You’ve probably heard that, from February 1st 2024, Google and Yahoo are rolling out new email sender guidelines in a bid to make inboxes safer from email spoofing, phishing attacks, and other malicious messages from bad actors.
Inevitably, those changes will have a huge impact for commercial email senders — and particularly for anyone who sends a lot of cold emails.
(We’re looking at you, sales teams.)
Does this spell the death of cold outreach? Not necessarily.
But it almost certainly means you’ll have to adjust your approach, and maybe even add other channels to your outreach strategy.
Read on to learn what the new rules are all about, who they affect, what they mean for bulk senders, and — most importantly — what you need to do next.
Who’s Affected By the New Anti-Spam Rules?
To be clear, the new measures from Google and Yahoo apply to all email senders, from the biggest marketers and sales teams to the personal account you only ever use for sending birthday gift ideas to your mom.
But some of the rules apply specifically to bulk email senders — defined as anyone sending 5,000+ emails per day to Gmail and/or Yahoo Mail accounts.
Those New Sender Rules At a Glance
First, let’s take a look at all those new rules:
Rules affecting all email senders
From February 1st 2024, you must:
Set up SPF or DKIM email authentication for your domain.
Ensure sending domains or IPs have valid forward and reverse DNS records.
Keep spam complaint rates below 0.3%.
Format email messages according to the internet message format standard.
Don't impersonate From headers.
Rules for bulk email senders
As well as complying with all the rules above, bulk emailers must:
Set up DMARC email authentication for your sending domain.
For direct mail, the domain in the sender's From header must be aligned with either the SPF domain or the DKIM domain.
Marketing emails and subscribed messages must support one-click unsubscribe and include a clearly visible email unsubscribe link in the message body.
If you’ve been running cold outreach campaigns for a while now, you’re likely already doing most of the stuff in the left-hand column -- it's all basic email hygiene.
It’s the rules on the right, combined with the tighter spam rate controls, that have got a lot of cold outreachers worried.
What the New Rules Mean for Bulk Email Senders
In this section, we’ll take a more in-depth look at the new email security rules from Google and Yahoo:
Tighter Spam Rate Threshold
The new industry standards on spam apply to everyone. But, of course, they're most applicable to bulk senders doing cold outreach.
Why? Because they’re the folks most likely to receive spam complaints from email recipients who don’t like the look of an email in their inbox.
Gmail, Yahoo, and most other mailbox providers carry a prominent this is spam button that allows users to report unwanted emails:
If someone hits that button on one of your emails, they’re telling their email service provider that they're receiving unwanted messages. And, under the new sender requirements, even a small number of complaints can cause huge email delivery issues.
When those rules come into effect, Google and Yahoo will demand you maintain a spam rate of less than 0.3%, (as measured by Google Postmaster Tools). Ideally, Google says you should aim for a rate of <0.1%.
So what does that mean in practice?
Well, if you sent 1,000 emails and received four complaints, you’d have a spam rate of 0.4%. It’s still only a tiny fraction of all the emails you sent, but it puts you 33% over the new spam threshold — and getting back to an “acceptable” level can be a real struggle.
To make matters worse, it’s not always obvious that you’re sending outgoing messages to a Gmail address, so you can’t simply get around the rules by removing Gmail users from your bulk email campaigns.
Sending Domain Authentication
In the same way that you require a passport to board an international flight, you need ID that proves you are who you say you are to send bulk mails.
That ID takes the form of email authentication.
All senders need to authenticate their domains through DKIM and SPF.
But if you’re sending 5,000+ emails per day, Google and Yahoo now want you to take another step: DMARC authentication.
For the uninitiated, DMARC is a form of authentication that checks domain owners aren’t lying about their email domains by pretending to be someone else. It works by checking that the information in your SPF matches your DKIM records, which can boost your sender reputation and email deliverability.
Because it’s essential you set up DMARC correctly, we recommend checking you’ve got it right by using a free online tool like:
Do this: Not sure about SPF, DKIM, or DMARC? Check out our guide: SPF, DKIM, DMARC: How They Affect Email Deliverability.
One-Click Unsubscribe Options
Inbox providers have long stressed the importance of making it simple for people to opt out of emails they no longer wish to receive.
With their new rules, Google and Yahoo are taking things a step further by insisting that recipients be able to unsubscribe from an email list with a single click — and that their unsubscribe requests must be processed within two days.
That means no more sending recipients to a landing page to update their preferences or forcing them to reply “STOP” if they no longer want to be on your mailing list.
What Can You Do About It?
Of course, this is far from the first time inbox providers have tried to clamp down on cold email outreach. After all, Gmail’s AI-enhanced spam filters already block 99.9% of spam emails — equivalent to almost 10 million blocked emails per minute.
