IP-Warming Best Practices
Are you about to send email on a brand-new Internet protocol (IP) address? Then, you’ll want to be sure to warm it up the right way to establish a stellar reputation with Internet service providers (ISPs) to get your emails into primary email inboxes of your intended recipients and subscribers.
What Is an IP Warm-up?
Your IP address is a unique series of numbers that is used to identify your email domain. It is a key factor in determining your email sending reputation and whether your emails get delivered to subscribers’ inboxes.
ISPs (e.g., Gmail, AOL, Comcast, and Yahoo!) use your IP address to:
- Identify you as a sender
- Track your sending behavior
- Determine your IP reputation score.
Generally, the better your sending behavior, the higher your reputation score and the higher your email deliverability. However, a bad email reputation will result in your emails being blocked or sent to the spam folder. That’s because ISPs are on the lookout for the suspicious sending behavior of spammers who change their IP addresses frequently to get through ISP security checks.
A new IP address is referred to as “cold,” which means that it has no reputation because no emails have yet been sent from it. That’s where IP warming comes in. IP warming involves sending low volumes of emails from your dedicated IP address—and gradually increasing your email send volume over time—until you reach your normal email-sending levels. This gives ISPs the chance to evaluate your sending practices before you start sending to your entire list.
This article focuses on building IP reputation; however, domain reputation (e.g., @email.yourcompany.com) is a key factor in deliverability, as well. So, if you’re having deliverability issues, be sure to also check your domain reputation.
6 IP-Warming Best Practices—Where to Start and How to Do it Effectively
The IP warm-up period is an important opportunity for you to build a good sender reputation. Although an IP warm-up typically takes between 4 and 6 weeks, it could take longer depending on your monthly send volume, mailing frequency, and email list hygiene. In addition to evaluating your sending behavior during the warm-up period, ISPs are also looking at the health of your email list (e.g., bounces) and engagement (e.g., opens, moving your emails to a folder, replies to your email). That’s why it’s important to ensure that the content you send during the warm-up period is relevant and valuable so that your subscribers will want to open and engage with your emails.
Here are some IP-warming best practices to help ensure success:
- Confirm that your email authentication standards are up to date before starting the IP warm-up. This includes ensuring that all of the emails you send from the new IP address are authenticated with DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), as well as updating your Sender Policy Framework (SPF) with the new IP. Many ISPs also look for Domain Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) compliance. Check out this FulcrumTech resource for information about email authentication and its important role in getting emails delivered: “Email Authentication—Key to Getting Your Emails Delivered.”
- Choose highly engaged and active subscribers to start your IP warming. The segment of your email list that you should send to first includes those subscribers who have demonstrated that they are most likely to open and click your email messages, and least likely to unsubscribe or mark your emails as spam.
Closely monitor your email deliverability and engagement metrics during the IP warm-up period to help determine the frequency and volume of emails to send. The length of an IP warm-up period can vary anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. However, if you track open rates daily for your most important recipient domains and continue to have high engagement rates and deliverability, the warm-up can progress more quickly. Many ISPs have postmaster tools that will allow you to check your rating with them. IP warm-up for an ISP should not be considered completed until your positive rating as a sender has been confirmed by the ISP.
If you’re looking for a tool to help measure key deliverability metrics on a daily basis, in addition to exposing the many essential metrics you need to manage your overall email-marketing channel, be sure to check out IntelliSents, FulcrumTech’s web-based email analytics platform.
To start an IP warm-up, send a small volume of email across all ISPs—gradually ramping up the send volume over time—until you reach your standard volume patterns. But before sending, you should create a plan that documents how much volume you’ll be sending each week to each target domain. And the target domains should be based on those most relevant to your list. If you have a lot of Gmail, Yahoo!, and Hotmail addresses on your list, for example, you need to specifically deal with those in your plan.
You’ll find that some ISPs want a set send rate until they’ve approved you as a sender, whereas others will approve you faster as your send volume increases. Also note that ISP consolidations (e.g., Verizon/Yahoo/AOL) can also impact volume considerations per ISP for warm-up purposes. In addition, keep in mind that most reputation systems store data for 30 days; thus, if you go more than 30 days without sending emails from an IP address, you’ll need to start the warm-up again.
If you want to get more into the specifics of how to set up a plan, reach out to FulcrumTech for help.
- Send emails that are easily managed, that you know that your subscribers want, and that are likely to be opened and clicked. For example, you may want to send a series of static emails—that you can drip out over time—with promotions or coupons that typically generate high engagement from subscribers. Additionally, using personalization in the subject line is proven to increase opens. Make sure that you have at least 1 solid call to action to drive engagement within your content.
- Avoid sending to people who don’t want to get your emails. Promptly remove email addresses of subscribers who mark your email as spam or unsubscribe from your list. This is an email-marketing best practice that should be followed at all times to ensure a good sender reputation, especially during the IP warm-up period.
Need help with optimizing your email deliverability and inbox placement? Warming up your new IP addresses when switching email service providers or IP servers is just one best practice that impacts your email deliverability. The email-marketing experts at FulcrumTech can help you determine where your emails are going and why, as well as come up with solutions for your deliverability problems. Contact us and get started today!