I bet you want your emails to get to your ideal prospects’ inboxes. To make sure they will, you need to take care of your deliverability. Among many factors that affect the deliverability, the reputation of your domain and your email server IP plays a tremendous role.
Do you know what actually affects the reputation? Do you know how to check the reputation, control it, or improve it? Read on to find some answers and helpful tools.
What’s the difference between domain reputation and email server IP reputation?
Ok, let’s start with the basics, some of which you may be already aware of. The domain you use for sending your emails, like woodpecker.co in [email protected]woodpecker.co, has its reputation. The reputation depends on many factors.
For instance, it depends how old the domain is. In fact, for the first 5 days after a new domain was registered, it is by default considered as suspicious. After all, reputation is something you can only earn over time. So it’s good to warm up all the emails on such a fresh domain by sending just a few emails per day during the first 4 weeks after the registration.
Another important factor affecting the reputation of a domain is how it’s been classified on the web (e.g. business and industry, education, finance, dating, or gambling).
See the full list of Cisco Web Usage Control Filtering Categories >>
We recommend to set up a separate domain for outbound to have better control over its reputation. You have to keep in mind, however, that a fresh domain needs about 1-2 months to earn a good reputation. That’s why you should warm up all the email addresses on the new domain before you start sending email campaigns regularly.
How to warm up an email on a new domain?
To warm up an email within a new domain, you send just a few emails a day. You should also receive some emails, so it’s good to respond to some of the messages you send.
Start really slow: around 10, then 20, then 30 emails a day sent by hand are enough. Start sending the campaigns no sooner than after a week of warm-up.
And don’t go from 30 emails/day straight to 500 emails/day. Email providers use filters that allow them to assess the volume of email going out from your mailbox. A radical increase in the sending volume is something that alarms their anti-spam filters.
In fact, your campaigns should never include thousands of prospects. Keep them smaller but more precise, customized, and personalized. Remember that your follow-ups are also sent from the same email address. That’s why up to 50 new emails a day is enough to keep your outreach going smoothly.
A good reputation of your domain increases the deliverability of your emails. That’s why it’s important to have it checked and fix all the issues that may weaken it before you start serious outreach. More about tools to control the reputation score of your domain, later in this post.
Server IP Reputation
Except for the domain reputation, there’s also the reputation of your email server IP. That depends very much on your email service provider.
If you send your messages using an email provided by Google, you will be assigned an IP from Google. If you use a mailbox created on your host server (you don’t use Google, but have an SMTP and IMAP configured on your server), you will get some IPs from the server host (e.g. GoDaddy).
Sometimes, the IPs you get from your email provider or from your service provider have already some reputation – good or poor. That’s why it’s crucial to check your email server IP before you start sending.
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How do I know what’s my email server IP?
Our Customer Success team at Woodpecker are using and recommending an awesome tool called Mail-Tester. It allows you to easily check, if your email may look spammy to other email servers. You can check up to three messages a day for free. Among many factors, the tool will also show you the server IP from which your email has been sent. Here’s how to use it.
- Go to mail-tester.com.
- Copy the email address they’ve generated for you.
- Send the email you want to test to this address. Make sure you don’t send just anything, but your actual email copy, because Mail-Tester checks the full content of your email, not only your email server settings.
- Once you’ve sent the email, go back to mail-tester.com. You should see the score of your email in seconds there.
Here’s what you’ll get, hopefully:
The number I’ve marked with the orange rectangle frame is your email server’s IP. The tool will also inform you, whether your SPF and DKIM (marked with circles) are properly set up or not, which is also crucial for your sender reputation and thus your deliverability. Moreover, it will show you some hints on improving the content of your message, notify you if you’ve been blacklisted, and if your message contains any broken links.