But these new rules really do make life tough for anyone sending unsolicited emails in bulk (AKA pretty much every sales team, including yours).
Sure, you can set up DMARC authentication and one-click unsubscribes easily enough, but it’s going to be near-impossible to maintain a spam rate of less than 0.3% while consistently sending high volumes of email. And if you breach the rules, you’re not just damaging your sales pipeline — you risk getting your entire organization suspended from sending emails.
At the same time, you can’t afford to stop doing cold outreach altogether, because it’s your biggest source of new revenue.
Fortunately, there are a few less extreme measures you can take to help you keep in line with Google and Yahoo while still reaching out to prospects at scale:
Buy an Email Domain
Don’t have your own email domain? Now’s the time to rectify it —fast.
If you’re currently sending bulk emails from a free email domain (like firstname.lastname@example.org), you’re definitely going to breach the new rules, because you can’t authenticate a domain you don’t own.
In other words, you can’t use a free domain as your sender address any more.
Instead, you’ll need to buy your own domain from a company like Namecheap.
That’s an easy win, and it’ll only cost you a few dollars a year.
Send From Multiple Inboxes
If your cold outreach activity is totally reliant on a single inbox — or even a handful of inboxes — you’re at even greater risk from the new anti-spam requirements, because it’s pretty much inevitable that those inboxes are eventually going to get flagged for spammy activity.
Even if you’re taking the time to heavily personalize each and every email you send, it only takes a tiny number of complaints to exceed the 0.3% spam threshold.
Fortunately, there’s another way: inbox rotation.
With inbox rotation, you’re spreading out your email volume across multiple senders, giving you a better chance of avoiding spam folders.
Trouble is, with most cold outreach tools, rotating your inboxes is a major hassle. They only let you send campaigns from one inbox — so if you’re going to scale, you’ll have to duplicate a campaign and replace the inbox.
Not exactly efficient, huh?
QuickMail is different. We let you add multiple inboxes at any point of a campaign, and we’ll automatically split the sent emails between all your different inboxes.
Do this: Check out our guide to inbox rotation (and how to use it).
Prioritize Prospects Using Other Email Providers
One potential workaround is to deprioritize Gmail addresses in your cold outreach campaigns.
Because if you send to fewer Gmail users, you’re far less likely to break Google’s rules.
That’s the idea, at least. But it’s harder to implement than it sounds, because it’s not always possible to tell whether or not someone is using Gmail by simply looking at their email address — especially if they’re a Google Workspace user. You can’t just open your prospect list, do a CTRL + F search for “Gmail” or “Googlemail”, and remove all those addresses from your campaigns, because they might use a totally different domain.
Don’t worry, though, because QuickMail can help.
With our cold outreach platform, each inbox assigned to a campaign can be set up to match the email provider of each individual prospect (whenever possible), helping to reduce deliverability issues.
And if we can’t automatically match the provider, we’ll assign the prospect to a different campaign inbox instead.
Leverage Advanced Sender Analytics
The new rules are already tough to hit — but things get a whole lot harder if you don’t even know what’s going on with your current outreach campaigns.
That’s why QuickMail offers send-day attribution that allows you to immediately identify any drop-offs in deliverability and take action.
In other words, we trace all your outreach activities — like opens and clicks — back to the date on which the email was sent, giving you a clearer insight into any issues or anomalies. For instance, if your open rate slumps from 60% one week to 20% the next, it’s highly likely you’ve got a deliverability problem.
Consider Other Outreach Channels
Sure, email can be a fantastic sales tool.
But it’s important to remember that email isn’t the only viable channel for running cold outreach campaigns at scale.
Another option is to run automated LinkedIn outreach, which involves:
Tracking down prospects on LinkedIn
Sending connection requests to prospects
Reaching out to them via InMail with a winning conversation starter
Sending follow-up messages through InMail and email
The more you can take advantage of other channels, the fewer cold emails you have to send, which means you can keep below the bulk sender threshold of 5,000 messages per day.
Do this: Give your LinkedIn campaigns the best chance of success by reading these six LinkedIn cold message templates to start conversations.
Sales teams have always had to adapt, employing new strategies and techniques to reach, engage, and convert prospects.
Once upon a time, it was all about knocking on doors.
Then cold calling became the tactic of choice for many sales teams.
In recent years, cold email has been the dominant force in inside sales thanks to its comparatively low costs and massive scalability, which make it possible to build a consistent revenue stream.
These new rules from Google and Yahoo haven’t put an end to that completely — but they absolutely mean you can’t afford to bury your head in the sand and keep relying on the same old email strategy.
One practical step you can take is to switch to QuickMail.
With QuickMail, it’s easy to:
Spread out your send volume without scaling your cost
Improve and monitor your deliverability
Incorporate omni-channel outreach for better results from your campaigns
But don’t just take our word for it.