Email deliverability is your ability to deliver emails to people’s inboxes. As online threats like phishing, hacking, and spam continue to rise, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are taking proactive steps to safeguard their users from unsolicited and potentially harmful emails. These measures include blocking emails that seem “spammy”.
For sales representatives who rely on email to connect with prospects, protective measures improve your ability to deliver legitimate emails to your recipients' inboxes by reducing the likelihood that ISPs will perceive your emails as spam.
Several factors contribute to effectively connecting with prospects. These include:
The sender's reputation
Ensuring that emails are properly authenticated
Constantly monitoring email delivery metrics and performance to identify areas for improvement
Maintaining clean and up-to-date email lists to avoid sending emails to inactive or irrelevant addresses
Generating engagement and receiving replies to your emails to enhance your domain reputation
ISPs are committed to prioritizing their customers' best interests. They aim to ensure that relevant and wanted emails reach their users' inboxes, while unwanted and suspicious emails are filtered out or rejected.
Your sender reputation is the most significant indicator of whether your emails will land in the inboxes you send them to. Following the steps listed below can help solidify your reputation and increase your chances of reaching your prospects’ inbox. Some of these steps can be handled automatically by Engage; others need to be done by you or your Gong admin. The result? A stronger reputation and better email deliverability.
Gong automatically spaces out your flow emails, so some emails are sent a few minutes later. We do this because sending emails in bulk, all at the same time, may alert ISPs that the email is a newsletter rather than a personal email.
If the emails you send have a substantial percent of “invalid email” errors, ISPs could start blocking your email address. To avoid this, when a flow email returns with an automated email bounce for “Invalid email” or ”The recipient email address does not exist,” Gong automatically does the following:
Pauses the flow
Marks the email address as “Invalid” so you and your teammates know not to reach out to that address again
Generates a new to-do on the owner’s To-dos page to resend the email with a different email address, and resume the sequence
Unsubscribe links enable your email recipients to tell you that they don’t want to receive emails from you. They are also compliant with certain international regulations (described further below). By providing an unsubscribe link, you make sure that you don’t continue to contact prospects who want you to stop. By including a clear and easy-to-use unsubscribe link, you’ll limit the number of prospects who complain to your ISP and mark your email as spam.
In Gong, toggle on the display of an "Unsubscribe" link for each flow. To do this, choose a flow in the Flows page, click the “Rules” tab, and toggle "Display an unsubscribe link for all email steps in this flow.” Read more
Sending a large number of emails all at once may raise red flags for ISPs. The more you spread out the emails you send, the less likely you are to get complaints. Rather than sending an email blast to all of your recipients, Engage lets you create a funnel that allows a certain number of emails to be sent per campaign, per day. Once the limit is reached, you aren't blocked from sending emails. Instead, the "Send" button is replaced with a "Send later" button, so you can complete your to-do by scheduling the email for tomorrow or another day. Non-flow emails are not limited. This helps to keep your follow-up tasks manageable, and prevents your prospects from becoming fatigued.
Engage has configurable settings for limiting how many flow emails are sent. All types of emails, as well as non-flow emails, count towards these limits. However, you are only prevented from sending flow emails once you hit the limit, meaning you can still send non-flow emails at that point.
Engage flow email limits, set by admin:
Number of flow emails from the same sender per day/per week
Number of flow emails sent from the same domain (company) per day
Number of flow emails sent from your company to the same recipient per day
Number of flow emails sent from your company to recipients within the same domain (company) per day
Read more about setting up email limits here
In Gong, you have the option to toggle email tracking (views and links clicked) on and off based on your preferences. This flexibility ensures that tracking doesn’t adversely affect email deliverability. ISPs might get suspicious of emails that contain tracking, so if you notice that your bounce and spam rates are increasing, you may want to stop tracking email opens for a while, until the bounce rates return to normal.
To mitigate the risk of getting a domain flagged as spam, have different departments or even teams send emails via different email domains. Once you have additional email domains that you want to use, contact Gong support and ask to set additional domains in your account. Learn more.
