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Saleshandy Cold Email Masterclass

LESSON - 3

Setting Up Your Email Deliverability For Successful Cold Emailing

Email deliverability is one of the most underrated and overlooked topics in the cold emailing world. Most people that have basic knowledge of cold emails, rarely understand the importance of email deliverability.

Here’s the thing, you could have the most killer subject line, impeccable email content with the world’s greatest sales pitch-but if your emails are not even reaching the inbox of your recipients then all of your efforts will, unfortunately, go in vain

Email deliverability refers to the ability of your email(s) to reach the inbox of your recipients as intended (and not be relegated to the spam/junk folder).

The tricky bit about cold emailing is that the risk of landing in the spam folder is far greater than marketing emails. Remember this, cold emails are indeed unsolicited and sent to people that don’t know you, so yes, the chances of them marking your emails as spam are pretty high (regardless of your offerings).

Not to mention, the stringent rules set by ESPs that we must follow to ensure deliverability are getting more complex by the minute. FYI, Nearly 85% of emails received by users are regarded as spam (yes that is a shocking percentage!)

And guess what? If someone marks your email as spam, that opens up a whole different can of worms. So take it from us, it is extremely necessary for cold emailing users to understand the inner workings of everything concerning email deliverability.

Since spam emails have become a recurring problem, Email Service Providers (ESPs) and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have introduced various mechanisms to help protect users from spammy content. If you know and understand email deliverability, then you don’t have to worry about your open, click-through, and conversion rates being affected.

Cold email deliverability is simple once you get the hang of it. Once you have a good understanding of the basics, the technical factors, and the best practices to follow, you can easily yield favorable results.

But why is email deliverability so important? Let’s understand why in the next section below.

The Importance of Email Deliverability

With the rise of spam emails and phishing attacks, ESPs are becoming stricter in what they allow into users’ inboxes. They have introduced smart spam filtering technologies to help tackle such issues. If you have good email deliverability this entails your emails are landing in the main inbox of recipients. 

When you create an email account and start using it you email co-workers and clients, and you automatically enjoy good deliverability

The problem arises when you launch a cold email campaign because naturally, your emailing behavior changes—and ESPs are quick to notice this drastic activity change (AKA the spam filtering technology will start paying extra attention to your domain). 

If you send 10 emails manually to your team on Wednesday, and then suddenly send out 100 emails all at once on Thursday, it won’t look right. The ESP systems will most probably assume you are indulging in spammy activities. 

The average email deliverability rate amongst most ESPs is measured at around 85.3%. The remainder of that percentage is emails that are either relegated to the spam folder or completely blocked by mailbox providers. 

Email deliverability is important because:

  1. Deliverability plays a huge role in seeing high returns on investment (ROI)💰
    Time and resources spent on setting up your domain, researching prospects, building prospect lists, writing email content, etc will all be a waste if you have bad deliverability.
  2. The competition in literally any industry is increasing rapidly. Now imagine this, if your emails aren’t even reaching recipients in the first place, not only do your competitors gain more visibility but your ROI tanks too.

    When you have good email deliverability you foster healthy prospect relationships helping you gain more conversions and stay ahead of your competitors. Remember this, reaching the intended recipient’s inbox is an important growth metric for your overall outreach campaign.

  3. ESPs are placing their focus on engagement metrics now more than ever. Engagement metrics such as opens, clicks, and replies all have the ability to influence your deliverability. Negative engagement metrics such as deletion of emails without opening, time spent reading, spam complaints, etc are also looked at by ESPs.

    If your emails receive more positive engagement metrics then ESPs will view your domain as credible and trustworthy granting you improved deliverability and sender reputation.

  4. Email deliverability allows you to track and understand user behavior in depth which can be used to your advantage. Using metrics such as open rates, link clicks, reply rates, engagement time, spam complaints, removing or moving an email to the spam/primary folder, etc, you can understand how recipients are interacting with your emails.

