Gmail Inbox Insurance: Expert Advice for the Google Spam Update

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the new Google bulk sender guidelines roll out on February 1st. 

As we’ve previously discussed, this is a big deal for email marketers and sales teams, especially those who tend to rely on cold outreach and ABM efforts. 

Meeting the 0.3% spam complaint threshold will be challenging for a lot of people and if teams don’t adjust, they are in big trouble.

To help you prepare for the impending update, we brought in six email marketing experts to discuss not only what the impact of the bulk sender update will be but how companies can prepare and adapt. 

From tips on email deliverability and infrastructure to engagement and frequency, get ready, because our experts are going to help ensure your inbox is insured against these new rules.

1. Focus on Intent-Driven Outbound Emails 

According to Customers.ai Founder & CEO Larry Kim, it’s time to zero in on intent-driven outbound emails. 

This means connecting with people who’ve already shown some love for what you’re offering. Forget blasting cold emails that end up in the spam folder. We’re talking about reaching out to those who have, in one way or another, signaled they’re into your brand or products.

The magic of this strategy? It’s how folks perceive your emails. With inbound emails, you’re preaching to the choir – these are your newsletter subscribers, your past shoppers. They’re way more likely to hit ‘unsubscribe’ than scream ‘spam’ if they’re over your messages. 

But with outbound? 

You’re often hitting up strangers, which cranks up the odds of landing in spam jail. The game-changer here is to shift your sights to those who’ve already taken a sneak peek at what you offer, maybe through your website or your ads.

The trick is to make the most of your first-party data. 

Tools like Customers.ai’s Website Visitor ID X-Ray pixel can turn your website traffic into a goldmine of potential contacts. 

These aren’t random names; these are folks who’ve already flirted with your brand just a bit. It’s like warming up the crowd before you step on stage. And hey, why not flip the script with your target lists? 

Instead of unleashing a flood of emails, use those lists to whip up custom ad audiences on platforms like Facebook or Google. Then, track down the people who bite and show interest in these ads. 

This way, you’re not shooting emails into the dark. You’re laser-targeting folks who’ve kinda, sorta raised their hands already.

In short, intent-driven outbound emailing is about blending the reach of old-school outbound with the savvy, targeted approach of inbound. It’s like having your cake and eating it too – reaching far and wide, yet keeping it relevant and welcomed. 

This approach not only boosts your chances of getting real engagement but also keeps email providers happy, making sure your messages hit the mark.

2. Make Your Deliverability Anti-Fragile To The Email Service Providers

The new spam rules are making it harder to reach inboxes and the reality is, as an email marketer, your primary job is to ensure your emails actually reach the inbox. 

According to Barrett Unger, Co-Founder of The Deal Lab, it’s about making your deliverability strategy tough as nails against the whims of email service providers. 

The key focus here is on how you’re sending those emails. The goal? To make your email deliverability ‘anti-fragile’. This means adapting your strategy to be resilient against the constraints and changes of email service providers. 

How do you do that? 

Start by playing it cool with your sending limits. If there’s a cap, don’t flirt with it; stay safely below. This not only keeps you out of trouble but also maintains the health of your email domain.

Here’s another pro move: diversify your domains. 

Don’t put all your outbound emails in one basket, i.e., your main domain. Why? Because if your main domain gets flagged, it’s not just your marketing efforts that take a hit. Your entire business communication – with investors, customers, and internal teams – could get disrupted. 

The solution? Invest in multiple domains dedicated solely to outbound emailing and warm them up. 

Warming up a domain means gradually increasing the volume of sent emails over about a month, establishing a reputation with email service providers as a legitimate sender.

But why stop at one extra domain? If your email volume demands it, keep adding and warming up more domains. This strategy allows you to scale your email efforts without endangering your main domain’s reputation. And remember, this isn’t just about playing defense. It’s about being smart and strategic with how much you send and from where.

This strategy is about playing by the rules but playing them smartly. It’s not about pushing boundaries to the max; it’s about maximizing outcomes within safe limits. By distributing your outbound efforts across multiple warmed-up domains, you create a robust, anti-fragile system that keeps your deliverability strong and your main domain safe. 

3. Polish Your Domain Infrastructure

With Google and Yahoo’s bulk sender guidelines, there has to be a focus on the technical setup of your email marketing infrastructure. 

According to Vladyslav Podoliako, CEO & Founder of Folderly, the key is understanding DNS records. This is no longer just the realm of IT pros. Marketers need to be clued in on DNS records and why they matter. 

These records, including DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance), SPF (Sender Policy Framework), and BIMI (Brand Indicators for Message Identification), are your email’s digital signature. They’re not just fancy acronyms; they’re your first line of defense in ensuring your emails actually reach their intended recipients.

Setting up these DNS records correctly is also critical. With the new updates rolling out, non-compliance could mean your emails get bounced back or, worse, rejected outright. 

Think of these records as your email’s passport and visa. Without them being in order, your messages aren’t going anywhere. 

  • DMARC helps authenticate that your emails are genuinely from you
  • SPF verifies your sending sources
  • BIMI provides a visual indication of your brand in the recipient’s inbox 

So, what’s the call to action here? 

It’s time to get your hands dirty with the technical side of things. 

Audit your current domain and mailbox setup. Are your DNS records in place and correctly configured? Are they aligned with the latest standards and requirements set by email service providers? This isn’t just a one-time setup; it’s an ongoing process of ensuring that your email infrastructure stays compliant and optimized.

The message is loud and clear: polish your domain infrastructure to keep up with the technical demands of modern email marketing. This means diving deep into the nuts and bolts of your email setup and ensuring everything from DNS records to mailbox configurations is spot-on. 

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4. Integrate Voice of Customer Data

Be human. That’s what Kham Inthirath, CEO of Compound Effect, says is important when it comes to beating the new spam rules.

It’s about stepping away from the comfort zone of templates and best practices to embrace a more humanistic approach. 

The question to constantly ask is: Would I read this? Would I click on this? 

Getting into the mindset of your audience is crucial, and sometimes that means stepping out of the marketing bubble to see things from a fresh, customer-centric perspective.

It means, start engaging in open conversations with clients who interact with your content – be it newsletters or other forms. That is a goldmine of qualitative data that many overlook! 

This isn’t about just processing numbers and analytics; it’s about understanding the ‘why’ behind the actions. Why did a customer click on a particular link? What made them engage with a specific piece of content? This insight is invaluable.

The real challenge lies in bridging the gap between quantitative data and qualitative feedback. 

It’s about validating the numbers with actual human responses. These conversations can be enlightening, offering perspectives that raw data alone cannot provide. They help in understanding the effectiveness of your content and can lead to significant improvements in how you communicate with your audience.

Moreover, rewarding customers for their insights can be an effective way to encourage this exchange. A simple ‘thank you’ or a small token of appreciation for their time can go a long way. This interaction not only garners valuable feedback but also strengthens customer relationships, making them feel heard and valued.

The integration of VOC data is about balancing the hard facts with the human element. It’s about moving beyond the trap of solely relying on data and metrics to embracing a more holistic approach that includes real conversations with real people. 

5. Identify & Segment Engaged Groups

One of the most pivotal strategies when it comes to insuring your inbox is focusing on segmentation, specifically identifying the most engaged groups within your audience. 

Per Amber Doughty, Senior Director, Lifecycle Marketing, Hawke Media, this isn’t just about who’s on your list; it’s about understanding who actively interacts with your emails. 

For instance, if you’re noticing that your emails are getting lukewarm receptions from Gmail or Yahoo users, it’s a signal that these segments need extra nurturing. This is where the real detective work begins – diving deep into how these specific groups engage with your emails. Are they opening them? Clicking through? Or just giving them a pass?

This is also where the concept of quality over quantity comes to play. 

It’s not about how many emails you send, it’s about how relevant and engaging they are to each segment of your audience. 