In Gong, reps can connect different email addresses, as long as the addresses are part of the primary domain or additional domains list. They can then log into Gong, and in the top nav bar, click their name > My Settings and see what's been set up for them in Gong. To connect other email addresses (with the relevant domain) so they can start sending emails from it via Gong, they should go to the Email section and click “Connect”.
Email authentication is a technical standard in which you verify who you are so you aren’t flagged as spam or a spoof (someone phishing for personal information). Without email authentication, bad actors can change their email addresses to make it appear as though they’re sending emails from a legitimate sender (you) and copy the branding to try and steal personal information.
There are three standards for email authentication: SPF, DKIM, and DMARC.
DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mail): This authentication protocol is used by email receivers/domains to determine if the sender is really who they say they are. The domain key is a specialized key that can be used only by one particular sender. As a result, it goes a long way to reassuring your prospect’s mailbox that your message is legitimate. This contributes positively toward your anti-spam score.
SPF (Sender Policy Framework): Closely tied to DKIM, this is an email validation system that’s designed to prevent email spam and to authenticate senders. SPF looks at the sender IP address and checks to ensure that the mail is coming from an authenticated and verified sender. If an email comes from somewhere that isn’t listed in the SPF record, the incoming server can assume it was spoofed or otherwise illegitimate and reject it as spam.
DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance): This authentication protocol allows senders and receivers to report domains that may be sending fraudulent mail. DMARC policies let the sender indicate that their messages are authenticated with SPF and DKIM, and can give instructions on what to do in the event that the sender is not verified (for example, send to spam, reject the email).
Email authentication is put in place by your IT team. They’ll configure your email servers so that when an email is received by your prospect, their email server can check the message you sent and compare it to the rules put in place by your IT team. Gmail and Microsoft usually set up these policies for you when your mailbox is configured, but it’s good to check before you start sending a large number of emails. If you’re using Exchange, your IT team manages your on-premise server, so you’ll need to work with them to ensure you have SPF and DKIM setup prior to sending mailings.
DKIM and SPF should be a standard part of your basic technical setup requirements; DMARC can be considered an additional option. Reach out to your IT team to verify that SPF, DKIM, and DMARC have been set up. If not, encourage the IT to authenticate your email.
Think of using a new domain like starting a car in the middle of winter. Before you start driving, you probably want to warm the engine up for a few minutes. Warming your car engine heats your car and helps you scrape the ice off your windshield, allows the engine to reach the optimal operating temperature, and makes the drive warmer. Similarly, you need to warm up your new domain to encourage deliverability. ISPs pay attention to your activities, and are suspicious of new domains that suddenly have high send volumes. Warming up your domain lets you establish your identity and gain the trust of your ISP, which has a positive effect on your sender reputation and overall deliverability.
Before taking action, consider the following:
How old is your domain? Every domain has a reputation, and it’s dependent on many factors, including age. Spam filters check a domain’s age. When the domain is younger than a month, it’s marked suspicious by default; when you send messages from a suspicious domain, your messages are treated as suspicious. We recommend using a domain that’s more than six months old.
What does your sending history look like? If your domain was used in the past for email marketing, or has a poor reputation for some other reason, you won’t want to use it for your outreach.
Once you’ve considered all of the above, you’re ready to ramp up your domain. Here’s how:
Slowly ramp up your email sends. Once you have a new domain address, you need to slowly re-introduce yourself to sending email campaigns. The warming process should take about 30 days, but will vary depending on your volume, frequency of emails sent, and the quality of your prospect list. This means sending emails from the new domain in smaller volumes, using a targeted and engaged segment of your database, and gradually increasing the volume. Each day, increase the volume until you’re back to your regular email send rate, and double your send volume every three or four days.
Actively monitor your campaigns. Gradually increasing email volume is only part of warming up your domain. The other piece to consider is the content of the emails you’re sending, and what engagement with those emails looks like. Are you sending emails that aren’t being opened and clicked? Have you reached your average reply rate? The higher the engagement with your emails, the better your credibility with your ISPs.
