Anna Zabudskaya

Email Marketing Specialist

Case Study: How an IT Company Managed to Unspam in Gmail and Restore Their Sender Reputation

When getting started with email marketing, companies primarily focus on quick contact base collection, email design and deliverability.

But no matter how awesome emails you create, they won’t reach the audience if you have a poor sender reputation.

This is the challenge one IT company faced, having been blocked due to spam or sender reputation issues at the beginning of their marketing campaigns. Having researched the problem and formed several hypotheses, we made up a plan on how to fix their damaged sending reputation. All steps took us two weeks, after which the company managed to unspam in Gmail and implement an effective email strategy.

Company

We assisted an international outsourcing IT company. Its services range from mobile development to machine learning and augmented reality.

The company collects leads by giving access to cases about interesting research and services they publish on their website. To read a full case, you need to download a PDF file, specifying your email address. At the bottom of the website, there is also a subscription form, plus they have a separate page with contacts and a feedback form.

Problem

The company contacted us aiming to complete the following goals:

  • Unspam in Gmail and restore their sender domain reputation;
  • Grow deliverability and open rate;
  • Automate email marketing.

In addition to integration with the website subscription forms, the company had a base of 50,000 contacts interested in a subscription. They were imported to eSputnik and segmented by region: USA, Canada, Europe, Australia.

They sent these segments a confirmation email asking to verify their email address and agree to receive newsletters.

Confirmation email example

They sent emails in parts at a limited speed, considering the time zone of each segment. But their open rate was very low, and not many contacts activated their account: out of 48,596 who received the confirmation, only 50 verified their email addresses.

Open rate report

According to our statistics, the average open rate of the DOI triggered email is 60%. And the open rate of 5-9% is a very bad performance even for bulk campaigns sent to a cold base. We checked statistics by domains and hypothesized that Gmail had been sending emails to spam.

Statistics for Gmail

Solution

Domain Verification

We checked email sender reputation and found out that their domain had an incomplete verification in the account; some of the required records were missing.

We offered the client to undergo repeat verification, but this time using the option "Subdomain" in order to separate the reputation of the campaign sender from the main domain. The company created and verified a subdomain specifically for bulk campaigns.

In eSputnik, when adding a new domain, you see instructions on what records need to be added to the DNS.

DNS records

After verifying the subdomain, we added a new sender to restore the reputation.

Next, we checked the digital signatures and recommended setting up DMARC so that spammers can’t use this sender name.

We asked our client for access to Postmaster Tools. However, the statistics on the new subdomain gets available only after enough data on regular campaigns is collected. Google Postmaster doesn't specify exactly how many emails are required for statistics display, and so we decided to test this during the domain warm-up.

After the new subdomain was verified, we didn't get a stats graph for any of the criteria:

Postmaster Tools

Before the first recordings appeared:

Postmaster Tools

It took us 7 campaigns to get the stats to check Gmail sender reputation. We split the recipients into 7 segments and sent emails with a limited speed (50 messages per minute). We sent 230 emails on the first day of the warm-up (July 13) and 349 emails on the second (July 14). And on the 15th we already received data on the domain reputation. In total, we had to send 579 emails to start seeing statistics in Postmaster.

We deliver your emails to Inbox

Email Validation

Next, we checked emails with an email validator.

The test score was good – 8 out of 10. That means the problem was that Gmail associated some email parts or links with spam. When Gmail users ignore a certain sender or unsubscribe from them, the email client protects other users from receiving emails that were perceived as unsolicited.

We followed a protocol typical of such cases: removed the footer, removed links to the company's website from the header, changed the link to the page Thank you for your subscription from the button Confirm the email.

Emails continued to land in Spam, so we decided to make a more determined action – redesign the campaign.

Template Redesign

For comparison, we picked a standard template from the eSputnik library and sent it as a test to 5 test Gmail addresses. None landed in Spam.

Therefore, we advised our client to change the email design. Our designer created a new template for their campaigns:

Subscription confirmation

They sent tests with a new template, and all emails were also delivered.

Trigger Launch

We created workflows with DOI emails and assigned them to all subscription forms on the website. We also created a contact confirmation workflow that worked for contacts who would verify their address in the confirmation email.

We tested both workflows and launched automation upon positive results.

Thus, leads from the site began to immediately receive a confirmation email. Those who confirmed their addresses were segmented to receive promo campaigns.

Domain Warm-Up

To warm up a domain, you need to send to big contact segments. While we were redesigning emails, 450 news contacts were added to the system. We paused DOI triggers for 3 days and dealt with Gmail unspam.

As soon as we made sure that all emails got delivered to Inbox, we unpaused triggers. But we didn’t want to lose communication with those 450 contacts due to insufficient contacts for warm-up.

Therefore, we decided to send confirmation emails to the existing leads as soon as possible and use them for the sake of warming.

We created a workflow with a sprayer. While you can’t send bulk emails to a group of unconfirmed contacts, it’s possible to send to a single contact using the block Obligatory email.

Workflow example

A sprayer took contacts from a given segment and triggered the event to run the necessary workflow with the confirmation email.

How we segmented contacts

We created a separate segment for unconfirmed contacts, split it into five parts, and launched in turn workflows with a sprayer and with confirmation emails.

71.4% of contacts opened the campaign and 48.2% responded.

Report

Last post

Bulk Campaign Launch

The previous campaigns generated us 50 contacts who confirmed their email addresses. Sending to them improves a reputation as these contacts didn’t send email to spam and opened them, and are therefore considered engaged.

We sent them newsletters with a limited speed – 50 emails per 2 hours – so as not to harm the domain reputation.

Statistics

Results

We helped our client with the following tasks:

  1. Verify the new subdomain for bulk campaigns and set up digital signatures. Now, the sender reputation doesn’t affect the reputation of the main domain.
  2. Redesign email templates.
  3. Worm up subdomain with triggered emails.
  4. Earn a high sender reputation and support it with correct campaigns.

Postmaster statistics reports on high domain reputation and zero spam rate.

Domain reputation

User reported spam

Currently, we send weekly blog newsletters only to active contacts who grew by 400% during one month.

In the future, we plan to segment contacts by requested PDF and personalize triggered messages and further communication.


Conclusion

It’s crucial to take care of and check email sending reputation from the very start of your marketing strategy. Don’t send emails without permission, otherwise, you will have to spend time, money and effort on restoring your good name.

If your deliverability is low, check your DNS records, test emails and try to redesign templates. If you don’t know where to start, contact our support at support@esputnik.com. We’ll be glad to help.

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Anna Zabudskaya

Email Marketing Specialist

A marketer at the eSputnik Agency and designer. I adopt a creative approach towards email marketing articles, client interaction, and email design.

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