    Do they view it as spam? Is the content engaging enough? Without deliverability, you wouldn’t be able to access a lot of core metrics to understand user behavior. Use these metrics to your advantage to optimize your future outreach campaigns.

Let us look into a few important metrics that you use as references when tracking your very own email deliverability:

  • A bounce rate higher than 3% could compromise your deliverability⚠️
  • A delivery rate of 95% (or higher) is considered good by most ESPs✅
  • If your spam rate exceeds 0.08% then you have a higher risk of losing your account🛑

Now let me quickly explain to you the difference between email deliverability and delivery rate (no, those are not interchangeable phrases).

An email delivery rate refers to the number of emails that have been accepted into the Mailbox Providers’ (MPBs) servers. For example, if you have a faulty or misspelled email address, then your email will bounce, and that in turn will impact your delivery rate.

Email deliverability kicks in AFTER the email has been accepted by MBPs into their servers. Deliverability determines where your email will land depending on your sender reputation, domain reputation, and domain setup. If an issue is detected by the servers amongst any of these factors, your deliverability will be affected.

Important⚠️

If you are thinking of launching a cold email campaign (regardless of your domain age), start with a low sending volume. One of the golden rules of cold emailing is to showcase human-like behavior as much as possible.

If you suddenly launch high-volume campaigns, without understanding email deliverability there is a chance your domain will be suspended, or you will simply not see the results you desire. If you send out identical mass emails it will also trigger the ‘spam filter’.

Additionally, keep in mind if your email list suddenly grows at a suspiciously high rate, ESPs will automatically detect an email list has been purchased.

Warm up your domain before you launch high-volume campaigns (it does not matter if your domain is more than 6 months old). Warming up should be done consistently for long as you have your email account, it keeps your engagement rates high.

Lastly, thoroughly understand the technical and general email deliverability aspects if you want to achieve high conversion rates.

Email deliverability = The secret ingredient for a successful cold emailing campaign🏆🤝🏻

Technical Authentication

Email deliverability is a set of steps that need to be followed in order to place your emails in the primary inbox of your recipients. If you are under the impression that having a valid email address and merely hitting the send button will get your email successfully delivered, you are mistaken.

When you actually hit send, ESPs and the email servers of your recipients quickly run your emails through a lengthy checklist before you are allowed into their inbox (here is where you can get flagged as spam or land in different tabs).

They mainly look at:

  • Sender reputation
  • Abuse reports/spam complaints
  • Sending volume
  • Blacklists
  • Spam traps
  • Text-to-image ratio
  • Number of links
  • Spam triggering words
  • Text-to-HTML ratio

Besides these factors affecting your deliverability, there are a few technical configurations that could completely compromise your deliverability. They are regarded as the basics, and if you get them wrong you will most likely always struggle to get into the inbox of users.

So let’s learn about the technical configurations!

The following configurations are referred to as DNS (Domain Name System) Records. It is a part of the internet’s infrastructure. You don’t need to understand it in detail, but just be aware that there are a few parts of it that can affect your deliverability. If even one element is unconfigured or incorrect you could be blocked by servers before even making it to the spam
filter.

REMEMBER THIS: All the technical factors work in tandem with each other. You cannot configure one and ignore the others, all of them rely on each other to provide you with the maximum amount of email security.

Concerning emails, DNS records typically consist of:

What is DKIM?

DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mail) is a type of email authentication that allows receivers to check whether an email is indeed sent and authorized by the owner of that particular domain. This is done by assigning the email a digital signature.

This is an advanced authentication protocol and tells ESPs your email wasn’t modified or tampered with on the way to the sender. Without the DKIM framework, there is a risk of your emails being tampered with or having the content changed. Spam filters will not allow email content that has been tampered with into their receiver’s inbox

What is SPF?

A sender policy framework (SPF) acts like a bodyguard at an event. You provide a guest list, and the guard only welcomes those with their name on the list.

In other terms, it is an email authentication system that allows the owner of a domain to specify which users are allowed to send emails on behalf of their domain. Referred to as ‘SPF records’, they are typically added and published in your Domain Name System (DNS) records beforehand.

