Google has tightened the noose around bulk email. But should you be worried?
Google’s latest guidelines on bulk emailing was read by many as a deathknell on ‘cold email’ as we know it.
Some of the leading B2B outbound experts freaked out when Google announced the amends that will come into effect from February 2024.
The reaction is understandable. Because bulk emailing is by far the cheapest customer acquisition tactic in the outbound playbook out there.
For many B2B businesses cold email remains to be the cornerstone of their outbound strategy.
But it soon became evident that the doomsday judgements passed by many experts were borne out of fear, confusion and hasty reading of the announcement by Google.
Here, we have tried to clear the air of the confusion and tell you how you can streer clear from the policy changes if bulk emailing is part of your outbound strategy.
For starters, if your business relies on sending more than 5,000 emails daily to Gmail accounts, you will definitely need a mass overhaul of your cold emailing strategies.
Overview of Google’s Policy Updates and the Problems They May Impose
Google has updated its policies to crack down on emails that violate its guidelines. This means that if your emails fall under the naughty list of Google’s policies, they could end up in the dreaded spam folder, buried under a mountain of dubious offers and questionable promises.
Problem #1: Email Authentication via SPF, DKIM, and DMARC
Starting February 2024, Google will mandate senders to authenticate outgoing emails. This measure is aimed at protecting recipients from malicious messages and preventing impersonation. It involves setting up email authentication methods such as SPF, DKIM, and DMARC for your domain.
SPF prevents unauthorized messages by specifying permitted senders, DKIM verifies the message’s sender, and DMARC provides instructions for handling unauthenticated messages.
For businesses using email service providers, it’s crucial to ensure that these providers authenticate the domain’s email with SPF and DKIM. This layer of authentication not only fortifies your email communication against phishing attempts but also enhances deliverability by reducing the likelihood of messages being marked as spam.
Problem #2: Infrastructure Configuration
The new policy update also points out the importance of a secure infrastructure configuration. Your sending IP address must have a PTR record, verifying the association of the sending hostname with the IP address.
Valid reverse DNS records for sending server IP addresses are important as they ensure the hostname aligns with the IP address. Shared IP addresses demand extra vigilance, as the reputation of a shared IP can affect all senders using it.
Problem #3: Maintaining a Positive Sender Reputation
Maintaining a positive sender reputation involves ethical and responsible practices. Businesses should only send emails to those who genuinely want them, as this prevents spam reports that can tarnish their domain’s reputation.
There are a few steps that may be essential to consider here, such as making the subscription process transparent and user-friendly to allow recipients to easily opt in and out. Implementing a one-click unsubscribe mechanism for marketing and subscribed messages with over 5,000 daily sends will also be important, as it can likely increase recipient trust and compliance.
Dissecting the New Policy: Is This the End of Cold Email?
One thing is for sure: marketers and sales reps must now navigate the ever-changing landscape of cold email and find creative ways to connect with potential customers. The days of mass blasting generic emails may be numbered, but fear not, for there are always new strategies to explore.
What Thought Leaders Are Saying
In a series of tweets, Ajay Goel – the founder of GMass for Gmail – clarified that essentially, there’s nothing to worry about for most B2B companies utilizing cold email marketing on a day to day basis.
Mr. Goel very neatly pointed out how one sentence from the guidelines on the new policy, which have been updated ever since they were first published, indicate that the new update applies to personal Gmail accounts – i.e. accounts that end with gmail.com or googlemail.com.
Excerpt from Google’s recently published guidelines on the new policy update:
Is There Really Anything to Worry About?
The short answer is no.
Hypothetically speaking, let’s say your company relies on cold email outreach on a daily basis and your mailing list includes thousands of personal Gmail accounts.
According to the new rules, if you’re sending up to 5,000 emails per day, you need to have SPF or DKIM enabled. If you’re sending more than this quota, you will also need DMARC set up.These rules do not apply to Google Workspace email accounts.
Of course, it is really critical to mention here that the policy DID mention otherwise not too long ago when the first guidelines first published back in October 2023.
Excerpt from Google’s previously published guidelines on the new policy update:
Most businesses relying on cold emailing are essentially clueless about SPF, DKIM, and DMARC, but they still know how to set it up because it simply requires copying and pasting some information into your DNS.
The other technical requirements are related to IP address setup, forward/reverse DNS matching, and using TLS over SMTP.
Fun fact: most cold emailers don’t set up their own servers — they use Office 365 or Workspace accounts, so a majority of these technicalities are already handled.
Now what else is left to worry about among the new policies?
What You Should Focus On: The Updated Spam Threshold
The last but most important requirement is staying under a 1/1000 spam complaint threshold.
Aim for a 0.1% spam rate and avoid anything higher than 0.3%, especially for long periods. The consequences for violating these new requirements are high. Frequent offenders will find it harder and harder to hit the inbox, and may have their emails blocked entirely. Serious cases can see email accounts suspended.
As we all know, technically speaking, cold email is spam. This is the one requirement that most cold emailers are at risk of violating.
Utilize good copy that is personalized — this will limit the chances of your prospects marking you for spam.
While we’re at it, also remember to enable one-click unsubscribe and honor unsub requests within 2 days.
Adapting Strategies: Actionable Steps to Prevent Yourself Against Future Policy Updates
Google will continue altering the playing field according to its own agendas as long as businesses rely on the tech giant. There are several alternative methods you can try out in order to have a consistent set of leads that are independent of cold email outreach.
Shifting Focus towards Warm Outreach
While the Google crackdown may not affect everyone just yet, it’s crucial for businesses to adapt their strategies and embrace warm outreach.Instead of bombarding potential customers with unsolicited messages, focus on building relationships with those who have shown genuine interest in your product or service.
Warm outreach ensures that your efforts are directed towards a receptive audience, increasing the chances of meaningful engagement and conversions.
Building Relationships through Personalization and Relevance
In the modern era of marketing in general, personalization and relevance reign supreme.Take the time to understand your target audience’s interests and pain points, and craft tailored messages that address their specific needs.
By showing that you’ve done your homework and genuinely care about their individual challenges, you’ll be more likely to capture their attention and foster a genuine connection.
The Future Outlook
The Google crackdown on cold email isn’t something new, as every passing year we hear the same “XYZ new update will lead to the end of cold email” tagline, and quite frankly, it’s a yearly phenomenon at this point.
It’s not the last chapter in the illustrious book of email marketing just yet. Instead, it’s an opportunity for businesses to evolve and improve their email marketing strategies. By adapting to these changes, you can stay ahead of the curve and continue to effectively reach and engage with your target audience.
The bottom line: typical cold emailers sending campaigns over multiple Google workspace domains with SPF or DKIM already set up have nothing to worry about.
Google’s new crackdown may have businesses worried, but for those who can read the fine print, it’s not the end of cold email just yet. In fact, our favorite tech giant is only taking steps to ensure transparency and fend off any risks related to cyber security.
While the end of cold email as we know it may be far away from now, this recent update definitely opens up the conversation for some much needed focus on personalized communication and building trust with potential customers.
It is a time to be innovative, flexible, and proactive in order to stay ahead and continue to generate meaningful connections with customers!