Don’t worry if the first week of sending from your new domain doesn’t seem to be landing your emails in the inbox. Since you don’t have a sender history on your new domain, don’t be surprised if your emails end up in spam. In addition, some email providers may deliver some of your emails to the spam folder to see if recipients mark them as “not spam”. Your email provider sees this as a good indication that you’re a legitimate sender.
If one of your teammates sends too many emails that get marked as spam, your domain may be flagged as spam by ISPs, and you may not be able to send emails that land in the inbox. In this case, you should have some warmed up domains ready to use instead of the one that’s been flagged. Before you start using the spare domain, check to see what kind of behavior led to the other domain being flagged as spam, and change that behavior before sending more emails. The days of “spray and pray” are no longer relevant. Sending personalized emails that are relevant to recipients is the key to healthy email delivery and higher conversion rates.
The way prospects engage with your content is a good indicator of whether or not your emails land in their inboxes and are well-received. Low open rates, click rates, and reply rates are a clear signal to your ISP that prospects aren’t engaged, which can factor into the deliverability of future emails.
Pay attention to your engagement metrics (emails, clicks, and replies). Engagement-based metrics measure how your prospects are interacting with your content. If you notice your metrics are lower than usual, make adjustments to the content and subject lines of your email to improve engagement and limit negative interactions. Testing subject lines and email copy can help determine what’s working best for your goals. If you see a decline in opens, clicks, and replies, make adjustments such as changing your email cadence, timing (morning vs. afternoon), or by refreshing old content.
Target your campaigns to the people you want to engage with. For example, a CEO won’t likely be as interested in setting up a swag store as a marketing manager. By shaping your campaigns to meet the interests of your prospects, you’ll encourage stronger engagement.
Aim to keep your spam rate below 0.10%.
Avoid a spam rate of 0.30% or higher, especially for any sustained period of time.
Maintaining a low spam rate makes senders more resilient to occasional spikes in user feedback.
Similarly, maintaining a high spam rate will lead to increased spam classification. It can take time for improvements in spam rate to reflect positively on spam classification.
Blacklists are lists of domain names or IP addresses of identified “spammers” that are compiled for email servers to reference. If an email server sees your domain name or IP address on a blacklist, they’ll block your emails, and your prospects may never know you were trying to contact them.
Think of your domain and IP address as a return address on the envelope of a letter. Every email you send has your return address (IP address and domain) logged. Mail servers can check the return address against a number of public and private blacklists.
Follow email best practices to keep your sender reputation high. Monitor blacklists so you know if your IP address and domain end up on one, even if by mistake. There are a number of tools that you can use to check your IP and domain against well-known blacklists.
If you are blacklisted, you’ll need to submit a request to the blacklist to have your IP address and domain removed. This is done by applying for a “delisting” from the specific blacklist in question, usually completed on the blacklists’ websites. If there is no delisting option, there may be a timer associated with the blacklist, which removes your email after a certain amount of time has passed, the email traffic slows, or complaints drop.
Data privacy is a big topic as governments begin to understand the wide scope of ways data can be used to persuade consumers. As a result, laws are being passed that give individuals the right to opt out of email communications and have their data deleted. There are significant consequences for violating these regulations, including a 4% fine on your ARR for violating the terms of GDPR.
Make sure you understand the laws in the countries where your company operates, and the rights of individuals in foreign countries (especially the European Union). For CAN-SPAM, this might mean including your company’s address and an unsubscribe link in all of your emails. For GDPR, you’ll need to ensure that the individuals you are emailing have opted into your communication. By complying with the appropriate regulations, you’ll limit the number of complaints against your domain, helping to ensure that your emails land where you want them: in the inbox.
Spam filters are very sensitive to the content of your emails, especially risky words that may attract or mislead the readers. According to a study by Smart Insights, spam words are one of the major factors that affect email deliverability (and influence whether or not the message will be blocked by spam filters).
Try to avoid words and phrases like: “FREE”, “75% OFF”, “BUY RIGHT NOW” and similar. These can trigger spam filters, damage your reputation and make it almost impossible to properly warm up your email account.