Don’t Lose Your Domain & IP Reputation: How to Stay Warm After Warming
After going through this series with us, we hope you understand the IP warming process a little better.
The final and ongoing step is maintaining your domain and IP reputation.
Reputation Maintenance Post Domain & IP warming
Now that you’ve spent all that time and effort into warming up a new sending identity with a shiny new reputation, you mustn’t get distracted from the diligence needed to retain that pristine sending reputation—especially around the holiday season.
Trust is not indefinite. It needs to be reaffirmed every day. When you know changes are coming, as with warming, you need to ease into them. This allows you to reestablish a new pattern of sending behavior. Again, the intent is to ensure your program does not mimic what spammers are doing.
Most senders think of this stage as planning for volume changes, but this concept includes so much more than volume alone. If there are spikes on any level, it could raise alarms. Test any changes to cadence, content, etc., ease into them to establish new baselines and identify issues. Slow changes will help flush out some of the outlier metrics (i.e. managing the influx of complaints).
7 ways to stay warm, so you don’t get cold
Maintaining your reputation and staying warm doesn’t mean your program can’t evolve. It means the trust you have developed must remain intact with both the mailbox providers and, more importantly, your email recipients.
In short, when you send wanted and relevant content, reputation maintenance becomes second nature. However, here are 7 recommendations you can use to ensure your program is all buttoned up post warming.
Audit your data flows and campaigns.
Keeping a pulse on what is coming in and going out is the first step in jumping on issues that may arise, especially unexpected ones.
Email list hygiene should always be number one. Clean (consented) data is the foundation of both warming and ongoing reputation management.
Carefully monitor email collection practices, email list sources and performance. Real-time email verification integrated into your online forms is a great way to ensure you capture valid email data from the start. A bad list source could get introduced and quickly degrade your program into one that needs to undergo a weeks-long reconstruction exercise.
As your program matures, adjusting to blips is not always necessary as many factors can influence small swings. But swings lasting over a few sends are more indicative of a problem that needs to be looked into and addressed.
Ramp up for changes.
Slowly introduce anything new (the theme of this series), be it new subdomains or volumes. We’ve already discussed adding domains. Volume changes—especially around holidays or big events—should be planned out and go through a gradual ramp up period, much like a mini warming plan.
Depending on your list composition, your ramp up plan could increase volumes by 50% and up to 100% for each send. When ramping up a less engaged or old list, the cadence and volume increases should be more conservative (perhaps 10%), so you can manage complaints and determine how lower-quality audiences impact your overall metrics in the eyes of the mailbox provider.
Some warming plans are built to get a sender through to their engaged population within, for example, a year. If that is the case, further planning is needed to discuss how to handle less engaged lists. If you didn’t plan for the less engaged in your warming plan, add a second warming plan to introduce your less engaged. Do this slowly, watch, measure, react. If there are concerns, stop, let it settle, or reverse if the issues are severe.
New IPs do not have the sending history of aged and mature ones. What you were doing on a set of IPs being used for years may not be achievable (at first) on your new IPs.
Be sure to vet new lead sources before introducing them. Email addresses from new sources should be isolated so you can easily identify their impact. Once you have trust with your new source, you will have more confidence in incorporating it into your email program.
Allow time for your reputation to settle.
After any significant change (warming, ramp up/down) to your email program takes time to establish a baseline. Maintain new activities for at least a month—the longer the better—before introducing another round of changes. Introducing changes in a paced manner will help you avoid big swings which can negatively impact your reputation.
Constant changes without establishing consistent sending behaviors makes it hard for the mailbox filters to properly identify you as a good sender.
Nurture relationships through the customer lifecycle
Once your program is warmed, it doesn’t mean you can take off all restrictions and just blast away. As with any relationship or training, trust can be broken. This goes for both the mailbox provider and your email recipients.
Staying warm requires dedication and nurturing through the lifetime of your relationship with your customers. Loyalty programs are a great way to keep your relationship going strong.
