This article talks about new Gmail Sender Guidelines and how will it be impacting your email deliverability. We have tried to cover aspects right from basics of Domain Health and how warming up a domain can play a crucial role in Emal Deliverability.
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Gmail regularly updates its anti-spam filters to get more aligned with their 1 billion users’ expectations. Gmail’s focus as a mailbox provider has always been to allow those emails to be placed in inbox which the user will like to engage and respond to.
As discussed in an earlier blog on the evolution of Gmail spam filters, we came across the different techniques of its spam filtering system. Gmail’s spam filtering system is advanced with AI-driven technologies.
The algorithmic updates by Gmail impact a sender’s email deliverability either negatively or positively depending on the practices being followed.
Gmail has released its sender guidelines for the first time to help the email sender to be on the right path and increase their Gmail deliverability. These sender guidelines are a way to ensure your infrastructure, content, data hygiene and other deliverability factors are correct to improve your current inboxing.
Following the sender guidelines will reduce the chances of your emails landing in spam, or Gmail throttling your send rate or completely blocking the messages.
In this post, we shall discuss the updates to the sender guidelines and the practices you can follow to warmup your sending domain and IP. We also mention what are the best practices to follow for sending your emails.
Warmup your sending domain
Gmail clearly states that if you are beginning to use a domain for sending emails to their users then you must start with a low volume and increase it incrementally over a period of time.
Eg: You can increase your promotional and transactional traffic by 25% each day to reach your maximum volume count for the day.
As you increase the sending volume, monitor the send rate and the responses you receive from the Gmail server if it has a google.com MX host.
You can increase the sending volume each day at a rapid rate if you are sending the emails on an everyday basis.
Send only to genuine subscribers and always provide an option to unsubscribe.
Now as an email service provider, our deliverability consultants on-board brands with different categories depending on their history of sending emails. Thus, we have to adopt different strategies for a successful warmup for these sending domains.
The domains can thus be broadly categorized into three types:
1. Domain with bad history
If the sending domain has spammed in the recent past which we can monitor via an inbox analysing tool, then the first thing to do will be to fix the email traffic problem.
You need to fix the root cause of the problem and rectify the spam issue. Once your mails start inboxing again, with a bad reputed history, a domain can take anywhere between 30 to 90 days to get fixed and resume regular mailing with all emails placed into the inbox.
You can use the same domain with bad history but try to rebuild the reputation thereby sending emails to active users for a 30 day period of time after which you can steadily inject emails to moderately active users.
Once the reputation is built to a high state, then you can start sending your regular promotional communication using the same domain and scale up on your regular user volume.
The thought here is to deliver to the most active users you have got from the domain to display a positive trend to Gmail of your communication. This will also help to build good inbox placement and build your domain reputation in a matter of weeks if all goes well.
To get high inbox placement you will have to tailor your content which is most relevant to your users and get high engagement rates.
2. Domain with a good history
If the sending domain has a good history of good inboxing, you will still have to follow a warmup for your new settings (envelope) but the scale-up, in this case, will be quicker as the domain has established a good reputation with mailbox providers.
So your sending history clearly counts when it comes to Gmail filtering your emails on a daily basis.
Once your new envelope has built a good reputation in a period of 1-2 weeks, then you can continue scaling up on your promotional volume from the domain.
Keep in mind that you still have to steadily increase volumes and not to do any random mailing as the disrupted pattern of mailing activity is a major reason for triggering Gmail’s anti-spam filtering.
With Gmail, a majority of their spam filtering is done via AI/ML based techniques. Spammer patterns can be easily recognised by their pattern recognition technologies. Thus, such patterns are easily identified and your emails will be put in the spam folder.
Hence a consistent mailing activity is recommended for optimum email deliverability.
3. Domain with no history
If the brand is dipping its feet into email marketing for the first time and their domain has no history of sending emails, then it might take a longer time for the domain to be warmed up.
You can start with your most active mail stream for building the reputation and increasing inbox placement for at least 3-4 weeks.
