Have a closer look at your campaign stats. If you notice that the open rate is taking a nosedive and the number of bounces goes sky high, it most likely means that your deliverability rate is at a rock bottom and your messages either end up in the SPAM folder or are not delivered to the recipients at all.
These symptoms may indicate that your domain reputation got seriously damaged or perhaps you even got blacklisted. Don’t worry, though, you can bring your good reputation back. Here’s a step-by-step manual on how to do it.
What could be the reason for getting a bad domain reputation?
Before I move on to guide you through the recovery process, let’s analyze a couple of factors that could have led to this situation. A domain may lose its reputation due to bad sending practices, such as:
Sending to a low-quality prospect list
It’s the invalid or broken email addresses that stay behind a high hard bounce rate. Your prospect list should be verified and up-to-date. Don’t send emails to prospects from a list that is a few months old as there’s a risk that some of the prospects might have changed their jobs in the meantime and their business email addresses aren’t valid anymore.
For the same reason, you shouldn’t buy ready-made prospect lists. You can’t be sure if the data was acquired in a legal way. Also, the contact info may be outdated and unverified, thus your emails will bounce.
Your prospects may mark your messages as spam manually if they think it’s not relevant to their scope of business. It’s a sign for their email provider that the messages from that sender are considered unwelcome. That’s why you should precisely define your target group and contact only those individuals who could actually benefit from your solution.
Spammy and impersonal email content
Every email is scanned by spam filters before it gets to the addressee’s inbox. SPAM filters are especially sensitive to certain words because they are overused by the spammers. If the content of a message looks alarming, spam filters direct such an email to the SPAM folder. Especially if they notice that exactly the same email is sent out to the masses.
You should always check your email copy against a list of SPAM words. Be wary though. The list of SPAM words is ever growing. New words are added to it constantly. Common words, such as marketing or taxes can trigger SPAM filters. Check out or blog post about not-so-obvious SPAM vocabulary.
Plus, remember to personalize the content with snippets. Make your message a good fit to your recipient’s needs.
Suspicious, non-human-like sending behavior
Sudden high peaks in your sending activity look very suspicious to the SPAM filters, which are especially sensitive to any unusual sending activity. Sending out hundreds of emails per hour is not quite humanly possible.
Moreover, such a high email sending frequency may exceed the sending limit of your email provider and result in blocking your email address for some time. You should take it into account while scheduling your cold email campaigns. Go for a lean approach and create small but narrowly targeted campaigns for up to 20-30 prospects.
How to find out what went wrong?
You should thoroughly analyze your campaign and identify the reason behind a low deliverability rate in order to avoid such a scenario in the future. Apart from checking the content of your message for SPAM words, make sure all the technical settings are correct too.
You can use a tool like Mail-Tester to help you identify whether the SPF and DKIM are properly set up. Mail-Tester will also notify you if your domain appears on some of the most popular blacklists. We wrote more about how to use the tool and interpret the report you get in the following blog post:
In the worst case scenario, your domain might have been blacklisted. Don’t hit the panic button, though. Read this blog post to learn what should you do in order to get your domain off a blacklist:
Now that you have identified the reason for a bad reputation of your domain, you can work on improving it.
You need to start a recovery process.
Conduct a domain reputation recovery process
Follow these 4 steps to get your domain reputation back on track:
#1 Pause all your running campaigns
You should stop sending cold email campaigns from that domain until you find out why the deliverability rate has dropped down and your domain reputation improves.
#2 Send a couple of personalized messages manually
Send a few emails a day from your own mailbox to the contacts you know or to your other email addresses. Make each message unique and personalized, just as if you really wanted to catch up with an old friend. This way spam filters will notice that you’re a real human being, and not a bot or an email automation tool.
Note: Sending all the messages to the same domain won’t help. Choose addresses at different email providers. You can set up a free account at some of them and use them anytime you need to check your deliverability.
#3 Ask for reporting the emails as not SPAM
If your emails go to the SPAM folder, ask your addressees to manually report the emails as not spam. They can do it straight from their inbox, usually by marking the specific email and clicking the “Not spam” button. It’s a signal, which tells the email provider that the emails coming from you are welcome and should be moved to the main inbox.
As I mentioned in the previous point, you can report the emails as not spam by yourself, provided you have email addresses belonging to various email providers.
Note: Remember that once somebody marks your email as “Not Spam”, they will get your emails delivered to the main inbox almost always. Therefore, don’t use the same address for the recovery twice. If the owner of the email address reported your messages as not spam in the past, they won’t help you this time.
#4 Have a natural email conversation
Ask your addressees to reply to your emails, so the conversation looks natural. Exchange a couple of emails with each other for a few weeks. Then check whether the reputation of your domain got better or, if necessary, continue the process.
Domain reputation recovery process is quite similar to the domain warm-up process that you can read more about in this blog post:
The difference is that it takes a bit more time and effort because your starting point is negative, not neutral, reputation. The recovery process requires much more effort on your part.
To sum up
If you stay persistent with the recovery process and keep away from cold email bad practices, your domain will surely regain its good reputation. But most importantly, you should identify the reason why your domain reputation got damaged, draw conclusions and treat it as a lesson for the future.