As the Head of Customer Happiness, I get to hear all of the most commonly asked questions from our users and something that trips people up a lot is the idea of IP addresses and warming up a dedicated one. IP stands for “Internet Protocol,” which is not nearly as intimidating as it sounds! An IP address is basically like the internet version of a street address – it specifies where something lives on the web. And just like snail mail, which is sent from a physical location to someone’s mailbox, email is sent from an IP address to a subscriber’s inbox.
What’s the Deal with IP Addresses?
When it comes to sending emails, companies have two choices – they can use a shared IP address or dedicated IP address. These are exactly what they sound like! A shared IP address means other companies are also using the IP to send their emails; while a dedicated IP address means it’s all yours to enjoy. So when is it appropriate to share and when are you better off yelling “Mine!” and keeping an IP address all for yourself?
A shared IP address is often cheaper to use, but it can also be riskier because all of the companies using it are partially responsible for its reputation and any damage done can be difficult to reverse. All it takes is one shady character to ruin a shared IP address for everyone else. SendinBlue totally protects our shared IP addresses, but not all email marketing services do. Shared IP addresses are usually the right choice for companies that don’t plan on sending a high volume of emails or that need to minimize marketing costs.
With a dedicated IP, a company has a lot more control over the reputation of their IP address because they can keep the riff-raff out. They are also in a much better position to respond swiftly to any issues that may arise. This is why many larger companies (or companies with substantial email lists) choose to use a dedicated IP address for their email marketing efforts.
How Do I Get an IP with a Good Reputation?
As a company, your sender reputation is a combination of your IP address’s reputation and your domain’s reputation. Unless your domain (e.g. yourcompany.com) is completely new and has never been registered before or used for anything, your domain reputation is already known. Your IP reputation, on the other hand, starts out as neutral as long as it’s a fresh IP address. Over time your IP can develop a positive or negative reputation based on sender activities.
Using an IP that has already been used, abused, and discarded by another company can be very damaging. But just starting out with a fresh IP address doesn’t necessarily guarantee that your email efforts will be all rainbows and sunshine. A fresh dedicated IP needs to be warmed up by an email sender to allow it to develop a positive reputation.
What Does “Warming Up an IP Address” Really Mean?
Just like Pop-Tarts, dedicated IP addresses are best when they’re warmed up! “Warming up” an IP address is the process of slowly introducing the new IP to email recipients over time to build its trustworthiness. By taking it slowly, you’re allowing your IP to develop some history, which is important for email providers to see when deciding whether or not your emails should be trusted.
Warming up your IP also gives your contacts time to start expecting your emails. As they become more accustomed to expect your emails, they’ll become more likely to open them and engaging with the content inside – reading content, clicking on links, watching videos, and utilizing promo codes.
While it’s not technically a part of warming up process, validating your domain name using DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) is usually done in conjunction with warming up an IP address. This lets email recipients know that your email message hasn’t been compromised along the way. (Basically, it allows your emails to affirmatively answer the “Did you pack your own bags today?” question and pass through the security gate.) This is just another step in building the trustworthiness of your emails.
How Can I Warm Up My IP?
Using that same Pop-Tart analogy, think about how you prepare yourself one of those sugary toasty treats in the morning. Do you take an acetylene torch to it for a couple of seconds or drop it on an open flame? No. (Well, I mean, I really hope not!) Instead, you put it in the toaster and press the button. Then the toaster heats up and slowly warms the pastry over time, leaving it gently toasted enough that you get to enjoy a warm breakfast but not so much that you end up with a rectangular lump of coal. In the end, you get the result that you wanted because you took the time to do it right. Your IP address needs to be treated in the same way.
Instead of sending your first emails to your entire subscriber list, break up your list into smaller segments and send emails in regular intervals to them. For instance, if you have 50,000 subscribers, consider sending 1,000 emails at first, then a few days later send another 2,000, and a few days after that try sending 4,000. Keep ramping up your efforts until your IP address has been sufficiently warmed up. For most companies this won’t take more than a month or so and it will be well worth your time!
One of the best ways to segment your email list is by activity level. Start by sending emails to your most engaged subscribers first so that you’re more likely to have healthier open-rates and click-through rates. Then expand your efforts out to the less engaged segments of your audience. This approach will certainly help your email efforts, and it also makes sense from a customer retention standpoint because it means you’re rewarding and encouraging loyalty among your best customers.
What Can Happen if a Cold IP Address is Used for Email Marketing?
ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and ESPs (Email Service Providers) are the various companies that provide internet and email access to users. Each of them have their own built in controls to keep users safe from malicious and spammy emails. Their primary motivation for developing and implementing these controls is to increase user satisfaction because let’s face it, no email user wants to get a virus or be bogged down by piles of spam. Their built in controls look at a variety of factors when deciding whether to let an email through to the inbox or filter it to a spam/junk box instead. Over time, ISPs and ESPs will recognize an IP address’s typical sending habits and email contents. However, in the interim they don’t have much to judge your IP on yet, so they look at the only information they have – the volume of emails sent from that IP.
Which do you think is going to look more trustworthy — a new IP address that sent out 50,000 emails in its first few days and doesn’t really have any metrics to report yet — or an IP address that went active and sent out 10,000 emails each week and accumulated steady open-rate metrics as they went (indicating that recipients have been engaging with their content)? That answer should be a no-brainer!
Protect the Deliverability of Your Campaigns
IP addresses that send out too many emails too quickly are likely to get their messages flagged as spam regardless of the content, which will hurt their reputation moving forward. This damaged reputation can be as difficult to fix as trying to un-burn a charred Pop-Tart. You don’t want to set your email efforts up for deliverability failure by making a critical mistake right at the beginning. This is why it’s so critical that you take the time to warm up your dedicated IP address properly. Without the warm up process, you won’t have a solid foundation on which to build the rest of your email marketing strategy!
Now that you know how to warm up your dedicated IP address, you deserve a treat! Grab your favorite Pop-Tart flavor and once you’re done feasting on some sugar, go ahead and get started with your first email campaign. We can help you segment your email list, create engaging content, and send your emails for optimal delivery!