As you will be starting as a fresh mailing activity, we recommend that you should start first with your transactional email program and then build from there on to provide promotional offers to your subscribers.
Increase the volumes steadily by at least 25% each day and keep sending the emails to a data set which will respond actively to your promotions.
As you would have a fresh data set, an example of this would be your last 90 days transactors. These will also include your new registered users on your website or app.
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Plus, those users who have shown an interest in your campaigns from social media like Facebook, Twitter, IG, etc., can also be included.
These users need to be opt-in with a welcome email sent out to them to confirm their verification of your service. Proper permission needs to be taken of these users for sending them any kind of promotional or informational messaging.
Gmail has started their approval for emailing only to genuine subscribers. This establishes trust and provides a chance for you to do some brand indoctrination.
Warmup your IP
As you warm up your domain according to the categories mentioned above, you will also have to monitor your IP reputation on Google Postmaster to check if it is maintained at high.
The warmup process for a delivery IP to a recipient server is the same as a domain where you steadily increase the volume sent by it on an everyday basis at a steady rate which is accepted by Gmail.
The engagement acquired from your email should be in the high percentages of greater than 10% and there should be no hard bounces or spam complaints. These will hurt your IP reputation causing an avalanche of pain for your email deliverability.
The hard bounces should not be more than 5% consistently and spam complaints should ideally be zero or restricted to 0.1% .
The number of unsubscribes should also be maintained in single-digit numbers if possible as getting too many unsubscribes is a negative indication to Gmail on the user base you are targeting.
Send all messages from the same delivery IP. If you must use multiple IP addresses then use a different IP set for different types of messages.
Example: send promotional messages from one set of IPs and transactional messaging from another set.
Monitor feedback from the recipient server for your IP address. This could mean receiving any error messages for delivering your emails or Gmail throttling your email send rate. The email send rate, in this case, should be adjusted according to what the recipient server is accepting. Doing this has shown to increase your email deliverability, so keep a close eye on this aspect.
Monitor IP blacklists periodically as anti-spam authorities like DNSBL, Spamhaus, Baracuda are monitoring the IPs you use for delivery.
There is a probability that if your IP is delivering mails to spam or there is a high rate of user-reported spam complaints then the authorities might take severe action like blacklisting or blocking your IP from delivering emails.
In such a scenario, you will have to apply to white-list the IP. White-listing could be a time-consuming process and hence it is recommended to prevent such a scenario from happening by monitoring your IP reputation and user feedback on a regular basis.
Set up reverse DNS records of your delivery IP that points to your domain.
Doing this for your IP will clarify to Gmail that your delivery IP is dedicated only for delivering your brand emails and that you aren’t using it for other purposes.
Other guidelines Suggested by Gmail:
Subject lines should be clear and visible.
Authenticate messages using SPF, DKIM, DMARC.
Send emails only to users who are responding to your communication in the recent past. Gmail’s motto here of allowing only those users to view your emails who wish to open and respond to them.
Thus the inactive non-openers of your list should be phased out eventually after a period of 6 months if they remain non-responders for your campaign. Having an effective sunset policy is key to maintain your mailing list hygiene.
Include one-click unsubscribe headers to make it easier for users to opt-out.
Monitor your affiliate programs as those could cause your promotional emails to be marked as spam. Brand reputation matters as much as domain and IP reputation.
Don’t use HTML and CSS to hide content in your messages. Hiding content in your emails will cause Gmail to filter them as spam.
Gmail does not accept white-listing requests from email senders.
Don’t purchase email addresses from third-party vendors as those will be marked as unwanted spam.
Monitor affiliate marketers.
According to a recent update from Gmail, you should monitor affiliates, and remove any affiliates that send spam. Affiliate marketing programs offer rewards to companies or individuals that send visitors to your website. However, spammers can take advantage of these programs.
As we see some aspects of the guidelines have changed for Gmail.
The way you categorise your sending domain based on Gmail history and then increase the volumes steadily will determine how successfully you warmup that domain and IP and attain a high inbox placement.
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If these sender guidelines are followed with good practices then you can ensure high email deliverability with good domain hygiene.