Cold email outreach is one of the most effective ways of boosting your exposure online. Numerous fortune 500 companies have successfully utilized it in a number of different ways. One of the least talked about aspects of a successful campaign is the preparation needed to do beforehand with the inboxes you plan on sending out mail from. This process is typically referred to as ‘warming up’ an inbox, where you take a brand new email address under your domain and get it prepared to send out a large amount of emails. In this blog post we will be going over all the basics about what this process is, how it works, and why doing so is an important step to perform for any type of cold email campaign. Let's get started.
What Is Warming Up An Email?
To put it basically, warming up an inbox is simply making a new email account appear to be active and in use by a real person through routinely checking your inbox, sending out emails to other existing addresses, and maintaining email/conversation threads. You are establishing a reputation for this email address that will increase the likelihood that your outreach messages land in the primary inbox of the recipient and not get stopped by spam traps.
Why Is This Necessary?
The primary reason as to why fresh accounts need to be warmed up is that spammers will constantly be creating new accounts to utilize for their own spam outreach, where they typically get disabled, banned, or blacklisted quickly. This tactic existing within the spam industry has the negative effect on anyone performing an outreach campaign of their own, as one of the red flags for an email getting marked as spam is if it was recently created and does not have any type of reputation associated with it yet.
Warming up an inbox takes time and patients, but this effort will demonstrate to other mailboxes that this webserver is the real deal and any type of outreach you are performing is not malicious in any way. This will in turn increase your
- Rate of Delivery
- Open Rates
- Click Through Rates
- Positive Engagement rates
Essentially every aspect of your campaign has a better chance at success when you properly warm up an inbox. This also will drastically decrease the likelihood of an inbox being locked or flagged for violating any TOS under an email service.
How Long Does It Take?
Warming up an inbox is a long process that cannot be done in a single day or even over the course of a week. Based on past experiences we have had warming up inboxes, the sweet spot appears to be around 2 weeks of work to get an email address ready to be used in a cold email campaign.
Thankfully, this process is more about maintaining a schedule in which you are performing actions that will demonstrate activity rather than having to dedicate multiple hours every day towards this task. Later on we'll go over the specifics of how you should go about planning out your schedule, but keep in mind that the more time you perform actions to warm up an inbox, the better your reputation will be for the account.
1: Setting Up The Basics Of An Address
After the creation of a new email address, there are a few quick and simple steps that you should follow to establish a baseline identity for the account. The first thing you should do is set up a proper ‘from line’ and signature.
The from line of an address is what appears right next to the subject line of a piece of mail in a recipients inbox. Typically for personal email addresses, the from line of their account will be their first name + last name, since if you are sending out an email to another individual or business you would want the recipient to know who this email is from without having to guess based on the address itself. For an email account that you are using for cold email outreach, what you set the from line too is entirely dependent on the identity you are going with for this account. For most companies, the identity for an address will either be
- A personalized email with the identity of either a real or fake person at the company
- A role based identity similar to an info@/contact@ address.
Having a personalized email account when reaching out to contacts is typically the approach I would personally go with, as people are generally much more receptive when they feel like there is a real person on the other end instead of an address where the identity of the sender is not directly obvious. Whatever your purpose is for an email address being used for cold email outreach, you will want to configure your from line accordingly as it adds to the legitimacy of an address as well as will make your outreach attempts appear more legitimate.
The signature of an email address is what appears as a footer in mail sent to recipients. They will typically appear like this.
I like to think of an email signature in the same way you would a business card, where you essentially place all the relevant information and contact information you can into a small, compact space. This not only adds to the legitimacy of your new email address but also can be used to provide additional information regarding your company and the identity you are setting for this address.
Performing these two tasks after creating an account will not take much time, but go a long way for building up the legitimacy of your address.
2: Configuring Your SPF, DKIM, and DMARC
SPF, DKIM, and DMARC. These are acronyms that the average person probably hasn’t heard of but are extremely important for ensuring a successful email outreach campaign.These trio of terms refer to a set of email security protocols that ensure your domain is protected and ensure that emails sent out have a very low likelihood of ending up in the spam folder of the targets inbox. All three of these protocols are inter-related and work together, so it is very important to at least understand what they are, how they work, and how to configure them if you need to. If your company utilizes an IT service, these protocols are most likely already implemented but it is very important to verify that they are yourself. Let's explore each of these protocols.
