How to Maximize Your Cold Email Deliverability in 2022?

Cold emails can be one of the most effective lead generation tools for your business.

The average click-through rate of an email marketing campaign is around 2.5 percent, while the click-through rate of an average social media ad (for example, on Facebook) is about 0.07 percent.

Conversion rates on email are about three times higher than on the various social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Various surveys and independent studies have repeatedly shown that most people are more receptive to marketing materials that appear in their email inbox, rather than on their newsfeed.

So there really is no better way to connect with prospective clients and customers than through a targeted, personalized, and relevant cold email.

Article by Philip Ilic,
B2B Growth Specialist.

The Importance of Cold Email Deliverability

Even your best cold email outreach strategies, however, aren’t going to do you any good, if your emails never land in the inbox of the intended recipient.

According to a report published by Return Path – a global leader in email certification and reputation monitoring – one in five promotional or commercial emails never reach the inbox of the intended recipient.

This is why, as a business owner or digital marketer, you must pay attention to the deliverability of your cold emails.

Procuring the email address of a potential client or customer can be hard enough. But that’s just the first step on your cold emailing journey.

You might enter that hard-won email address into the “To” section of your cold email, and yet it may never land in the recipient’s inbox.

The hurdle here is two-fold.

First, the recipient’s ESP server may block your cold email before it is delivered to your prospect’s inbox. There are a number of reasons why an Email Service Provider (ESP) might block your emails, including the content of the email, your sender reputation, and many other factors that we will discuss later in this article.

Second, your email might enter the prospect’s inbox, but be relegated to either the spam folder or the Promotions tab.

Landing in the Promotions tab will significantly reduce the chances of your email being opened and read. This is because people mostly expect to find salesy, mass emails in the Promotions section of their inbox. Even if the recipient wanted to hear from your business, checking the Promotions tab will never be their first priority.

Landing in the spam folder, however, is much worse. Not only will it ensure that the prospect will not read your email (since very few people regularly check their spam folder), it might also erode your sender reputation over time.

In short, if your cold emails land in either of those two places on a regular basis, they will not deliver the results you’re hoping for.

Therefore, your goal should always be to ensure that your cold email lands in the main inbox of your intended recipient. The main inbox is where you receive all your personal emails. Hence, people are most likely to diligently check and respond to the emails that appear in this section of their inbox.

Consistently landing in the main inbox will dramatically increase the engagement and conversion rates of your cold emails.

But this will only happen if your cold email deliverability is on point. 

So, let’s find out what affects cold email deliverability, and how it can be increased.

What Affects Deliverability?

The deliverability of an email is simply the set of steps and processes that are needed to deliver your email to someone else’s inbox.

Some of the factors that can affect email deliverability are as follows: 

  • Sender Reputation

Your email sender reputation is one of the main factors that affects the deliverability of your cold emails. It is a score assigned by the recipient’s ESP to the sender of the email. Sender reputation is a combination of two factors – domain reputation and IP reputation.

An ESP will be more likely to deliver your emails to the main inbox of a recipient on their network if your sender reputation is good. If your reputation falls below a certain threshold, your emails will either be blocked outright or delivered to the spam folder of the recipient.

Some of the factors that determine sender reputation are–

  • The level of engagement on previous emails sent from your email address
  • The quality of the email content
  • The quality of your contact list
  • The bounce rate of your emails
  • Volume Trends

The volume of cold emails you send on a regular basis will have a huge impact on your email deliverability. For instance, if you start sending out hundreds of emails per day from a new domain, the ESP will immediately flag you as a spammer. This is an easy way to ruin your domain reputation.

To prevent this from happening, you will first need to warm up your new email address by sending emails to friends, colleagues, and existing clients – anyone who will almost certainly engage with the email by reading it, replying to it, forwarding it, etc.

You can then slowly increase the volume of emails sent per day, per week, and so forth. For instance, you can send out less than 50 cold emails the first week, about 85 the second week, 100 emails the third week and so on, until your cold emailing campaign is generating the desired results.

  • Spam Trigger Words

There are some words and symbols that are usually associated with spam, both by email recipients as well as by ESPs.

If your cold email is full of these ‘spam trigger words’, then there is a high risk that it will end up in the spam folder.

So-called ‘salesy’ language and overly promotional words in your email content or subject line can trigger the ESP’s spam alerts. These words and symbols include:

  • FREE
  • Exclusive offer!!
  • Dollar signs ($$$)
  • Too many words in all-caps
  • BUY NOW!!!
  • Lots of exclamation points
  • Too many emojis

If your cold email contains an excess of these elements – either all of them or any one – then it will attract the attention of the ESP servers, increasing the likelihood of your email being relegated to the spam folder.

  • Abuse Reports

The action taken by a recipient after they receive a cold email from you will impact the deliverability of your future emails.

For instance, if a prospect marks one of your cold emails as spam, then the ESP will consider this an abuse report against you, as the sender of that email.

Such abuse reports help Gmail, Outlook, and other ESPs identify spam, so as to keep their customers’ inboxes clean. But if too many of your recipients mark your cold emails as spam, then the ESP will flag you as a questionable sender.

As a result, all your future emails will either be blocked from delivery or delivered directly to the spam folder.

Therefore, you must ensure that no more than 0.5 percent of your cold emails end up marked as spam, in any given month. To minimize abuse reports, you should only send cold emails that are highly personalized, relevant, and well-formatted.

  • Spam Traps

A spam trap is an email address that is owned by the ESP, rather than belonging to a real person.

These email addresses are often used to lure spammers, who send out bulk emails with little regard for how the individual recipient is responding to their message.

Spam traps can be of two types:

  • Pristine spam trap: A new email address created by the ESP for the specific purpose of functioning as a spam trap. This email has never belonged to a real user.
  • Recycled spam trap: This email address used to belong to a real person, but was abandoned some time ago. After lying inactive and unused for a year or more, it was reclaimed by the ESP and put to use as a spam trap.

This spam trap email address is then left on various web pages and discussion forums, in order to entrap spammers who make use of web crawlers to harvest email addresses and sell them for money.

This is why purchased email lists often contain a disproportionate number of spam traps. Because most web crawlers cannot distinguish between spam traps and genuine email addresses belonging to real people.

Frequently sending cold emails to spam trap accounts will get your domain flagged by the ESP, and ruin your email deliverability.

This is why you should always monitor your contact list and remove dormant, unengaged, and unresponsive email addresses from time to time.

  • ESP Blacklists

Ending up on an email blacklist is perhaps the fastest way to trash your cold email deliverability. A blacklist is simply a database of IP addresses and sender domains that have been flagged as suspicious for sending spam emails. It acts as a filter that will help determine whether or not your email will end up in the inbox of your intended recipient.

Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, and other major email service providers all maintain their own blacklists. Spamcop, Composite Blocking List (CBL), and Exploits Block List (XBL) are some of the largest and most important email blacklists that are publicly available.

If your IP ends up in any one of these, you’re in trouble. You’ll have to appeal to the blacklisting organization to get removed from the blacklist, which is an arduous (and often futile) process.

Some tools that can help you check your blacklist status are:

  • MXToolBox
  • Whatismyip’s blacklist checker
  • MultiRBL blocklist lookup tool

You can avoid ending up on email blacklists by only sending cold emails that are valuable, well-formatted, relevant, and of the highest quality. Do not use misleading subject lines to try and get more engagement, and avoid spammy, overly salesy language as far as possible.

  • Email Components

The component parts of your cold email can help determine its deliverability. Hence, you must be very careful about what you include in the email content, before clicking the send button.

Some of the things you should look out for are:

  • Text-to-Image Ratio

Typically, ESPs like emails that have more text than images. This is because too many images and gifs are often the sign of a spammy, promotional email.

Therefore, you should maintain a text-to-image ratio of 60:40, at the very least. Ideally, you should have no more than one or two images in your email body, especially if you’re just warming up a new domain.

Moreover, you might want to limit your image size to 100KB or less, when sending out cold emails.

For better deliverability, try and design your cold emails in a way that they would make sense even if the images were taken out.

  • Links and Attachments

Overloading your cold email with tons of links and attachments is a sure way to get caught by spam filters. Experts recommend having no more than two links in a cold email, including the signature.

When you send out a cold email, you’re trying to establish communication with someone you don’t know very well, if at all. Naturally, the recipient might view an email from a stranger with some level of suspicion.

This is further exacerbated if the email asks them to click on tons of links or open multiple attachments. Spammers and hackers have, in the past, used malicious links and email attachments to infect devices with malware.

So, ESPs automatically consider these elements to be a red flag, and might block an email that has too many of them, especially if it is from an unknown sender.

