So, you’re researching your prospect, curating perfect cold emails, optimizing your subject lines, ensuring they’re free of clickbait, and sending them at the right time. Then why aren’t your open rates, response rates, or meetings booked reflecting your hard work?
Two words: email deliverability.
Your email might be perfect, but if it's reaching the promotion tab or, worse, the spam folder instead of the inbox, your cold emailing efforts will not yield the results you’re looking for.
Your target is your prospect’s inbox, period. And anything short of that means sending it to a dark abyss, where it might never see the light of day again. To tackle this, you need to ensure your cold email deliverability is optimized.
This cold email deliverability guide discusses all there is to know about getting your cold email to reach the finish point, including how you can drive your deliverability rate.
Let’s start by understanding what cold email deliverability is in the first place.
What Is Cold Email Deliverability?
Your cold email deliverability rate indicates how many of your cold emails actually reach the prospect’s inbox. Mind you, we’re talking about their primary inbox, not the promotion tab.
What makes this one of the most important metrics for an SDR is that it’s the foundation of your email outreach ROI. If your cold email doesn’t reach your prospect, it’s not getting to point A, let alone to point Z, to get your meetings booked. Considering that emails drive an ROI of $36 for every $1 spent, ignoring your cold email deliverability rate could mean suboptimizing one of the best cold outreach techniques.
Factors That Determine Email Deliverability
There are 4 factors that influence your cold email deliverability rate. To understand how you can improve the chances of your email landing on the prospect’s primary inbox, you must first examine these factors.
1. Email Authentication
Email authentication, as the name suggests, means confirming that the email is genuine and isn’t sent to mislead or spam the recipient. Think of it as a security check that verifies your identification before you get through to your prospect.
So, how do you prove you’re the real deal and deserve a place in your prospect’s inbox? By setting up email authentication protocols. These act as a fail-safe that ensure your email doesn’t get misidentified as spam and make it to the coveted inbox.
Here are 3 essential protocols you should lock down to improve your cold email deliverability rate:
1. Sender Policy Framework (SPF)
Sender Policy Framework (SPF) is a record that is saved in the domain name system (DNS). It is essentially a list of authorized IP addresses that are allowed to send emails from a given domain.
If an email’s IP address doesn’t match with an IP address on the list, it is discarded and fails to reach its destination inbox. To prevent this, use an SPF checker. Here are a couple of tools that can help you:
This online tool helps you confirm your SPF record has been published accurately, prevents formatting mistakes in your records, and helps discover discrepancies.
- MXToolBox’s SPF record checker
This SPF record lookup and validator helps you identify any errors that might be affecting your cold email deliverability rate.
2. Domain Keys Identified Message (DKIM)
Domain Keys Identified Message (DKIM) is more complex than SPF as it carries more information. It’s a digital signature that is encoded into the email when it is sent. This key is then used by your prospect’s email server to verify your email and allow it to reach the inbox.
DKIM, along with SPF, ensures your email is verified and legitimate. Here are some tools that can help you check your DKIM record:
This online tool examines your email header and confirms that it contains a private key and a valid signature. In other words, it helps ensure your email gets a green light during email authentication.
This is another online tool that can help you confirm your DKIM record. All you need to do is feed in the DKIM selector and domain.
3. Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC)
Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) is used along with SPF and DKIM to act as an additional security measure. DMARC instructs mail servers what to do when DKIM or SPF fail to authenticate an email. Here’s why you need to implement DMARC:
- Email visibility
It provides reports for emails sent using your domain, which helps in knowing how your email domains are used.
- Brand protection
It helps block emails that might damage your brand’s reputation with your prospects.
- Email security
It helps safeguard prospects from phishing scams that can compromise your company’s security as well as hamper their chances of converting.
Here are some tools that can help test and validate your DMARC records:
This tool helps you confirm the authenticity of your DMARC record before you lose any emails to your prospect’s server. By conducting this check, you can ensure your cold emails make it to your prospect’s inbox and don’t get misidentified as threats.
This DMARC checker helps you look up and identify errors in your domain’s DMARC records. All you have to do is select DMARC under ‘lookup type’ and enter your domain in the field below.
2. Email Sender Reputation
The adage “Your reputation precedes you” has never been as important as it is now. Internet service providers (ISPs) take your emails’ past performance into consideration when determining if the security barrier should be raised for you.
If your emails enjoy a high open rate, high click-through rate, low spam folder visits, fewer spam complaints, and low bounce rates, your email reputation will be strong enough for your email to don sunglasses and strut right into your prospect’s inbox. If not, you’re not making it in.
So, what can be done? You can optimize the following factors influencing your email sender reputation.
- Email Engagement
Past engagement is the driving factor for a good email sender reputation. So, naturally, ensuring your email engagement is positive can help you attain and maintain a high sender reputation.
In other words, ensure your emails get opened, prospects interact with them—either by clicking a link or replying (depending on your CTA), and don’t banish them to the spam folder or hit ‘unsubscribe’.
- Domains and Blocklists
Firstly, ensure your email address doesn’t look suspicious but professional and legit. Your email address should be with your organization’s domain or sub-domain.
Next, your domain should avoid the blacklist, very literally. A domain blacklist (also called a domain blocklist) is a list that allows ISPs to block emails from domains that typically send spam.
Your domain may also be blacklisted due to the gradual degradation of the domain reputation itself. This mostly happens because of sending many emails from a particular domain that have been classified as spam.
If your domain is blacklisted, you will need to delist your domain. This can be done by contacting the blacklists and requesting to be removed from them.
3. Email Bounce Rate
Your cold email bounce rate refers to the number of cold emails that didn’t make it to your prospects’ inboxes. As a result, you might receive an error or a non-delivery report (NDR) informing you that your email never reached its destination.
If only that were the end of the story. But it’s not. A high bounce rate can negatively impact your cold email deliverability rate, so keeping it low must be prioritized. How do you do that? By ensuring your list of prospect’s emails is up-to-date.
Stale or old email lists can mean you’re sending cold emails to addresses that might not be in use anymore, and so when your email can’t reach its destination, it’s going to come back with an added point to your bounce rate.
4. Importance of Email Content
Email service providers (ESPs) like Gmail, Outlook, etc., are sentries looking to authenticate all emails before they go through to your prospect’s inbox. And they check everything—from your email’s header and attachments to its URLs and images.
And hence, your email content is pretty much fair game for these ESPs. If you don’t ensure your email content is optimized and free of spammy language, it might get caught at the gate itself.
Including words such as "buy now," "free," "save $," etc., in your email is begging to get noticed by your email service provider. And if it goes through, it runs the risk of getting sent to the spam dungeons.
So, how to avoid spam filters? Through relevant and personalized content. Ensure your email content is value-driven and you effectively sidestep the spam folder while building sender reputation.
Best Practices to Boost Cold Email Deliverability
Can this really be called a cold email deliverability guide without offering you a cheat sheet to boost deliverability? We think not. So, here are 9 ways you can improve your deliverability rate:
1. Upgrade to a Cold Email Software
Many sales teams rely on email marketing tools for their outreach efforts. If you’re in the same boat, you might want to reconsider. Why? Because email marketing tools do you more harm than good. Here’s how:
- They’re meant for casting a wide net, not for one-on-one interactions.
- By sending emails in bulk, they negatively impact your sender reputation, costing you your deliverability rate.
- They’re unable to personalize your emails.
- They’re only meant for email. That means any interaction with the prospect on other platforms such as LinkedIn, WhatsApp, or social media, goes undocumented.
The solution to these problems lies in a cold email software. These tools are specially designed to help SDRs achieve outreach goals across platforms in a systematic and personalized way.
2. Warm up Your Email Address
This is typically required in case of new email addresses. And so, if you’re new to cold emailing, warming up your email is one of the first things you need to do. Think of it as getting the muscles of your email address warmed up as you would before a game to avoid any muscle pulls or injuries. In this case, to prevent getting flagged by spam filters.
You see, ESPs have a daily sending limit for new emails. Google Workspace for instance, has a limit of 2000 emails per day. That’s for an old email account, not a new one. New email accounts usually have a much lower threshold. This is put in place to prevent spammers from opening email addresses just to bombard recipients with emails.
If this limit is breached, the account gets suspended for 24 hours and flagged as spam.
So, how do we get around it? After all, 2000 might seem like a lot to the average email user , but it’s a Monday for SDRs. Here’s what to do.
Start by sending just a few emails from your new account, and build up from that, increasing the number daily. Also, make sure your emails are sent to known addresses and receive positive interactions such as high open rates, replies, and no spam marks. You can also accelerate the process with email warm-up tools like Lemwarm, Allegro, Warmup Inbox, etc.
This will gradually improve your sender reputation and deliverability, helping your emails reach your prospect’s inbox eventually.
But this is a game of patience. Warming up your email can take around 2-3 months. So, engaging an email warm-up tool is not a bad idea.
3. Validate Prospects’ Email IDs
Email validation means verifying your prospects’ emails to ensure you send cold emails to active email addresses. As discussed earlier, this reduces your bounce rate and, by extension, improves your sender reputation and email deliverability rate.
The process of email verification includes,
- Checking for syntax issues.
- Verifying the prospect’s domain through DNS records.
- Confirming the prospect’s email address exists and can receive emails.
There are several email validation tools that can help you filter stale email addresses within minutes. To ensure your cold email deliverability doesn’t take a hit, always run the email addresses of your prospects through email validation tools.
4. Avoid Tracking Opens and Clicks
Including track links in cold emails is a great way to learn whether your prospects are reading them, but in the grand scheme of things, they can seriously cost your email outreach and affect your deliverability rate.
How? Service providers like Google often filter out emails with links to safeguard their users. This is because links take the user out of a safe domain and redirect them to another site which can be harmful or compromise their safety.
So, is there a way out of this? Can you send cold emails and still add links?
Yes. Here are your options:
- Include links that don’t track
By adding links without tracking them, you’ll still get visitors to your site from the email and minimize the chance of getting caught in spam at the same time.
- Track your emails with UTM
This option is available when your links are only directed to your website. This is because you need to engage an analytics software on the website you have linked to. By adding a UTM code at the end of your link, you can track the link’s clicks. All you need is a UTM link builder that will generate a UTM code for you.
5. Create Personalized Emails
Personalized cold emails do wonders not just for your open rates. By helping your email seem less spammy, they help improve your cold email deliverability too.
When you personalize your cold email for your prospects, spam filters don’t recognize it as dinner. Instead, they identify it as an email meant for the inbox. This improves your cold email deliverability rate and sender reputation.
But is personalizing each email too much work? Not really.
Kyle Coleman, CMO at Clari, says:
“Some people make the mistake of thinking that "personalization" means 100% tailoring of each message to each individual. That is false. Because people's inboxes are so flooded, you do have to play the numbers game a bit—sending a decent quantity of high-quality messaging. You can't do this if it takes you 30 minutes to research & write every email.”
Leverage your prospect’s social media activity, their company, hometown or even their interests to curate personalized subject lines and emails.
6. Optimize Your Call to Action (CTA)
Looking at the larger picture, your cold email cadence is meant to nudge your prospect further down the sales funnel. And for that to happen, you need to show them the way.
Your CTAs are just that. These are like signages at the end of the corridor, directing your prospect from one stage of the sales process to the next. So, ending your cold email with a CTA is imperative to not only keep your prospect hooked but also get them to the final buyer stage. Without these, your prospect will get lost, lose interest, or worse yet, recognize the need for your product but choose a competitor.
When they engage with your emails by interacting with the CTA, it sends a positive signal to the ESPs. They see this engagement as a sign that your emails are relevant and valuable to the recipient, increasing the chances of your emails landing in their inbox instead of the spam folder.
So, make sure you optimize your CTA to get the maximum out of your cold email outreach. Here’s how to do this.
- Keep it short
Your CTA should not be a paragraph, but a short sentence. It could be something like: “Subscribe to our newsletter” or “Sign up for our webinar.”
- Keep it precise
CTAs should be specific and communicate exactly what your prospect will gain from following through.
In the words of Chase Dimond, a top email expert: “Tell people exactly what they’re getting when they click.”
- Keep it simple
Lastly, keep it simple and straightforward. Make it sound easy, and your prospect will be all the more willing to follow through. You’ve already mentioned all the important info in the email content. The CTA is only to take your prospect to the next stage. So, CTAs such as “Are you available for a 20 min chat on Aug 7 at 3 PM EDT?” work best.
7. Include an Unsubscribe Link
Laws like the US’s CAN-SPAM and Europe’s GDPR are in place to safeguard prospects from unwanted and unsolicited commercial messages as well as prevent infringement of privacy. While these laws cover a myriad of violations and penalties, we are concerned with their law on offering an unsubscribe link in cold emails.
According to this, salespeople must offer prospects a way out of their emails. In other words, a link to help them stop receiving unwanted messages.
But why would you elect to offer this to a prospect who you want to convert into a paying customer? Well, besides preventing penalties under these laws, it also helps you maintain a high deliverability rate.
How? By offering them an alternative to hitting spam. Picture this: If they keep receiving emails that they don’t want, how are they going to make the emails stop? By marking it spam. And that negatively impacts your cold email deliverability rate. So, how do you do it?
Add an unsubscribe link at the end of your email to offer this option to your prospect.
8. Run an Email Test Before Sending
You take a test drive before buying a car, right? More than half of the time, you might already be making space in your garage mentally as you hit the accelerator. Then why take the trouble of test-driving it? Because you want to know how it would ‘feel’ to have the car. Test driving a car helps you understand it more intimately and recognize features that work for you and those that don’t.
A test run for your cold email works in a similar way. The only difference here is that you can remove the features that you don’t like. Especially ones that compromise on your cold email deliverability rate. Remove spam-triggering words, optimize DKIM and SPF records, and even personalize unsubscribe links.
9. Avoid Spam Trigger Words
Lastly, avoid using spam trigger words in your cold emails. You might already know this, but it’s a prevention that can’t be stressed enough.
Like Scar pushes Mufasa into the stampede, spam words can push your cold email into the spam filters. Your email will get caught in the net and never reach your prospects' inbox. To sidestep these filters, be mindful of your email language.
SaleNexus has compiled a list of 250 spam phrases that you can refer to when drafting your cold email next time. These include common words such as “congratulations”, “profit,” and even “amazing.” Stay updated with the latest spam words to ensure your email dodges the spam filters.
Enhance Your Email Deliverability With Klenty
Your cold email deliverability rate sets the tone for all your subsequent metrics, such as open rate, response rate, and the like. Ensuring this is optimized will allow you to give a fair shot to your cold emailing efforts. And now, with this email deliverability guide, you can rest assured you have the ultimate roadmap to getting your emails into your prospect’s inbox.
And that’s not all. To really make your cold email campaign count, you can use a sales engagement software that not only helps you drive your sales outreach metrics but allows you to do it without breaking a sweat.
Leading platforms like Klenty offer email deliverability features such as email validation and domain tracking, ensuring your cold emails take a one-way ticket to your prospect’s inbox and nowhere else. Further, its cadence throttle feature lets you tweak the number of cold emails sent in a day, helping you boost your sender reputation.
So, partner this guide with a leading sales engagement software and watch your graph soar.
Resources You'll Love
What is the deliverability of a cold email?
How can I improve my cold email deliverability?
1. Upgrade to a cold mail software
2. Warm up your email address
3. Validate prospects' email IDs
4. Avoid tracking opens and clicks
5. Create personalized email
6. Optimize your call-to-action
7. Include an unsubscribe link
8. Run an email test before sending
9. Avoid spam trigger words
How many cold emails should I send in a day?
If you have a new inbox, start by sending 10 to 20 emails per day. If you have an older inbox with a good email reputation, you can send over 100 messages daily. Of course, these numbers can be increased further with email engagement software.