputation of your new IP and/or domain is bad, then you should not move forward with increasing your volume and audience engagement selection criteria. Signs of this could include high hard bounce rates (more than 2%) at any single ISP, high soft bounce rates (more than 3%), high spam complaints (above 0.1-0.2%, depending upon the ISP), or low open rates (below 10%). Some ISPs, like Gmail, Microsoft, and AOL, also offer their own postmaster tools which give valuable insight into how they are viewing IP and domain reputation. If a poor reputation is seen while monitoring these tools, you should not move forward with increasing volumes.
If all metrics are positive, then slowly increasing volume and audience engagement selection criteria is the key. ISPs will view any sudden spikes in volume, especially during an IP and/or domain warm-up, as suspicious, spammy behavior. If deliverability issues do begin to be seen at an ISP after you have jumped to a higher volume, then the panel participants recommend ramping down to previous volume levels and staying there until improvement is achieved and sustained over a number of days.
Don’t let these initial small volumes scare you – ISPs are not concerned with senders who mail from multiple platforms at once, as long as good practices are being maintained across platforms. It’s important to remember that ISPs are sophisticated enough to associate your reputation at a brand level no matter how many platforms you use to send email, but with good practices, you won’t be stuck mailing to just your very best audience when migrating to a new IP or domain. The same customer should not be mailed to from both your new and old platforms concurrently, but as long as there is no overlap and good practices are being followed, this practice is not seen negatively by ISPs.
Additional IP and domain warm-up guidance may be found in the Global Deliverability group library, specifically within these 2 articles: