The domain and IP warming process is fluid to meet the numerous situational needs: new sender setup, platform infrastructure, system limitations, and adapting to performance issues with the mailbox providers. This is why there are many different warming plans published, none of which are wrong.
Now, let’s roll up our sleeves and tackle building your domain and IP warming schedule and overall plan. We’ll also cover the questions you need to ask and considerations to keep in mind along the way. And since warming has many faces, we’ll provide a couple of warming plan examples.
The foundation of your plan should always start with opt-in, engaged customers or it will collapse, even if it is perfectly coordinated.
How To Determine Which Warming Plan Works For You
The best thing about well-formulated domain or IP warming plans is that you can revisit them. You can adjust them to account for what did and did not work. You can go back and retrace your steps if you find an issue along the way. This helps you identify issues, fix them, and then, if needed, go back a few days and start over.
When you are reviewing the different plans out there, including ours, ask the following questions:
1. What’s your comfort level?
Are you someone that likes to take things slowly and monitor closely? Are you new to warming? Are you new to email? Are you able to make changes quickly, or does each campaign require coordination with multiple teams? If so, a more conservative approach may be your path.
Or are you a risk-taker who can easily adapt to issues? If so, you may be comfortable and agile enough to run a more aggressive plan.
2. What is your warming timeline and how does that intersect with your comfort level?
If you are working with a tight timeline that has little wiggle room, you may have to consider an aggressive warming schedule. However, this may cause more problems and wind up adding additional time to the warm up process. The slow and steady route is always a better approach to warming.
3. Do you have the ability to ‘slice and dice’ your data?
If you can’t segment your email data, you may need a more generic warming plan that focuses on overall volume gradations over time. If you can segment your data, you are better suited to a custom built plan that focuses on volume growth by engagement and mailbox provider.
4. How many IPs are you using to send mail?
For high-volume senders: the more volume you have, the more IPs you have, so your plan may look similar for each IP assigned to your mailing stream, but overall you’ll be pushing more volume than a sender on a single IP.
There are many aspects to a sending configuration and they all need to be warmed. If those IPs all sit with one domain, your plan’s volumes may need to be adjusted down so you don’t overwhelm your domain with too much volume.
Here’s a refresher on warming sending configurations, if needed.
5. Are you sending mail to multiple regions?
Often we see warming plans focusing on the top global providers (Gmail, Microsoft, Yahoo/AOL) because they make up so much of a sender’s list. However, regional clients often get hurt by this approach.
Country-specific providers also need to be considered and, in some cases, need to be separated and given their own plan. As you review your list composition, keep this in mind.
If you cannot ‘slice and dice,’ make sure you don’t skip throttling your campaigns. You may even want to take a more conservative approach as well.
How To Build Your Domain & IP Warming Schedule
Building your plan doesn’t have to be a difficult project, just a thoughtful one. Once you have all of your prep work done and you’ve considered the type of plan you want, the next stage is putting it all together. Your plan will define your volumes, campaigns, campaign-level throttles, and targeting criteria.
As you build your plan, aim for consistent sends and growth with slow changes in throttling and volumes. A consistent presence allows algorithms to follow your behavior, the quality of your mail stream and the resulting customer response—all things that are watched and trained along the way. Without consistency, it’s harder for the algorithms to really get an imprint of who you are as a sender.
So let’s cover how you define each of these criteria and the considerations they need to sit on.
1. Build out volumes: slow and steady
How you build your volumes is determined by all of the questions you’ve asked to date. The most important thing is to start with low volume and each day you send you add in volume.
Conservative approach: if you base your plan on overall volumes, day 1 should start around 2,000 and build from there. Double volumes for the first couple of days and then reduce to 20-30% through the rest of the plan. Start with highly engaged customers and bring in lesser engaged customers along the way. As you move to the lesser engaged audience, you may need to reduce your volume growth to 10% depending on performance.
Use throttling to spread the volume across several hours, which we’ll cover in more detail below.
If you want, start with one of our templates below in the Warming Templates section and adjust them to fit your needs.
The warmup schedule templates are based on send days, which can follow any frequency. For example, some senders mail daily (7 days/week), some only a few times a week, and some once a week. Whatever the cadence, focus on the volume for each send that corresponds with the actual mail date.
As you can see, each send day increases in volume, so the plan continually grows. Depending on your campaign schedule, how often you can mail, who you target, etc. you may not want to grow for each send. Instead, you can introduce days where you repeat volume. The consistent volume gives you time to increase volume, have a gap in sending, or change segments and monitor how changes are received.
The template plans also assume a solid subscriber base with engagement in the last 6 months. When it is a good idea to expand your audience to less engaged is noted. As you go beyond the 6-month mark, engagement targeting and growth rates drop to 20%, then down to 10% near a year and beyond.
This reduction in growth when you get to the lesser engaged helps to keep you from tipping the ratio of engaged versus non- or less engaged too quickly.
A sudden change in list composition can alter the metrics and change the modeling being developed for your configurations.
As you move on to the next steps, coordinating volume with list composition and campaigns, the defined volumes may need to be adjusted down, and when you expand may happen sooner or later.
Provider and Regional Considerations
The plans provided assume a basic distribution of the top providers as seen in the US (Gmail 30%, Yahoo/AOL 30%, Microsoft 15%, Others 25%), which may or may not fit your needs.
If you have a significantly different distribution, the generic plan may need to be adjusted. For example, if you are 60% Gmail, you’ll want to pull back on volume or, at a minimum, follow the conservative route.
The ability to break your volumes down by provider and region allows you to further segment your warming plan to provide daily volume caps for each provider or region.
You can then adjust by provider if an issue occurs or push those performing well ahead. Microsoft, for example, is notorious for being the slowpoke in recognizing a new sender and often needs to follow a slower plan than others.
There are a lot of benefits to having provider or region specific-plans, but they do add complexity to the execution of the plan.
As with the generic template, our domain template assumes engaged customers within the last 6 months.
2. Assign campaigns and launch dates
Now that your volumes are tentatively defined, slide over your campaign schedule and start assigning the campaigns to each day.
Sending daily will help push you through the warm up schedule as quickly as possible. If you cannot send daily, select a campaign large enough (that’s not time-sensitive) to knock off some warming days. If daily sending isn’t feasible, you can still split a campaign to go out on numerous days that are not consecutive.
As you warm, you are not only building to a goal volume, but you are also building a send pattern. If you aren’t a daily sender, but you are sending daily to keep warming going, start pulling back on the number of days you are mailing when your volume gets to a point where splitting a campaign becomes difficult.
Factor in customer expectations. The goal is not to hammer them with messages but to provide them with wanted and expected content. If you are changing up the days, monitor that closely to make sure their experience hasn’t changed too dramatically.
3. Define campaign-level throttles
If your sending platform supports campaign-level throttling, this is an easy add-on to your warming plan. ESPs often configure their Mail Transfer Agents (MTAs) to cap the number of connections they request when sending mail to each provider as well as how many messages, etc. Some ESPs can customize this for new senders to start slow. Some can’t.
One way to support what your provider is doing (or can’t do) is to add a campaign-level throttle. It’s an added layer that can really help steer how your first week or so of warming goes.
By limiting the amount of email pushing from your campaign per hour, you are naturally trickling mail to the receiver so they can review versus just slamming them with new volume.
The warming plans templates start with a 5-hour campaign throttle. Each day you send, you can shorten the throttle interval by decreasing the number of hours your campaign sends across.
Throttling not only helps your platform get the best performance out of warming, but it supports the initial growth in volume. Some mailbox providers publicly encourage throttling:
Yahoo is known to rate limit (restrict the amount of mail you can send to their subscribers during a given amount of time) as soon as they see a new sender—even for just a couple hundred emails. And when a provider says to slow down, you slow down.Without doing so, you end up building a queue and creating more bounce messages that build up to a potential block.
So in Yahoo’s case, employing as many layers of throttling as you can is a good idea.
Gmail looks at warming a little differently because they have such complex filtering abilities. You can often do more with Gmail if you’re a strong sender. Google’s bulk sender guidance recommends sending slowly over time versus one big delivery.
Another reason the warming plan templates use the campaign-level throttle is to accommodate this.
Domains outside of the United States are sensitive to volumes, so throttling to establish who you are as a sender is highly recommended. Orange, for example, will quickly put in a rate limiting so severe it will fail all mail if you try to send too much too quickly and with too many connections.
B2B and smaller providers or self-hosted domains have smaller infrastructures. Rate limiting for them helps to manage what their infrastructure can handle. Controlling your volume through throttling and retrying deferred mail helps to identify your mail as legitimate versus mail from a spammer spray attack.
4. Align list composition within campaigns against volumes
Take your campaign volumes and input them into your plan. You’ll quickly find where your engagement buckets end and where you’ll need to adjust.
The first 2 weeks should be mailed to the most engaged customers using a 0-30 day cap. Weeks 3-4 can expand to 0-60 days. Weeks 4-5 expands to 0-90. At 5 weeks and beyond, move to 180-day engagers and hold for a week or so.
For most senders, the majority of your engagement will fall in these groups. As you move past 180, you will slow the growth rate, but continue on growing it until you reach your goal.
Domain & IP Warming Schedules
The following warming templates are based on overall volume and mailbox provider volumes. Use these templates as a guide to help you create your own IP warming schedule. Your schedules may change as you increase sending volumes, how well your warming is progressing and timelines.
By Overall Volume
By Major Mailbox Provider
Hopefully, you better understand why IP warming schedules are so fluid. When you approach warming and IPs and domains, do what you can. Don’t worry if you can’t meet those volumes exactly.
Variations won’t mess up your warming process. Big volume spikes or mailing to a poor-quality list will.
It’s important to stick with your list, but the ability to adjust will be one of your best strengths when you move to the third stage in domain and IP warming: execution. Now that you have a solid plan built you are ready to execute your plan.
Up next: Execution: Strategies for executing your warming plan, IP warming best practices, combatting the warming blues and your responsibilities while executing the warming plan.
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.