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Keep the Heat Off That New IP Address

  |  October 8, 2008   |  Comments

How to avoid the spam police when moving to a new e-mail service provider or IP address.

It's inevitable: at some point, you'll switch to a new e-mail service provider (ESP) or add a new IP address (define). These changes often have a major impact on your deliverability. Once upon a time, switching was easy and painless, but in today's delivery environment it can be quite challenging to get off to a good start.

Today, you must bring your new IP address up to speed slowly, rather than sending full throttle right away. If you switch providers, your new ESP likely will warn you about this, but it applies even if you are adding a new IP to your mail stream, such as for sending transactional messages, new Web sites, or e-mail programs.

Spammers usually leap to a new IP address when they get blocked from an old one, then blast out e-mail right away. ISPs get suspicious when they see e-mail volumes spike from unknown IP addresses, so they block first based on sudden volume spikes and ask questions later. This procedure is called throttling.

If you add an IP address to your mail stream, say, for increasing segmentation or volume, your good reputation on your existing IP address won't automatically transfer to your new one. On the other hand, if you start over after polluting a previous IP address, your bad rep can follow you. That's why you need to take care with your new one.

Today's approach is to begin slowly, sending a limited number of messages to small subsets of the best addresses on your mailing list. As you begin to build your reputation, you can start building your volume, but always while keeping an eye on your deliverability reports and spam-complaint rates.

You should be able to warm up your good reputation in about seven days. Depending on your total message volume, it could take a little longer to reach full capacity.

Organizing Your IP Warm-Up Plan

  • Get feedback loops established and whitelist requests approved before you start e-mailing, even on a reduced schedule. Also make sure you have updated your authentication records.

  • Create a sublist of active e-mail addresses from your mailing list with your most important domains represented. These are addresses with no negatives associated with them. Generally, they're established but not old addresses, usually 60 days to nine months old and with at least three clicks on campaigns. These usually are your most active and engaged subscribers, who generate the positive metrics ISPs like, such as opens and clicks, adding your sending address to their address books and generating few spam complaints.

    Avoid both brand-new and older addresses because they can generate more spam complaints. You need addresses that are clearly neither inactive nor a potential spam trap.

    Use this transition to prune your list of inactive names, too. Simply don't move the old names into your clean new system. Also, IP warm-up campaigns aren't the time to reactivate old lists or import poor legacy data. This is your chance to start over, so do it with clean data.

  • Send a message that isn't time-sensitive. Your goal is delivery more than conversion. So your message could be a customer-service or relationship-building message, in which you thank the subscriber for signing up, list other publications you offer, invite subscribers to fill out a survey or complete their profiles, or remind them to add your sending address to their address books, even if you haven't changed the actual e-mail address. Remember to spell out subscriber benefits and to include a "valued member" reward to reward them for being prized subscribers.

  • Monitor your delivery metrics. Your goal with this mailing is to deliver 95 percent to 100 percent of these messages to the inbox:

    • Watch your delivery reports for hard and soft bounces.

    • Monitor feedback loops for spam complaints.

    • Watch all mailboxes associated with your e-mail program, even those that aren't official e-mail reply mailboxes for comments or complaints.

Your Post-Warm-Up Game Plan

Don't let your new IP address go cold again. Once you complete the warm-up campaign, begin transitioning older, less-active recipients and begin mailing from your regular calendar. Continue to move these addresses over slowly and to build your sending volume over time.

How long can this transition take? That depends on your list size and the delivery metrics you generate. Watch bounce logs, looking particularly at the big three domains -- AOL, Hotmail, and Yahoo -- and watch for temporary blocking errors due to throttling.

You should be able to maintain consistent high inbox delivery for all messages as you increase volume. If delivery numbers start to slide, slow down the volume again or hold steady for a campaign or two until the numbers begin to improve, then increase volume again.

The warm-up process requires hard work, careful segmentation, good list quality, and, above all, patience. But the reward is clear: high inbox delivery and a great sender reputation, which will ensure future inbox delivery for a long time.

Until next time, keep on deliverin'!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stefan Pollard

Stefan Pollard, who started his career in online marketing in 1999, was considered a selfless mentor and champion of best practices in e-mail marketing. He held the position of senior strategic consultant at Responsys where he was responsible for developing e-mail marketing and lifecycle messaging strategies to increase clients' ROI. Before that, Stefan led the e-mail consulting program for Lyris clients, frequently speaking at industry events on best practices. Prior to that, he managed the audit process and consulted with clients to improve their e-mail delivery challenges for Habeas. As an e-mail marketer, he spent several years building and executing acquisition and retention campaigns at E-Loan and Cybergold.com. He died May 14, 2010.

In Memoriam: Stefan Pollard
E-mail marketing community mourns the loss of a marketing pro dedicated to helping his peers and clients and working to improve an industry. Here are their tributes celebrating his life.

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