Definitive Outbound Email Guide
- Definitive Outbound Email Guide
- 1. Domain Setup
- 2. Email Service Provider
- 3. Authentication
- 4. Multiple Domains vs. Subdomains
- 5. Email Accounts
- 6. Email Warming
- In Conclusion
- What’s Next?
- This guide is best suited for B2B companies looking to send 1-10K monthly emails (50-500 / day).
- This guide covers outbound cold emails. We will be publishing separate guides covering transactional emails, marketing emails, product update emails, etc.
- You can refer to each part atomically to debug wherever you have issues. I've helped 6 YC companies set up/fix their email stacks in the past 6 months. Want to open-source this information for the benefit of all founders. This is the culmination of 100+ hours of research on this subject. I’ve tried to cover as many tools and questions posted on other forums.
- Reserve primary domain for essential business communications; avoid using it for cold emailing.
- Recommended domain registrars: Google Domains, GoDaddy, Namecheap (Google Domains preferred).
- Use Google Workspace as Email Service Provider for high deliverability and ease of setup.
- Authenticate emails with SPF, DKIM, and DMARC (Google Domains + Google Workspace simplifies this process).
- Avoid subdomains for cold outreach; use multiple domains instead to protect the main domain's reputation.
- Start with 3-5 email accounts per domain for cold emailing; send 50-100 emails per account daily.
- Aim for >90% open rate and >10% reply rate to maintain reputation.
- Warm up new email accounts before starting cold email campaigns; use services like MailReach, MailToaster, Warmbox, Lemlist, or Warmup Inbox.
- Use Mail Tester and MailReach's free spam test to check domain setup, authentication, reputation, and deliverability.
Part I: Domains, Subdomains, and Accounts
In this part, I'll cover domain setup, multiple domains vs. subdomains, warming, deliverability, and ESPs. In each subsection, I'll also make a quick comparison of tools and my recommendations.
A 10-second recap of the ontology —
- Domain: $5-$60 / year; example.com
- Subdomain: free; blog.example.com; search engines treat subdomains as separate entities and don't share the main domain's authority or backlinks.
- Email Account: $7.2 / account / month; email@example.com; has its own mailbox and sending reputation. You pay per email account created.
- Alias: free; firstname.lastname@example.org; an alternative email address for the above account that forwards messages to it. Does not cost extra since it's not a separate email account. Daily email limits of an account include all emails sent from an alias.
1. Domain Setup
Main Domain: Reserve for your primary business communications. Do not use it for cold emailing.
Domain Registrars: GoDaddy, Namecheap, Google Domains.
- My recommendation: Google Domains — the most streamlined setup, especially if you want to use it with Google Workspace.
- Google Domains: Pros: Seamless integration with other Google services. Cons: slightly higher prices.
- GoDaddy: Pros: 24/7 support, easy management. Cons: upsells, higher renewal prices.
- Namecheap: Pros: competitive pricing, free privacy protection. Cons: Less intuitive interface.
2. Email Service Provider
For cold outreach at the volume discussed above, you can avoid anything complicated (looking at you, SendGrid). Just save hours of headaches, and use Google Workspace. It ranks as one of the best for email deliverability for business inboxes. The only drawback is they only provide shared IPs. However, I've spoken to their team, and they continuously monitor their IPs to get them removed from any blacklists. They will also periodically cycle the IP assigned to you.
They provide step-by-step instructions on setting up Workspace with every popular domain registration provider.
- GoDaddy (https://support.google.com/a/answer/33353)
- Namecheap (https://support.google.com/a/answer/87127)
- A-Z list of all supported providers (https://support.google.com/a/topic/1611273).
This may appear confusing and challenging, but don't worry. For most use cases, it's very straightforward. If you use Google Domains + Google Workspace, it automatically sets up SPF and DKIM. You only need to set up DMARC, which takes less than 5 minutes.
- SPF: A method to specify authorized email senders for a domain, helping prevent spoofing. Something to note here is that by default Google Workspace will only add a record authenticating email sent from Google's Gmail client. You must add a DNS record if you are using Superhuman, Outlook, or anything else (https://support.google.com/a/answer/10684623). By not doing this, the receiving server can mark your email as suspicious.
- DKIM: Adds a digital signature to emails, ensuring they haven't been tampered with and confirming the sender's identity. The default setup provided by Google Domains is good enough. Nothing to do here.
- DMARC: A policy that instructs how to handle emails failing SPF and DKIM checks, improving email security and trust. Setup on Google Workspace (https://support.google.com/a/answer/2466563) is straightforward and needs you to add a DNS TXT record. You can set up an alias (dmarc-reports) for your main email to receive DMARC reports. You can use this DMARC record to start: v=DMARC1; p=none; rua=mailto:email@example.com
4. Multiple Domains vs. Subdomains
TLDR - don't use subdomains for cold outreach.
- Multiple Domains: Recommended for cold emailing. Separates cold outreach from your primary domain, protecting its reputation. Either acquire multiple TLDs (example.io, example.co, example.xyz) or word-adjacent domains on the same TLD (example-mail.com or example-relay.com).
- Subdomains: Not ideal for outbound email marketing. Sharing a root domain can harm its reputation. There are always domain risks involved when creating a large outbound email funnel. You don't want your primary domain to get blacklisted and/or blocked. This is not the area to save money on — gotta spend money to make money :)
5. Email Accounts
Work backward from your target email volume to calculate how many accounts you need. For example, Google Workspace will rate-limit an account sending more than 200 emails per day. To be safe, I'd recommend not going over 100 emails per day per account. Also, don't jump the gun on creating accounts since I've seen many founders stumble here. Say you start with 2 accounts, with a target to send out 50 emails each day per account. Ensure you (or your team) consistently send out 100 emails before creating any more accounts. You don't want to end up with a large domain and email warming bill for unused accounts.
- Number of Email Accounts: Start with 3-5 accounts per domain for cold emailing. Scale as and when ceilings are hit.
- Email Volume: Send 50-100 emails per account daily, gradually increasing volume. Target a >90% open rate and a >10% reply rate to maintain reputation. Sometimes this can be a tall order, so keep A/B testing.
6. Email Warming
I don't care what your friend, colleague, or that email guru told you. Your email needs warming. Continuously. Ideally, all the time if you can afford it. So, warm up your new email accounts before starting cold email campaigns.
- Gradual Process: Your primary email address typically warms up organically. However, you should gradually increase the email volume for new accounts for 2 weeks or more before starting outreach.
- Warming Services: Utilize warmers to automate the process. A good warmer will simulate real-world email exchanges. Sending and receiving realistic-looking emails across its network of accounts. They also move any emails that land in spam to the primary inbox. Most warming services also monitor deliverability and reputation.
- My recommendation: MailReach ($25); I've tried most of the tools below, which are very comparable. I find this to be the most no-nonsense.
- Other comparable good tools: MailToaster ($29), Warmbox ($26), Lemlist ($29), Warmup Inbox ($15)
Congratulations, look at you! You are ready to start landing more customers. Just remember to setup a system so you consistently hit your target volume of outbound cold emails.
🎉 You now have an cold emailing domain with a Google workspace setup, email accounts with full authentication, and a warm up service that is making your new accounts ready to go, while keeping your old email addresses in the good graces of our AI overlords :)
If you need help with any of the above steps, we’re just a calendar link away. We’ve done this for multiple YC and non-YC companies, who’ve gone on to generated $100Ks in new revenue from outbound emails.
We’ll be releasing part II of this guide shortly, which will cover how to generate leads effectively, keep bounces to a minimum, and the best email sequencing tools to use.