An SPF record contains information on the following:

  • Helps you identify the sender of the email
  • Verifies the sender has the authority to send emails from that domain
  • Acts as a possible return route

The graphic below shows how the SPF authentication works:

Source: Act On

What is DMARC?

Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance, or simply DMARC is a protocol that unifies SPF and DKIM together into one common framework. It basically aims to ensure the authenticity of an email message by checking if your domain is authenticated against those two authentications.

This security standard helps prevent spammers from using your domain to send emails without your permission. Spammers can forge the “From” email address so users assume the email is from your domain.

DMARC records make it easier for ESPs to prevent spam email practices such as domain spoofing that try to phish recipients’ sensitive information. In sum, it allows email senders to specify how to handle those email messages that are not authenticated against SPF or DKIM. Senders can opt to have those emails sent to the junk folder or blocked altogether.

For example, PayPal is often a target of email fraud. Thus, they published DMARC records stating that if DKIM or SPF authentications fail, reject the message entirely. In fact, in the 2013 holiday season, DMARC helped PayPal stop roughly 25 million phishing attacks.

The typical framework of a DMARC policy

Bonus: What is BIMI?

BIMI stands for Brand Indicators Messaging Identification. Have you ever noticed how some brands have their logo displayed as an avatar in your inbox? That logo is known as a verified sender logo and acts as an extra layer of email security while also building brand visibility

Source: Email On Acid

Most users aren’t aware of the above-mentioned technical authentications we have mentioned. BIMI is user-facing, it allows them to visually see your brand logo which helps them trust your email far more.

It is also advantageous for your organization as it decreases the likelihood of recipients flagging your emails as spam. Also, with the technicalities that go into getting BIMI configured, you automatically increase your email security.

How Do I Set These Up?

To learn how to set these technical authentications below, please refer to the links and videos below:

    1. 🔗Learn here: How to set up DKIM?
      Video Tutorial: How to set up DKIM for Gsuite account? Explained by Saleshandy
    2. 🔗Learn here: How to set up SPF?
      Video Tutorial: What is an SPF record & how to set it up? (Explained by Saleshandy)
    3. 🔗Learn here: How to set up DMARC?
      Video tutorial: DMARC Configuration | How to set it up?
    4. 🔗Learn here: How to set up BIMI?

Need help setting up these records? Our support team is glad to help.😊

What Impacts Cold Email Deliverability?

Beyond the technical factors, there is a wide range of variables that can impact your email deliverability. Email deliverability should be treated as an art, to yield success you need to look into each and every aspect of it.

Below are a few common factors that impact email deliverability:

Spam Complaints

Spam complaints (also known as abuse reports) are recorded when a user clicks on ‘This is spam’ or ‘Mark as spam’ on emails. The industry acceptable spam complaint rate is less than 0.1% or 1 complaint for every 1000 emails. Anything beyond these figures is considered high.

A high spam complaint rate can result in long-term email deliverability issues that could take months to rectify. Popular email clients such as Gmail pay close attention to your spam complaint rate (if your rate is high) over a period of 30 to 60 days.

Cold emailing can be tricky, especially in relation to spam complaints. And ESPs have a very low tolerance for them. So the best thing to avoid these is to remove all the email addresses from your list that made a complaint or have specifically requested you to stop emailing them.

Spam Triggering Verbiage

Spam triggering verbiages are keywords or phrases that email clients view as red flags. As the adage goes “if it’s too good to be true, then it most likely is”. Spam filters catch certain phrases that are associated with free gifts, gimmicks, scams, promises, and schemes.

Don’t worry! Spam filters have become more advanced in recent years, so they take into account the CONTEXT of the content! For example, if you send an email with the phrases “start your free trial today”, or “offer for a limited time only”, your email will not automatically be sent to spam.

As mentioned, context matters. If you are stuffing a ton of spam keywords in your email, making use of all caps, adding special characters, and have a low delivery rate—then yes you are in trouble. But, if you just use one or two phrases within context and have a low bounce rate, then you are in the clear.