Sender Policy Framework (SPF) is an email authentication technique that is designed to confirm the identity of sender addresses and prevent any forged mail from being sent on behalf of your sender domain. The SPF framework is what allows an organization to publish authorized mail servers for the purpose of further authentifying any incoming mail received by other mail servers.
On a mail server, an SPF Record is simply just a DNS record that is added to your domain. In this record, you simply just specify which IP addresses or hostnames are allowed to send mail under your specific domain.
DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) is another email authentication method that is designed to detect email spoofing, which is the process of creating outgoing mail with a forged sender address. DKIM works in tandem with SPF records in that it allows the receiving inbox to check the validity of a piece of mail that comes from a specific domain. This process is done through the process of attaching a digital signature linked to the domain, where the receiving inbox can match this signature with the public signature of the domain DNS. These signatures are not seen by the user but hide in the metadata of each piece of mail as they are only needed on the backend of the server.
In relation to SPF, DKIM essentially provides another level of authentication when sending and receiving mail as it just another security handshake to ensure that the mail that other servers are receiving is real and being sent from validated inboxes.
Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) is the final common email authentication protocol that is designed to further verify mail being sent to an external inbox. DMARC acts as an extension to DKIM and SPF authentication protocols as it allows the administrative owner of a domain to enter a DNS record to specify what protocols are in effect on a domain so the server knows what to look for (As in if you have DKIM enabled on your end but not an SPF record, the DMARC DNS entry will specify this so that the receiving server will know to only check the DKIM signature.)
3: Sending Out Individualized Emails
The most important aspect of warming up an inbox is slowly sending out and receiving emails on a daily basis. This is the biggest indicator to email hosting services that an account is indeed being used by an actual person and not being created purely for the purpose of sending out mass mail. This is done in a relatively straightforward manner, where you obtain a number of emails (preferably existing contacts who know beforehand that they will be receiving mail from a fresh account) and simply reach out to them in an organic way. A thing to note is that you do not want to be sending out emails containing random characters, as that can be a clear indication that you are sending out some sort of spam. Even if your emails are different copy and pasted emails, they have to be legible in some way that makes sense if someone were to read them.
The ideal amount of emails you want to send out per day is around 10-20 per day, spread across a 24 hour period of time where you do not send more than 2 emails out per hour. An ideal workflow will look something like this.
- Send out 10-20 unique, individualized emails out (With subject lines, and content within the body) to existing inboxes per day.
- Open and read all mail that gets received back to you (signing up for newsletters will help this).
- Maintain conversation threads with unique mail received back to you (have receiving inboxes reply back to you will help a lot with this task).
- Perform these steps daily for 2 weeks
The sending limit is a general rule of thumb I follow as almost every hosting service has a limit set for new accounts. The best way to go about this is to treat this new account as you would any new account, and just use it as you would your own personal account for 2 weeks
4. Automating the process (use warmupinbox.com)
Warming up an inbox manually isn’t a lot of work, but it can be a very tedious process that you need to maintain a schedule with in order to do it effectively. This also becomes a much more difficult task when you are warming up multiple inboxes for a particularly large cold email campaign. Thankfully, there are services that exist that can automate this process such as warmupinbox.com, where you simply set up your inbox with their service and set up when you want emails to be sent out and for how long. They will handle the
- Contents of the emails
- Who they get sent too
- Who will be responding
- Handling responses/maintaining email threads
These types of services are fantastic for easily getting email inboxes up to speed while you prepare various other aspects of your cold email campaign.
Warming up an email account before a cold email campaign can feel like a pointless task to perform, but it is just as critical of an aspect of a campaign than any other step in the process. This will ensure that your outreach efforts won’t fall on deaf ears and prevent any issues later down the road, such as an account deletion or having your mail be placed directly in a spam folder as opposed to their main inbox. It is a long and tedious process, but know that it is a necessary part of the process to have the best cold email outreach campaign possible.