Tools that Can Help Improve Cold Email Deliverability

Now that you know the importance of cold email deliverability, as well as the factors that might affect it, it’s time to learn about the various tools that can help improve the deliverability of your emails.

Some of the best free and paid tools to improve your deliverability have been listed below. 

  • Woodpecker Warm-Up Feature

To prevent your cold emails from being flagged as spam, you must warm up a newly set up email address before using it for an outbound campaign.

Woodpecker’s newly launched warm-up feature is essentially an automatic email warm-up system, which helps digital marketers save a lot of time and effort when warming up a new email address and building its reputation.

The feature is constantly being developed and updated by Woodpecker’s experienced deliverability experts. You can hook it up to any new email address and leave it to warm up automatically, without having to worry about manually sending and responding to large numbers of emails to build a good sender reputation.

Woodpecker’s warm-up feature has a great user interface, and comes with a host of detailed tutorials that will help you make the most of the product.

  • Lemlist Warm-Up

Commonly known as ‘lemwarm’, this is another great email warmup tool that can be used to increase the deliverability of a new domain or email address.

Lemwarm helps build your sender reputation by sending out personalized emails in small batches, in order to get consistent engagement. Actively used by more than 20 thousand people in over a hundred countries, this email warm-up tool allows you to forego fake email addresses and instead exchange warm-up emails with real people around the world.

This is a great way to build a flawless reputation and ensure high open and response rates for your initial emails from a new account. Additionally, this tool uses state-of-the-art algorithms to keep your cold emails out of spam folders.

  • Never Bounce

This is an email cleaning and verification tool that is used to clean up bulk email lists, removing inactive accounts, spam traps, and other email addresses that could adversely impact your sender reputation.

You can upload your existing email list to Never Bounce for the cleaning process. A few moments later, you will be able to download a fully vetted, verified email list with no spam traps or inactive accounts.

During the cleaning process, Never Bounce checks domains for current live status, automatically removes duplicate emails from the list, identifies bad syntax, and eliminates potentially harmful email addresses.

  • Mail Tester

This email deliverability tool offers both a free as well as a premium version. Before you send out a cold email, you can use Mail Tester to check the likelihood that your email will end up in the recipient’s spam folder.

Mail Tester will read the HTML code of your email, analyze your domain for the most appropriate authentication methods, and scan to see if your domain has ended up on any email blacklist.

It will then come up with an overall deliverability score, and offer tips on how to increase that score, if it is low. All this will help improve the chances of your cold email reaching the inbox of your prospective client or customer.

  • MX Toolbox

This tool will help you determine the sender reputation of your domain, improve your domain’s capabilities, and validate the authentication methods of said domain.

You can use it to verify if your domain is configured properly and has all the necessary authentications. It can also check the health of your domain’s DNS records.

This tool will also tell you if you’ve forgotten to configure your DKIM signature, which helps ESPs verify you as a legitimate sender and minimize the risk of phishing, email spoofing, etc.

Concluding Note

Even the best and most creative cold emailing campaign won’t deliver the desired results, if your domain has a poor sender reputation and low email deliverability.

So, be sure to always remember the factors that can affect your email deliverability. And use the tips and tools mentioned above to diagnose (and solve) any problems with deliverability that might be impeding your cold emailing success.

Useful Resources & Tutorials

I hope you found this ebook helpful. Down below, I’ve listed some links to tutorials that you might find useful if you’re looking to set up LinkedIn ads.

How To Run Successful LinkedIn Ads in 2021 – a step by step 38-minute tutorial where we cover all the fundamentals of running LinkedIn ads.

LinkedIn Campaign Manager Tutorial – a 9-minute video that’ll give you a deep overview & bring you up to speed on how LinkedIn Campaign Manager works.

Lead Generation Forms (step by step tutorial) – this 10-minute tutorial will show you how to use lead generation forms & get the cheapest cost per lead.

Which LinkedIn Ads Objectives – Explained (2021) – in this 13-minute video, I cover how to properly use the right LinkedIn ads objectives to your advantage.

Philip Ilic

Philip Ilic

B2B Growth Specialist

Phil helps B2B SaaS companies with growth marketing and is a deep specialist in Linkedin advertising and paid social more generally (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn). He runs a paid social agency called Superlumen.co and is the founder of B2Bhero.co.

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