An Introduction to Email Warming
New sending identities result from many things—the creation of a new message stream, a new dedicated IP, a new email sending domain, a new ESP integration, a rebranding, a new sender, a platform migration, and so on.
The process by which you introduce and establish your new sending identity is a foundational topic in the world of deliverability. It goes by the name… 🥁: warming. But you may have heard of it as IP warming or domain warming.
Be it a brand-spankin’ new identity, subdomain, or IP, one thing is certain—warming is a necessity. If you skip warming and charge into mailing from a new IP with no restraint, you will likely end up jumping clear over the good sender line and flagged as a spammer.
So let’s get warming! The most effective warming process to introduce your new sending identity to your customers and the mailbox providers includes four main stages:
- Preparation: Before you start the IP warm up process
- Building the plan: Creating your IP warmup schedule
- Execution: Managing your plan & IP warming best practices
- Maintenance: Staying warm: Maintaining your IP reputation
IP warming is a big topic and one that we don’t want to gloss over. So we’ll break each of these stages out into their own article.
But, before we can jump into the stages of warming, we must first define warming.
What’s this “IP warming” thing & why do I need it?
Warming’s very definition is “to make ready.” It’s preparation. It’s the act of changing a status from nothing to something.
Email warming is the planned and paced introduction of a new sending identity, which establishes the baseline of a successful email program.
The warmup process senders and providers go through is an exercise in reputation building. The easiest way for me to describe this is to have you think about your first date. Even training your new pup has some applicable analogies.
In both, trust has to be established, good behaviors are rewarded, and consistency is key to creating the right expectations. As a new sender, you have not yet built any trust with the mailbox provider. The unknown and unpredictable keeps trust on shaky ground.
Mailbox providers take the approach “the best offense is a good defense” to heart, especially when dealing with mail from a new sender. Mailbox providers’ main priority is to protect their customers and infrastructure from abuse.
Warming is crucial in helping mailbox providers determine where new senders sit on the sending spectrum, stretching between abusive and legitimate senders.
How? Reputation, filtering, and delivery are based on algorithms and machines. What they see coming in has to meet some criteria that either screams “SHOW ME THE
MONEY INBOX” or provides enough information and history to be confident enough to allow the mail through.
Anything that mimics spammer behavior, like a new sender blasting emails out of nowhere, is a big warning sign that the mail should be blocked or bulked.
Now, back to that first date. Imagine your date orders the most expensive bottle of wine, the most expensive dinner and dessert. They eat, they drink and they leave—suddenly. You and your wallet are left feeling a little abused.
The likelihood of a second date is down to zero and to undo what they’ve done would take some significant effort.
A good courtship (warming plan) starts with conversation, builds to a coffee date, a walk, a drink, a movie, a late dinner—incremental gatherings that allow you to get to know each other.
Warming lays the foundation for the behaviors the mailbox providers will see moving forward. As the filters see the sending behavior, they learn and adapt and anticipate what’s coming next.
Think about dogs. They naturally learn their owner’s schedule and behaviors by watching and identifying behavioral patterns. They are at the door at 5 o’clock when you arrive.
They are staring at you with their nose in your face at 6 AM right before your alarm goes off. They know if they sit quietly when the deli drawer opens they get a piece of cheese (perhaps this is bad training from the owner, whom I will not disclose here).
Consistent behaviors allow the filters to define expectations they can use to identify future sends with good intentions. Those that don’t meet expectations are then flagged. As mentioned, the core is to protect their base, so if something changes dramatically, it’s often a sign of abuse, compromise, or bad behavior.
Configuration warming is the new IP warming
Warming through the first decade in the 2000s was most often associated exclusively with IPs. But as Yahoo and Gmail began focusing on domain reputation, warming began to take on a new dimension.
Today, warming focuses on configurations and how each new combination of settings needs to be introduced and warmed. Configurations can range from a new IP with a new domain, a new IP on an existing domain, or even a new DKIM signature.
The combination and how much history exists for each setting impacts the complexity and length of your warming plan. But it doesn’t change the fact that warming is needed.
“But it’s only a new subdomain. And I’m using an existing IP. So, I’m good, right?”
Nope. Warming is still needed.
If you are in a family with siblings, would you be able to say your sibling is as trustworthy or predictable as you? You have the same address and last name, so you should be able to, right? No. Even twins don’t produce the same result.
“I’ve been maling to Gmail for a while and it looks great. Do I need to warm the rest of the audience or is my IP already warm?”
Yes. You still have to warm the rest of your audience. Your IP is only warm at Gmail, and Gmail alone. What happens at Gmail, stays at Gmail. Even if you have stellar reputation with them, it bears no significance with others.
Reputation is built directly with each provider and that reputation is the only one that matters to them.
Warming takes time, persistence, and planning. Warming also requires a strong list of consented emails. All of which is an investment (time or money). This is antithetical to spammers.
Spammers are there to send as much as they can and as quickly and as unencumbered as possible. Spammers do not want to invest their time and money into warming. What is usually spewed from their systems is massive, unwanted, here and gone, with little, no, or poor reputation tied to their sending.
Warming helps the mailbox providers identify legitimate senders who want to be looked at, known, and have a history.
And that’s it! We’re in it now. Up next: What you need to know before you start the IP warm up process.
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.