One of the smartest tools in your arsenal here is the email preference center. It’s like a secret weapon that allows subscribers to choose what they want to hear about and how often. By leveraging this, you ensure that the content you send resonates with each recipient’s interests and preferences.

But what about those who aren’t engaging? Here’s a pro tip: send them straight to your preference center. This not only gives them the power to tailor their email experience but also provides you with valuable feedback on what works and what doesn’t. It’s a win-win: your subscribers feel heard, and you get to fine-tune your approach.

Now, let’s talk about cleaning up. The era of batch-and-blast emails is over – it’s old school, ineffective, and frankly, it can damage your sender reputation. This is where implementing a ‘sunset flow’ becomes crucial. It’s a process designed to identify and remove unengaged subscribers from your list. Think of it as housekeeping for your email marketing – keeping your list clean, engaged, and effective.

Identifying and segmenting your engaged groups is not just a tactic; it’s a strategic necessity. It’s about delivering the right message to the right people at the right time. By focusing on engagement and nurturing each segment of your audience, you protect your sender reputation and set the stage for more impactful, meaningful email conversations. 

[Watch the Webinar Replay]

6. Optimize the Sender Name

Optimizing the sender name in your emails might seem like a small tweak, but it can be a game-changer in getting your emails to land. 

According to Andy Crestodina, Co-Founder and CMO, Orbit Media, this strategy revolves around the simple yet powerful concept of being more human in your approach. 

Consider this: it’s psychologically more challenging for someone to unsubscribe or report an email as spam when it’s from a recognizable person, not just a faceless brand. The idea here is to make your emails feel like they’re coming from a friend or a trusted advisor, not an impersonal corporate entity.

The effectiveness of this approach has been backed by conversion optimization experts and seasoned email marketers alike. 

One such proponent is Ann Handley, known for her highly engaged email list. She attributes part of her success to optimizing the sender name. It’s a straightforward change that anyone can make in a matter of seconds, yet it can lead to significant improvements in open rates. Imagine seeing an email from ‘John from Company X’ versus just ‘Company X’. The former has a personal touch that can make all the difference.

This strategy is not just about opening rates; it’s also about building trust over time. 

The more familiar and human your sender name, the more likely recipients are to perceive your email as relevant and valuable, rather than just another piece of noise in their inbox. It’s about creating a connection that goes beyond the transactional nature of most marketing emails.

Additionally, this approach aligns perfectly with the idea of maintaining high-quality content. The world indeed isn’t waiting for another mediocre article or generic email blast. Focusing on high quality with lower frequency can yield far better results than bombarding your audience with frequent, lower-quality content. It’s about adding value with every email, making each communication something your audience looks forward to.

Another interesting aspect of this approach, highlighted by marketer Chris Penn, is the use of a prominent unsubscribe button. This might seem counterintuitive, but it actually reduces the likelihood of getting spam complaints. By making it easy and even humorous for people to unsubscribe, you’re essentially filtering out those who are not genuinely interested in your content, thereby improving the overall health of your email list.

At the end of the day, it’s about bringing a human touch to your communications, building trust, and ensuring that your audience perceives your emails as valuable and relevant. Coupled with high-quality content and an easy unsubscribe process, this strategy can significantly enhance your email marketing performance in the face of these crazy updates.

Make Your Email Marketing Update-Proof

The bulk sender update from Google and Yahoo is certainly one of the biggest we’ve seen but in all likelihood, isn’t the last of the major updates.

The key to staying update-proof and avoiding getting caught in the dreaded spam folder is to focus on building strong, personal connections and understanding your audience deeply. 

Embrace strategies like intent-driven outbound emails, optimizing sender names, and integrating customer feedback, ensuring your content resonates and your approach remains agile. 

By staying adaptable and prioritizing engagement and authenticity, your email marketing will not only survive but thrive amidst constant updates and shifts in the digital world.

Want more? Watch the webinar and get even more tips from our amazing experts!

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