You have a brand new IP address, maybe even several brand new IPs. Maybe you changed your email service provider, or maybe you just added a new IP address into your delivery stream. Whatever the reason for your brand-spanking new IPs, you are chomping at the bit send off your newsletter or product info to your subscriber list of a million plus names (or whatever). But hold the phone (or the email in this case). An ISP that is making a decision on whether your email should go to the inbox, the junk folder or blocked all together does not care that you need to send to your entire list NOW. Their primary concern and responsibility is to their subscribers and keeping spam from reaching them and/or overloading their own servers. With millions of emails coming into their severs every hour, they make this decision based on a multitude of factors. If they see an IP address with no previous sending history, that is sending a large volume of email, they have to assume it is the work of a spammer. Hey, if you look like a spammer, you probably are a spammer. So what is a legitimate mailer to do? Answer: Walk before you run.
Just like a toddler taking their first steps, a brand new IP address needs to first crawl, and then learn to walk before it can run. You need to prove to the ISPs that you are not a spammer. You need to show that you have legitimate email that is wanted, relevant and consistent. With a new IP address you want to start slowly with minimal volume and send to subscribers that will put your best foot forward – that is subscribers that respond to your emails through opens and clicks and are the least likely to report you as spam. Little by little you will increase your volume and add in subscribers that have interacted with your messages in the less recent past, until finally you are mailing to your entire list again. Each ISP has its own parameters for what volume it will accept and how soon, but below are some guidelines to help assure you will establish a good sending reputation and reach your desired volume as quickly as possible:
1. Pave the road: Establish whitelists and feedback loops before you start e-mailing. Update authentication records such as spf/SenderID and DKIM/DomainKeys.
2. Create a segment of active e-mail addresses from your current mailing list. These should be your best customers or responders. These should not be brand new addresses and not very old addresses unless they have had recent and consistent interaction of at least 2-3 clicks on campaigns in the last 30-60 days. These should be your most active and engaged subscribers.
3. Send messages that are relationship building in nature. The idea is to be non-intrusive or offensive. Offer incentives to clients to confirm their address with you or if they fill out a survey so that you can serve them better in the future, etc. Marketing messages are OK, but if they are used, they should be very relevant to the subscribers receiving them.
4. Monitor your delivery metrics. Ideally you want 95% or more inbox delivery. You should monitor:
a. Complaint Rates
b. Spam Trap Hits at Microsoft domains via SNDS
c. Hard and soft bounce rates
d. Inbox Delivery Reports (like Green Arrow Monitor)
e. Your IP Reputation f. Blacklists that your IP or URLs may be on
5. Ramp up volume slowly:
Week One: No more than 5,000-10,000 subscribers to each major ISP per day for a week. The idea here is to show a consistent volume of good, clean, wanted email. If you are a new sender and don’t have the volume for this each day, it is better to mail a small amount every day or two vs. just once a week.
Week Two: Assuming there were no major deliverability issues during the first week of sending, additional recipients (using the selection criteria from week 1) can be mailed to daily – doubling the volume after every 2-3 successful sending days of mailing. If the increase in size results in poor delivery , a second segment should be sent 48 hours later with refined selection criteria (e.g., signup in the last 60 days, that have opened within the last 14 days, clicks) until delivery rates to target ISPs reach a minimum 80% inbox delivery.
Week 3+: (Proceed to this step when delivery rates are good to target ISPs with 50K/day segment size)
If additional recipients are available using the selection criteria from week 1, these can continue to be added on an ongoing basis as available.
Two messages should be created at this point; one to the existing “week 1 and week 2″ segments, and one to a 10k-15K segment with expanded selection criteria (i.e. opens and clicks in the last 30-60 days. The “week 1 and week 2″ segment should be launched approx. 10-15 minutes prior to the smaller segment to ‘prime’ the IP; a complaint rate comparison between the segments will be used to guide segmentation strategy moving forward. A deliverability Inbox monitor tool like Green Arrow Monitor should be used with the smaller segment.
If successful delivery is achieved, the 10k-15k segment can be rolled into the “week 1″ segment for future campaigns, and an additional 10k-15k recipients based on the expanded selection criteria can be added daily, as long as Green Arrow Monitor continues to indicate delivery rates are not adversely affected.
If inbox delivery rates slip below 75% for several consecutive messages, list segments should be reverted to their state 3-4 days prior (or beyond, if necessary) until delivery rate improves.
This strategy should be repeated until regular segments reach 100k with at least 90% inbox.
Week 4+: (Proceed to this step when delivery rates are good to target ISPs with 100K/day segment size)
Our goal at this point is to achieve sustainable delivery to a growing list, without having to limit campaigns to more “static” lists. Signup processes should be refined such that the first several messages to new recipients generate complaint rates less than 4x the ongoing account average.
Data gathered during the course of the first two weeks’ mailings should be used to identify high-performing messages/offers from a recipient response standpoint (opens, clicks, lack of complaints – still not primarily focused on revenue), and these should be evaluated for inclusion in a “welcome” stream – a series of messages (approximately 3-7, sent daily or every other day) designed to elicit maximum positive response from new recipients and identify active recipients.
Regular account cleaning processes should be established. Depending on recipient response, subscribers who don’t open or click within an acceptable period should be identified via a search within the system and suppressed from messages or re-permissioned. Messages/offers in the “welcome” stream should be reevaluated vs. other offers to ensure optimal ongoing relevance.
If you want to reintroduce older recipients from before the signup process was improved, this may be done a small segment at a time – say no more than 10% of normal daily volume – and added to the welcome stream. Reintroducing recipients who signed up over 6 months prior and have no activity during the last 60 – 90 days is not recommended.
6. Keep putting your best foot forward
Once the warm-up period is over, you still need to maintain your good reputation. You can expand the criteria for selecting subscribers but maintain an active list. Only mail to subscribers that have opened or clicked on at least one message in the last 3-6 months, preferably more recently than that. Quality over quantity results in higher inbox delivery and higher conversion rates. Emailing to a large list of older, non-active subscribers to “see what sticks” may seem like a good approach, but your IP reputation will suffer and more email will end up in the junk mail folder or blocked, which means even your best customers may not ever see your email, resulting in fewer conversions.
This transition can take some time. How long depends on the size of your list and the results of delivery along the way. Remember, keep a close eye on the results of each mailing, paying particular attention to the major ISPs like AOL, yahoo, Hotmail and Gmail. Some ISPs like Yahoo may throttle your email and temporarily block your messages, so some adjustments in sending rates may be needed as volumes increase. If done properly, you should be able to get good inbox delivery as you increase volume. If you start to see any negative results, adjust your volume and/or segmentation accordingly as described above.
The IP ramp-up process takes planning and patience, but, if done properly it will be well worth the effort when you see a high inbox delivery rate and higher conversions. An experienced deliverability consultant can help you fine tune this process and provide specific recommendations based on your needs.
Article by Stacey Hammel. GreenArrow by DRH Internet is enterprise level and high volume email sending software capable of sending up to 1 million messages per hour from a single server. GreenArrow is state-of-the-art email delivery software, monitoring and consulting designed to maximize the deliverability of transactional and marketing emails. Visit them today at http://www.drh.net