A little personal note here: Be careful with the links, I had three broken links in my signature (because I foolishly pasted a piece of HTML in my signature settings, and some parts of it were wrongly decoded by my email client. And I didn’t even check if the links were working or not!), and that costs -0.5 for EACH broken link in the spamminess assessment. So make sure to test out even the most obvious things that you would never suppose may cause any trouble.
A little technical note: If you’re sending from an email address set on Google, you are granted one of the IPs from their pool. So it may be the case that even though you’re sending from the same address, you may see a different IP in Mail-Tester each time you test a message there.
How to interpret the reputation score you get?
- Obviously, the closer you get to 10, the better. 10 should be the goal you pursue and fight for.
- 9-8 is a good score, but take all the hints Mail-Tester gives you into consideration to improve that.
- 7-6 is acceptable, but some strictest providers may block some of your emails.
- You should never go with 5 or below.
How to check your domain reputation & email reputation?
Once you discovered your IP, you can use another tool to check its reputation. It’s called Talos and it’s one of the tools provided by Cisco. This tool allows you to enter your email server IP or your domain to check the reputation of both.
Then, it will show you if the reputation of your domain or IP is assessed as Good/Neutral/Poor by other email service providers. This is crucial. You aim at Good, of course. Neutral should give you a sign that there’s something you can improve. Poor means that probably most of your emails won’t get to their destination.
How to improve your IP reputation?
If your IP reputation is poor, the most reliable solution would be to change it. You can do that by setting up a new email address and working on a good reputation of the new one (warm it up!). If the IP’s reputation is neutral, you can try to improve it by optimizing your sending workflow.
The first thing you can change is to make sure you don’t send too many emails in a short time. Try to make the flow more steady and fluent.
Which brings us to the next factor you can control in Talos: sending volume history. This should be stable, like in the graph below.
If your IP was used to send a huge number of emails at a short time, you’ll see some peaks on the graph. Such peaks look suspicious to email servers and they will negatively affect the reputation of your email server IP.
And finally, Talos will show you if you got to any blacklists.
If you’re listed somewhere, you should go there and check the unlisting process (what to do to get off the list). Sometimes you just need to prove you’re not a bot. And sometimes, they require to send them a message with an unlisting request.
How to improve your domain reputation?
First, you should pause all running campaigns and start investigating what affected your deliverability. It might have been a spammy email copy or too many bounced emails. Once you found out what the reason was you can start working on improving your domain reputation and make it good again.
The process starts at sending just a handful of emails to the contacts you know and ask them to reply to you and move your emails from SPAM folder to their main inbox. Continue exchanging emails until the reputation goes back to normal.
Here’s the process explained in more details: A Step-by-Step Guide to Regain a Good Domain Reputation >>
What’s in it for you?
If you’re taking your outreach seriously, the domain and email server IP reputation are crucial security factors to take care of. If you neglect that, you will meet more and more difficulties. Your email account might get blocked and your domain may get blacklisted. If that happens, even the best emails won’t get to your prospects’ inboxes.
It’s important to keep in mind that your sender reputation is something you can control. Remember those two tools: Mail-Tester and Talos. Check them out, play with them. Have your domain and IP(s) checked as soon as possible.
It’s especially important if you’re automating your email campaigns with tools like Woodpecker. The IPs that initiate the sending process on our side are constantly monitored for impeccable reputation. But as you directly integrate your SMTP (sending email server) with Woodpecker, it’s above all the reputation of your domain and IP(s) that affects deliverability of your cold email campaigns.
It’s like you were sending the emails by hand. So if you’re trying to send too many, too quickly – that looks unnatural and may negatively affect your reputation after the email provider systems note such anomaly. That is also why we recommend sending emails to no more than 50 new prospects a day.
Automation can give you real power. But it’s crucial that you use the power wisely and consciously.
For more information about deliverability, you can check:
- Deliverability section on the Return Path blog >>
- The Ultimate Guide to Email Deliverability by Return Path >>
- Answers to 8 Frequently Asked Email Deliverability Questions >>