We get this question a lot: “how do I avoid domain blacklisting when cold emailing?”
This is a genuine question.
There are certain risks with cold emails. Especially if you don’t take precautions. And domain blacklisting is one (if not chief) of them.
I spoke with one business owner recently. He bought a list of contacts from somewhere. And immediately started “blasting” everyone on that list.
He said, “We’re getting a lot of bounces”.
Getting a ton of bounces is the fastest route to domain blacklisting.
First things first
First of all, I need to say this. The five steps here are not a shortcut to launching effective cold email campaigns.
But even if you write the best email copy, sometimes you’ll run into issues outside your control. Example:
- You’ll get bounces due to server issues or few bad emails (e.g., soft bounces. This possible when the recipient’s inbox is full)
- You’ll run into leads who flag your email as spam because they’re not interested. If more people flag you as spam, email filters will eventually and automatically send you emails to the spam.
This is why you don’t want to use your company’s domain when you’re scaling your cold email campaigns. Let’s say reaching out to thousands a month, for the long-term
How to Avoid Domain Blacklisting
Step #1: Buy a new domain
Let’s assume you have a domain for your business. You regularly send emails and receive emails. Nothing unusual. Maybe you send 15 to 100 emails a day.
And then suddenly you start sending between 300 and 1000 emails per week.
Here’s what happens: Your email servers will notice the unusual activity and may attribute it to a “spam” behavior.
This lowers your deliverability. If unchecked, your domain will get blacklisted which reduces you deliverability even further.
Here’s how to avoid getting domain blacklisting.
So let’s say, our domain is katallyze.io. For a lot of the outbound campaigns have we, we use katallyze.co. Get a domain name that is a slight and nuanced variation of what you already have.
You want your new domain to resemble your current domain as closely as possible. For example for katallyze.io, we could have also considered:
Step #2: Get business account on Google Apps
Go to Google, sign up your new domain on Google App. This step is really straightforward.
Most of the domain vendors like Godaddy or Namecheap have an easy setup for connecting and verifying Google apps. Check out more info here if you want more technical information.
As part of, this process, make sure to set your SPF & DKIM. These are two records you need to add to your email server configuration. It ensures that you don’t appear like a spammer to other email servers.
If you feel some of the technical stuff overwhelms you, contact your email provider and let them help you with this.
Step #3: Create new email addresses
Once you verify your domain, sign up for a new email address. I have two different email addresses on the email domain I use for this. Additional benefit: convenience of handling the replies.
It’s important that your new email addresses are very personal. If it’s impersonal and it really does not add a lot of value when it comes to credibility.
So you want to use a personal email, it could be you, your founder. It could be your salespeople. It could be whoever would be in charge of customer conversations.
Avoid email addresses like:
- And so on
For example, my two new emails have these two variations:
Step #4: “Warm up” new email accounts for 14 days
Every domain has an IP/domain reputation. And this reputation can only be earned over time, as you use the domain.
The reputation can be good, neutral, or bad. Once you register a new domain, it’s reputation is neutral and considered suspicious by its host.
That’s why the last thing you ever want to do is to start sending hundreds of emails immediately after you register a new domain and email.
Once you begin sending tons of emails automatically from an address on a new domain, you confirm your host’s suspicions that you may be a spammer. This signal can get you blocked immediately.
Enter “warming up”.
Warming up means sending very small batches of emails. You do this manually, on your new domain and email, to build its reputation.
The time it takes to earn this trust and reputation varies from host to host. But more time is better.
According to Apache SpamAssassin, any message from domains lesser than 14 days is considered suspicious. Apache is the #1 Open Source anti-spam platform used by many hosts.
Here are some things you can consider doing within that period to earn the trust:
- Send at least 5 emails manually to your team or friends at different times of the day
- Ask them to reply to these emails
- If possible reply back to them
What you would want to do in the beginning is to send small batches of emails to your teams. To your families. To people you know and most importantly get replies back.
This is an important step when you want to avoid domain blacklisting.
Step #5: Integrate new email into sending platform
Once you’ve warmed up your new email and domain for at least 14 days, you’ll be ready to send your cold emails to a list of leads.
To have an effective prospecting system, you should send your cold emails manually.
Here’s a general rule of thumb: if your list is more than 10 contacts, it is worth investing in a sales email platform.
Assume you have to follow up on one contact four times, at different times. Your cold email prospecting system will become tedious.
And you will eventually begin dropping some important balls and become overwhelmed. That’s why you need a sending platform dedicated to sending cold emails.
There are several of them out there, but here are the main qualities you should be looking for a sending platform:
- Send your native email client
- Send emails automatically, with chosen time intervals between each email
- Have mail merge or “snippets” functionality to personalize emails at scale (sequencing)
- Send follow up automatically at chosen time, based on whether recipient replies
- Track replies and provide reports
- Mark responses and remove from campaign automatically
Here are some of the tools I’ve used in the past:
If you google “outbound sales email software” or “cold email software”, you will find several alternatives.
Bonus Step #6: Start sending in small batches
Once you’ve warmed up the account and integrated your new box with a sending platform, you can actually start cold emails to your leads.
But not too many, so fast.
Send in small batches initially. And increase the quantity over time. Let’s assume you have 100 leads to contact.
- Week 1: Send 5 per day (25)
- Week 2: Send 7 per day (35)
- Week 3: Send 10 per day (50)
If you’re using a sending platform, increase the number over time using the software.
Be really thoughtful about this process. This whole process might take you 14 days to warm up. And another 14 – 21 days to sending in small batches.
After that period, you can increase the volume to whatever you feel makes sense for you. Also, keep in mind the daily sending limit of your email client.
So there you have it. Give these steps a try and let me know how they work for you. You can always reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like us to set this up for you.
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