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Domain warming gone wrong (and recovered): A case study


Let's talk about domain warming. Specifically, what can happen when domain warming goes wrong (or isn't considered) -- sending too much volume too fast, without enough domain reputation history. This can cause painful inbox woes and it isn't always easy to know what to do when it happens. Domain warming is also lightly documented compared to IP warming, and if you’re on a shared pool, SMB-focused email service provider platform (think Mailchimp or Constant Contact), you might never have even heard about domain warming before you started sending marketing emails.

That’s where Jeff Feiereisen and Brett Skaloud come into the story. They're two ex-Amazon engineers launching Boona, a Seattle-based company. Their first product, the Tandem Shower, recently launched on Kickstarter and has already raised over $650k. Designed to attach directly to your existing showerhead, the Tandem Shower adds a second showerhead to the other side of your shower such that a couple can comfortably shower together. It looks pretty cool and of course you should check it out for yourself.

Building up their new company and product in stealth mode, they were finally to the point where they wanted to connect with all of their early backers and other folks who expressed interest in their cool new product. That led to a quick spike in email volume that ended up causing damage to their sending reputation and putting their mail into the spam folder.

Being the smart folks they are, they began to investigate, and looking at the data, they started to wonder -- is there such a thing as domain reputation, and by extension, what happens if you start sending too much mail too soon from that new domain name. It led them to a solid theory -- it looked like if they limited send volume significantly, only slowly growing volume over time, their domain reputation was likely to improve and inbox placement again would be within reach for them.

That's where my (tiny) part in this story comes in; they reached out to me and we connected to talk through a potential consulting gig. I wish I could take credit for designing the remediation plan for them, but they were pretty much already on the right path when I talked to them. And their theory was spot on; this was indeed a domain warming issue and pretty easily rectified by backing off on volume, then slowly building it back up over a period of time, just like you would for just about any IP warming or domain warming scenario. Not much for me to do here, other than to confirm for them that they've figured out what the issue was and how to fix it.

Jeff was kind enough to keep in touch with me as things improved. He even offered to put together an overview of what they went through in order to help others, in the spirit of knowledge sharing. Thanks, Jeff! This is something I'll definitely bookmark and share with others, and you all should check it out, too.

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