These days there are special spam check detection tools available online that tell you if you are using too many spammy keywords.

Saleshandy offers smart email content assistant guide in the pop-up compose window, that automatically detects the use of too many spammy phrases and the general spammy nature of the email content.

Unverified Prospect Lists

When was the last time you checked the validity of your prospect list? Keep in mind that users change their emails, add spam filters, or delete their accounts. Prospect lists age very poorly and quickly! After a while, there is a chance you may be sending 5,000 emails and only reaching about 3,000 inboxes.

That’s a problem with your email deliverability!

If you have unverified email addresses on your prospect list, you will incur a hard bounce. A hard bounce means your emails are being sent to accounts that are deleted or invalid.

Another commonly faced problem is invalid syntax, this happens especially when you import a prospect list into a third-party cold emailing software.

Which is why it is important to have a verified prospect list. Make sure you verify the prospects each time before you launch a cold email campaign to the set of prospects.

Also, several email verification software exists that can help you evade this problem. You can also use Saleshandy Connect to extract verified email addresses from LinkedIn Profiles or you can directly import the prospects into your email sequence with the help of a CSV file. Our system automatically detects faulty email addresses and lets you know.

As for email list cleaner software, here are a few suggestions, Never Bounce, Kickbox, and Email List Verify. Saleshandy has a native integration of user bouncer within the platform, that automatically cleans and verifies your prospect list each time you upload it.

Inserting Too Many Links And Images

When it comes to receiving an email from someone you don’t know, there is already a level of suspicion there. When the email asks the recipient to open an attachment or click on a link, the suspicion levels rise even more. 

We get it, it makes sense to add attachments and images in your cold emails to grab prospects’ attention. But…..one of the easiest ways to get caught by spam filters is by sending out emails with too many links, attachments, images, or gifs. Spam emails very often use tons of links, so it is recommended to use a maximum of 2 links in your email content. 

Additionally, you can also create targeted landing pages for prospects, or add links to Youtube or links to cloud storage spaces all specifically meant for prospects.

Images and gifs are treated the same as links. It is a well-known fact that most spam emails contain heavy images and ESPs have set their spam-triggering criteria accordingly. So if you wish to use images or gifs, limit them to only one.

Being Blacklisted

Domains usually get blacklisted when they are flagged for spam-like behavior. If your domain ends up on an email blacklist, consider it gone (it’s extremely hard to get it back). So ensure your domain never ever gets blacklisted. 

You can also end up on the blacklist if you launch cold email campaigns using purchased email lists, or trigger a spam trap. In case you want to check if you are on the blacklist, you can use these tools MX Toolbox Blacklist, The Spamhaus Project, and Spam Cop. 

By the way, if your open rates have suddenly dropped out of the blue, there is a chance you have been blacklisted. Sometimes your ESPs will notify you, but most of the time users have to manually check themselves. 

What should I do if my domain is blacklisted? 

In case your domain is found on the blacklist, your very first step should be to figure out the unlisting process. Sometimes all it takes is proving to ESPs that you are not a spam account or bot. The second step would be to understand why exactly your domain was placed on the list in the first place. 

Bear in mind, there are certain blacklists that don’t have an unlisting process, and automatically remove your domain after a certain period of time if you stop acting like a spammer. Being taken off a blacklist isn’t a cause for celebration either, because then, your domain is placed on parole. This means ESPs will be closely monitoring your email sending habits. 

How To Increase Your Email Deliverability?

So how do you guarantee your emails get delivered to the intended inbox? Luckily there are proven techniques to prevent failures from happening and improve deliverability for the long haul!

Here at Saleshandy, we tell our users that while we can help automate their cold email campaigns, we can’t guarantee their emails will reach primary inboxes, much less get opened. But we do have a couple of techniques to offer to maximize and increase email deliverability.

Let’s get right into it!

Understand Sender Reputation

You’ve probably read the term sender reputation a few times by now! So now let’s finally find out what a sender reputation means for your cold emailing campaigns.

