Email Infrastructure and Service Providers

Migrating IPs? Don’t Forget the Warmup!

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An email marketer’s IP address is one of their most important assets—and it deserves the proper amount of attention and understanding.  

Say you’ve kicked around the idea for years and finally made the decision to switch to a different email service provider. Or, maybe your subscriber list has reached a point in volume where you feel it’s necessary to expand to another IP address.

Maybe you just want a dedicated IP for all of those transactional emails you’re sending.  

Whatever the reason may be, you’re now facing one of the most dreaded events in any email marketer’s career: an IP migration. 

The IP migration process is notoriously prone to error. It’s one of the biggest risks an email program can face on the path towards satisfying subscribers and earning higher revenue. 

So, let’s do a quick refresher course on IP addresses. Then, we’ll provide you with some best practices to master the IP warming process and avoid common pitfalls. 

What is an IP address? 

IP stands for Internet Protocol, and is used to enable communication between devices on a computer network. An Internet Protocol address is a unique string of numbers separated by periods that is used to individually identify each device connected to that computer network. 

For email marketers, the IP address is the name tag for the email sending server. And since the server is linked to your program, the IP address becomes the name tag for you as a sender.  

This is a critical aspect of the IP warming process because mailbox providers (MBPs) use your IP address to assign you a reputation as an email sender. Your email sender reputation dictates your ability to reach subscribers’ inboxes instead of being blocked or filtered to spam. 

Why are IP addresses so important? 

Let’s say you’re attending a marketing conference where the organizers are the MBPs and the audience is your list of email subscribers.  

You’ve registered for the conference and applied to be the keynote speaker. That means you’re able to just walk on stage and deliver your speech, right? Nope!  

You still have to provide credentials to prove that you’ve got the knowledge and experience to be the keynote speaker.  

It’s the same for email senders. Your email sender credentials are based on your past performance, and you need a positive history to earn your spot in the inbox.  

MBPs will vet your credentials critically, because your subscribers expect their MBP to provide spam prevention as part of a good user experience. If the MBP doesn’t deliver on that expectation, then the subscribers will go find an MBP that does.  

Sender reputation also applies to your IP address. MBPs are constantly evaluating the reputation of sender IP addresses based on the emails that are received and how the audience reacts to those emails.  

If the MBP considers your email content to be spam or the audience starts indicating they don’t like these emails, the MBP will mark your IP address with a bad reputation, which marks you as a bad sender.  

This bad reputation can affect your future sends with spam designations or message blocks, and it takes valuable time to repair.  

However, if your IP address has a positive reputation, your emails are more likely to be treated favorably by the MBP and be sent to the inbox.  

Why get a new IP address? 

You want to be comfortable with what IP addresses are and how to introduce them to your sending program because you’ll likely need to go through this process at some point.

Here are a few reasons for adding a brand-new IP address:  

  • You need to change email service providers 
  • You want to increase sending volume through list growth 
  • You want to segment email streams—maybe your marketing emails will be sent through one IP address while transactional emails are sent through another

Did you know there are two different kinds of IP addresses? Here’s why the distinction is important: 

Dedicated IP address

A dedicated IP address is an IP address that is assigned to one sender who has full control over which emails are sent from it. 

Your emails aren’t grouped with other less diligent senders, which means you establish and are accountable for your own IP reputation. This typically ensures better inbox placement—as long as you follow email best practices.

Having a dedicated IP address also makes it easier to troubleshoot root cause of deliverability issues. Having only your activity on the IP address allows you to measure and interpret IP address reputations easily.

Segmentation on multiple dedicated IP addresses allows you to segment based on message type, engagement level, etc. 

Shared IP address

On a shared IP address, the IP address is shared between senders who do not have full control over which emails are sent through it. This shared IP is controlled by the email service provider and has already been warmed up by other senders. 

In this scenario, the negative actions of other senders can undermine your reputation and deliverability. 

But there are benefits too. For example, low-volume mailers can quickly establish a reputation and history with mailbox providers, and seasonal mailers don’t need to warm up dedicated IP addresses every year. 

This is also an inexpensive way to have access to an IP address

How to ensure IP address warming success 

When migrating to a brand-new IP address, you need to follow a warmup process that introduces your new name tag to the MBPs slowly and earns their trust. Building that trust lays the foundation for a good reputation and boosts your deliverability. 

Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind as you enter an IP migration:

  • Slow and steady wins the race: A basic framework is to start warming with a low number of recipients in the first send and slowly increase the number of recipients per daily send. 
  • Target your most active and engaged users: Even with a fully warmed IP address, mailbox providers such as Yahoo and Gmail base their filtering decisions heavily on user engagement. Consequently, you’ll want to mail to engaged users only, especially during the initial phase of warming up a new IP address. While you may be hesitant to use this audience as the front lines of the warmup, it’s the quickest way to build your reputation and expedite the warmup process.        
  • Consistency: This is a simple key element that often gets overlooked during the warmup phase. Whether it’s consistency in volume or frequency, mailbox providers will notice trends in your mail stream. They start to recognize your IP address and become familiar much more quickly when a pattern is evident. Obviously, a company with many different lines of business may have multiple lists of varying sizes. At Validity we work to customize this process based on client data. While the ideal scenario is to designate daily sends broken out by mailbox provider, list sending consistency is an alternative tactic to implement to build a recognizable pattern. 
  • Sign up for feedback loops and ensure complaint suppressions are in place: Feedback loops are a valuable tool, even more so when beginning to send mail on a new IP address. Whenever someone marks one of your emails as spam, this gets documented as a complaint. Along with inactive users being targeted, complaints are a sure-shot way to damage your reputation and ultimately get your messages sent to the spam folder. Feedback loops will give you the insight that’s needed to see who has marked your email as spam. With this knowledge, you should implement complaint suppressions and ensure those individuals do not receive future mailings so your reputation can continue to grow and move in the right direction. 
  • Check bounce logs: Checking your bounce logs is an additional step you can take to confirm that you’re targeting the right people and removing the bad ones. If an unknown user or invalid email address exists on your list and causes a message to bounce back, this should be treated like a complaint and suppressed right away. The last thing you want is to have an email address that is allowed through the mailbox provider’s gateway, but then bounced back because the address no longer exists. If feedback loops and complaint suppressions are properly implemented, this will eliminate such bounce issues. But, monitoring these logs and acting accordingly still acts as a secondary line of defense. 
  • Be vigilant and patient: You’ve begun your warmup process, your first day of sending volume has fully deployed, and you notice that your IP address has a low Sender Score. Don’t hit the panic button just yet. Patience is a virtue in this scenario. If an aggressive approach is needed, consider scaling down on your send volume temporarily. It’s really a matter of sending your mail, monitoring the results of those sends, and seeing what, if anything, needs to be adjusted. 

You’re getting warmer…

IP address warmups can be stressful, but with patience, awareness, and smarter sending, it can be a seamless process.

While there is no single formula or standard “right” way to warm up a new IP address, keeping these steps in mind will put you on the path to a smooth transition from a cold IP address, to a warm one ready to handle your usual distribution.

To customize a warmup plan for a new IP address or domain, speak to Validity’s Professional Services team.