Commit to following email best practices.
Best practices never get old. As we continue to move into the age of privacy, best practices will remain, but there may be new ways to target and measure how well you are doing. In-house data about your customers (collected through your website, surveys, preference pages, purchase activity, and more) will likely be your best tool to accomplish targeting engaged customers without the use of opens.
Consider dynamic programs that not only customize the email experience with content, but with cadence as well.
Re-engagement and re-permission campaigns help flush out those becoming disinterested and reactivate subscribers on the verge of disengaging. These campaigns reduce the number of negative metrics seen by the mailbox providers (complaints, no action, leaving in spam folder, etc.). However, since recouping lost customers is not a tactic that often yields a high return, preventing loss by being relevant does.
Preference centers can be used to better understand how your customer wants to interact with you. And it doesn’t have to be complex. Something as simple as offering a different cadence can be useful for those that want your mail, but aren’t looking to interact daily. The result is a better experience for your customer and a better view of engagement for the mailbox provider.
Stay up-to-date on email technologies.
Some senders like to pilot new email technologies, but not all technologies are lasting. At a minimum, stay abreast of the recommendations around authentication protocols. For example, how often should your DKIM key be rotated and what level of encryption is now the minimum best practice?
DMARC is no longer new, but hasn’t been widely adopted. If there are hesitations, review those with your deliverability team to flush out what concerns can be addressed and which ones have limitations.
Email is evolving in many ways. Protection mechanisms will continually be on the horizon as abuse will forever be a fighting battle. Mailbox providers are continually looking for ways to give their users the best experience possible. Beyond authentication, one avenue to explore is—are there new technologies that can help amplify the customer experience, better serving your email program?
- Gmail supports actions in the subject line and email annotations that give selected promotional mail additional visual queues (promotional image, coupon codes, etc.).
- Yahoo supports schema markup to highlight your message content within their application. AMP for email is still on the rise. It offers customers a better experience interacting with brands and generates better ROI.
- Microsoft uses business profiles and actionable cards to better the customer experience and create a more dynamic experience.
- And BIMI is a great tool to generate more brand impressions and enhance the inbox experience by adding your logo to the avatar.
Monitor your email sending domains and IP reputation.
Keep on top of your sender reputation to address issues when they occur. The longer a deliverability issue sits, the harder it is to resolve it. There are many moving parts to an email program so it’s important to maintain a holistic view.
Warming Series Wrap Up
Warming is a song and dance between mailbox providers and senders. When done right, you both step and move together. The result can be very fulfilling. In this series, we’ve covered:
- What is domain and IP warming? It’s the ‘getting to know you’ period for senders to introduce themselves to the mailbox providers.
- How to best prepare before you start the warming process from asking the right questions about setup and getting the right teams around.
- How to build your domain and IP warming schedule based on available data and platform capabilities.
- Executing your plan and IP warming best practices and what you can do.
- Maintaining your sender reputation post domain and IP warming.
One thing is for certain, warming is a lot of work, but it’s worth it.
There are services out there that tout helping you warm faster. Be wary of any promise to quickly fix an issue, get you warmed, or help you mail to a risky audience.
The filtering dynamics and intelligence are smart enough to pick up on the techniques by these services. While they may ‘help’ for a short time, it’s not often long-lived. Ultimately, your sending behavior will catch up and dictate your ultimate reputation.
If there are any concerns about timing, instead of using services that cut corners or do not follow best practices, talk to your email provider or a deliverability consultant. They can help you move through warming faster using shared IP pools, double DKIM-signing, separating streams, and more.
Experience will teach you that warming is not just about THE PLAN, but the preparation, the setup, the execution, responsiveness to mailbox providers, and maintenance post warming that work together to build your sending reputation.
Need help with domain and IP warming or creating an email warming schedule? Kickbox has deliverability experts to help you craft the perfect warming plan for your new IP or sending identity. Contact our Consulting Services Team.