The sender reputation of a particular email account is given to the domain by ESPs to determine your trustworthiness as a sender. If you have a higher score, it means ESPs are far more likely to allow your emails to pass through their servers without any hassles (landing your email in the primary inbox of recipients). 

If you have a lower score it does not necessarily mean your emails will be flagged as spam. However, with a lower score, you increase your chances of your emails landing in the spam, junk, or promotions folder. 

How is a sender reputation score determined? Factors such as the content quality, quality of contacts, and engagement metrics of previous emails from your domain are all taken into account when determining a score.

If your sender reputation drops below a certain threshold, ESPs are inclined to block your emails from landing in the primary inbox of the recipient or anywhere in their inbox. 

Tools you can use to check your sender reputation: Saleshandy, SenderScore.org, Trusted Source, Google Postmaster Tool, and Barracuda Central.

To increase and maintain your sender reputation ensure these factors are looked into and followed daily: 

  1. Bounce rates 
  2. Complaint rates
  3. Proper formatting 
  4. Share only valuable content 
  5. Beware of spam traps 
  6. Avoid being blacklisted


Email Warm-up

Email warm-up is essential before sending your cold emails, why?

When you have a new email account, it is not capable of sending a large number of emails at the moment. You need to make your email account ready to launch mass email campaigns, and that’s what the process of email warm-up facilitates—it prepares your domain for high-volume sending.

This in turn also builds your domain reputation in the eyes of  ESPs and improves overall engagement metrics which are all connected to your deliverability. 

An automated warm-up works by mimicking human-like conversations. Basically, emails are sent out from your account and engaged positively by a network of safe inboxes and unique human-like content to improve your deliverability and reputation. 

Usually, a proper email warm-up process involves gradually increasing the number of emails along with engagement to show ESPs you are a legitimate and trustworthy sender. The email warm-up process generally takes about 3 to 4 weeks (longer if you are doing it manually).

By the way, as we mentioned earlier, you might’ve missed it—old email accounts should also keep warming up their domains! It keeps your engagement rate high consistently, which is always welcome! A warmed-up inbox ultimately results in higher open, reply, and clickthrough rates. 

A domain can be warmed-up in a following way:

1.Manually Sending Out Emails

In this method, you will have to manually send 5-10 emails daily (keep gradually increasing the number) from your email account and make sure to get responses from your recipients to keep the conversation going.

2.Automating The Process 

Here, you can let Saleshandy manage your email warm-up process. On your behalf, we will send emails to our own trusted email accounts and engage with recipients to keep your email engagement high.

All you need to do is enable the email warm-up feature. Here is how to do so:

Go to the email warm-up section > add your email account > enable the warm-up feature


Use Cold Emailing Software

Too many marketers and salespeople assume cold emailing and email marketing software are the same. Both these methods have different needs, thus, their software offers different features too.

The sole purpose of email marketing software is to send bulk emails to an existing list of opted-in subscribers. Cold email software is designed to help you reach out to prospects who you have not previously engaged with or talked to. 

Email marketing software usually comes with visually-appealing templates and an HTML editor to design emails. Whereas, cold emailing software only has a normal plain text editor. 

Email marketing software is missing many features that cold emailing software usually has.

Cold emailing software sends emails from your own mailbox (own unique sending servers). Which ensures emails look 1-to-1 and not 1-to-many. 

While in email marketing software, the email goes from a shared email sending server which are owned and maintained by themself. Which mostly gets identified as bulk sending software by spam filters.

Resulting into promotional email deliveries or spam folders.

More importantly, a cold emailing software replicates human-like sending. 

Choose a cold emailing software that has important features such as email tracking, merge tags for mass personalization, automated follow-ups, inbox warm-up, A/B testing, email engagement analytics, etc. 

Use A Custom Tracking Domain

A custom tracking domain is your own domain that you can use to track opens and clicks in your emails. This is done by masking the tracking url’s with your own branded domain. Custom tracking domains are used to improve sequence performance.

