How to Take Control Over Cold Email Deliverability

The worst nightmare of any email campaign sender is to send out emails and then discover that none of them got delivered. Imagine that. You worked hard to set everything up, and bam, you get a lot of bounced—that is undelivered—emails. But you were certain that those addresses exist. What could have possibly gone wrong then?

When it comes to cold email deliverability, many important aspects need to be taken care of before sending that email; otherwise, you run the risk of your message never reaching your recipient. This means missing out on a reply or losing a potential prospect.

So how do you avoid the dreaded email bounce? Use these tips to ensure that your emails end up in the recipient’s inbox, where they can read, reply, and be easily converted into prospects.

What Makes an Email Bounce?

Email bounce, soft and hard, occurs when cold emails do not reach their destination. The impact of a high email bounce rate goes beyond a single campaign. It can negatively reflect the overall email deliverability and lower your domain reputation. Let's check out the differences and why some emails don't meet their destination.

What is a soft bounce? 

A soft bounce means that your message was rejected by the recipient’s email server due to some temporary issue. For example:

  • The inbox was overloaded.
  • The size of the email was too big.
  • The server was down for a short while.

A few soft bounces or so are perfectly okay, even from a list of completely verified emails. It happens.

What is a hard bounce? 

A hard bounce, on the other hand, happens when you send an email either to a blocked email address or to one that doesn’t exist. That’s a permanent issue. It won’t get delivered no matter how hard you try. A hard bounce may be caused by:

  • Out-of-date contact lists. This happens when you send an email to a blocked email address or to one that doesn’t exist. 
  • A purchased list of contacts. These lists often include inactive email addresses and recipients that are not interested in your service. 
  • Free email domains. Using a free email domain, as opposed to a private business domain, can block your authentication and send your email directly to spam. 

And when these rates are disturbingly high, a sender can get blacklisted. Once that happens, none of the emails will get delivered to anyone.

The B2B industry is highly susceptible to high bounce rates. In fact, according to a 2021 survey by Digital Experience Benchmark, B2B leads the pack with the highest bounce rate at 75%. 

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As a rule of thumb, the lower your bounce rates are—the better. So how do you reduce the chances of your emails coming back? Start with these necessary steps to control email deliverability.  

How to Improve Email Deliverability

It's crucially important for every B2B business to set up a successful cold email campaign. In terms of outreach, B2B marketers identify emailing as the leading channel for producing leads, with the highest ROI.  

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To improve email deliverability and exceed those ROIs, use these steps to configure your account, craft emails, and build your contact lists: 

Step 1. Configure your email account.

Undeniably, regardless of if you use email marketing software, Gmail, or another app the way we set up our email account has a bearing on email reputation. If you don’t take care of your email account, your emails simply won’t reach their destination. Here's how to configure your account: 

1. Set up a separate email account.

You'll want to have full control over the number of emails that come out of the email address that you use for outbound. When running a busy marketing campaign, it’s easy to miss those numbers. Plus, it's unlikely you can predict the exact number of emails you’ll send tomorrow.

But when it comes to email outreach, you need to control those numbers. You don't want to send out tons of emails and get blocked.

Also, take into consideration A/B testing. You shouldn't compromise your business email address reputation when conducting outreach tests. Set up a separate account to foolproof this. 

2. Set SPF and DKIM records.

It's highly recommended to set up authentication in your email marketing service. The Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) can prevent anyone from using your email address to send emails on your behalf. 

The SPF defines which IPs can be used to send emails from your domain; the DKIM indicates ownership of the email message by a particular organization. 

Setting up both ''SPF flattening and DKIM'' will reduce spam and improve email deliverability rates. If you need a hand setting them up, you can contact your email provider. They should be able to help you.

3. Warm up a new email account.

Prepare your email account for sending out emails. You can do that by sending a few emails to your friends or colleagues and gradually increasing their volume. Ideally, you should gather a few responses and then reply back. After that, check you're email reputation using tools like Mail Tester.

You shouldn't send that many emails out without giving your email address a proper warm-up because it’s a spammer’s move: setting up new email accounts, sending bulk emails, and then moving on to another account—this doesn't look good. 

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Step 2: Carefully craft your email.

Before your recipient opens your email, you'll need to compose your email to make your product and services appealing. The words you use and how you use them may determine the fate of the cold email. Use these tips when writing your emails:

1. Avoid spammy words.

To increase the overall deliverability of your emails, concentrate on your language. Spammy words like "exclusive" or "fantastic" can alarm spam filters and lead them to believe you’re a spammer. The more you use them in your copy, the higher the chance you'll get into trouble.

And if spam filters don’t stop your messages from being delivered, angry prospects may manually mark your emails as spam when they don’t like the content.

2. Personalize your emails.

Most SDRs use a template for email outreach, with room for personalization, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Recently, Epsilon Marketing conducted research and found out that 90% of responders find personalization very appealing. The same data also indicates that 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that offers a personalized experience. 

4. Avoid excessive GIFs and fonts.

Keep the form of your email and email signature as simple as possible. Emails that contain only text look more natural to spam filters. If you use a lot of images, gifs, and colorful fonts, it raises suspicion and may lower your chances of email deliverability.

Step 3: Update your contact list regularly.

To have control over your cold email deliverability and hold your bounce rate at the low bar, you'll need to build a trustworthy prospect base. To do so, remove uninterested parties from your email lists and update your lists regularly: 

1. Focus on segmentation. Email addresses lists need to be regularly updated and cleaned from inactive, unresponsive, and fake subscribers. Those subscribers might have stopped opening your emails for a long time for a variety of reasons or blocked spam emails completely. You can find many segmentation tools online that will help you segment inactive and active subscribers. You can also set different filters, identifying addresses that did not respond to your campaign for a while, and therefore be unsubscribed. 

2. Seek verification. When you struggle to find a specific person’s email address you need to reach, you may feel tempted to direct your message to or But the chances that your email gets read are rather slim. Instead, spend more time researching to find specific people to add to your contact list.

Improve Your Email Deliverability

Marketers are constantly searching for new strategies to improve the effectiveness and success of their email campaigns while reaching out to prospects. To keep your bounce rates low and your reputation high, use these email deliverability tactics to successfully deliver the right experience to your prospects.  

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in July 2018 and has been completely updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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