Custom tracking domains are known to preserve sender reputation, boost deliverability and also help in improving click-through rates (of links inserted in emails).

Generally, custom tracking domains are used to track links such as calendar invites, landing pages, blogs, social media platforms, calls to action, etc. When you are able to track these links you gain helpful insights into the performance of your campaign and also user behavior.

“But adding links to email content can compromise my deliverability?”. Yes, it can. But guess what? Using a custom tracking domain for your links you can work your way around this!

So because spam emails are on the rise, white labeling is a recommended criterion to ensure emails reach the primary inbox. By using a custom tracking domain, along with SPF and DKIM authentication your email links are white-labeled, which ensures deliverability. 

By the way, when you use a default tracking domain (the generic one provided by cold emailing software or email service providers), it can affect your delivery rate as you are sharing the tracking domain with other companies. 

Saleshandy offers the option of creating your own custom tracking domain. To learn more, click here

Personalizing Emails

Did you know personalization can affect your email deliverability? “What?” YES! This happens! So here’s the thing, when you send out identical mass emails, ESPs regard those emails as ‘spam’. This ends up triggering the ‘spam filter’ and emails don’t reach their intended destination, eventually making their way to the spam folder.

Cold emails should be personalized and tailored to each recipient anyways! Don’t just personalize {{first name}} and {{last name}}, make each email unique to the pain points of prospects. 

Saleshandy’s offers personalization features such as merge tags and spintax. With merge tags you can mass personalize every single email.

Spintax generates different versions of words, sentences, or phrases, which you can use in your greetings, introduction, content paragraphs, and sign-off phrases to make your emails more unique and decrease the similarity between them.

Besides, personalization will only help you yield the best results. Email personalization can increase your reply rates by 100%! You can also personalize the subject line, as they can increase your open rates by 22%.

What can you personalize? Email body, subject line, and the Call-To-Action.

Bounce Rates

The higher the bounce rate you have, the higher chance you have of hurting your email deliverability. The accepted benchmark for an email bounce rate is somewhere around 2%. This basically means that, if you are sending 100 emails, it is normal to see 2 of those emails bounce.

However, if your bounce rate is above 5%, then it’s time to bring down that number to a healthier range by following the best email deliverability practices. 

There are two types of bounces: 

Hard bounce: is usually indicative of a permanent irreversible error most likely due to an invalid email address. To protect and maintain your sender reputation, exclude these email addresses from your list for future campaigns.

Soft bounce: happens when there is a temporary problem with the recipient’s server or another technical problem such as the inbox of a user being too full. You can try sending your email again after 48 hours. Or you can try contacting them through a different channel. However, if the problem persists then you can remove the contact from your list. 

Make It Easy To Unsubscribe

Yes! People have the right to unsubscribe from your cold emails as well. Once you open the lines of communication with a prospect, make sure you give them the free will to unsubscribe.

You can either place an unsubscribe button at the bottom of the email (make sure it is easy to find and legible) or simply ask them to tell you if they would like to stop receiving emails from you.

This is the best and simplest way to avoid being marked as spam. Don’t try to trick your prospects by burying the unsubscribe link! In theory, it sounds like a great way to prevent someone from unsubscribing, but ultimately it will cost your future emails (especially if they mark you as spam).

Positive & Negative Email Engagement Reactions Monitored by Mailbox Providers

Tools You Can Use For Better Email Deliverability

  1. Saleshandy (Cold emailing software)
  2. Saleshandy Connect (email extractor and tracking tool) 
  3. Postmaster Tools by Google (To check the performance of your domain, best suited for high volume campaigns)
  4. Spam Checker by Mail Meteor (Spam words checker)
  5. Mail Tester (email verification), Never Bounce (email verification and email list cleaner), Saleshandy’s in-built email verification
  6. GlockApps (deliverability toolkit)
  7. Sender score (to check your sender reputation)
  8. The Spamhaus Project (to check if you are blacklisted)
  9. MXToolbox (To check different type DNS records in depth and find what’s missing)

Let’s apply the best practices with Saleshandy and compare the results