There is a myth that during peak email sending season, ISPs (such as Gmail and Yahoo), change their filtering algorithms to become much stricter in preparation for the oncoming onslaught of emails sent during the holiday season.

In reality, it’s more likely that senders sometimes throw caution to the wind by breaking email best practices with the goal of increasing sales by increasing email send volume. As a result, senders experience increased spam folder placement as their domain/IP reputation begins to decline.

Peak season is “won” by those senders who successfully balance the needs of their own business with those who receive their mail. With that aim in mind, here are some key tips on how to ensure both sender and recipient walk away happy this holiday season:

Start preparing your holiday email strategy early

One of the biggest mistakes we see marketers make around peak season is not giving themselves enough time to properly implement their peak season mailing strategies. Exactly how much ahead of time you need to start preparing will vary depending on your industry, goals, and email program size.

In order to avoid the issues that typically accompany poor peak season planning (increased deferrals/blocks/bounces/spam folder placement etc.), provide yourself with ample time to test your ideas in a less pressurized environment, ideally on a smaller scale, before implementing them across the board during peak.

Some questions that your tests could answer include:

  • What happens to performance when overall volume per deployment is increased by 10%?
  • Do engagement rates suffer when we mail twice a day as opposed to once?
  • What impact does targeting less engaged users have on my reputation? What areas can we afford to take more risk?

Knowing the consequences that accompany your proposed peak mailing strategy will be critical to recognizing warning signs early and minimizing potential damage.

Avoid sacrificing quality for quantity

Increased revenue is not predicated on increased circulation. The idea that sending to more people equates to more money is a fallacy that marketers the world over can fall prey to because, from a numbers perspective, it makes sense.

The fact is, however, that ISPs value quality over quantity.

When determining the quality and placement of your email, ISPs tend to focus on positive (opens/clicks/replies) and negative (lack of engagement, unsubscribes, spam complaints) engagement factors.

The more positive engagement thresholds are being met, the higher the probability that your email will find its way to the inbox. Conversely, if enough negative thresholds are being met, the greater the chance your emails will be temporarily bounced, blocked, or delivered to the spam folder.

It’s important that your mailing strategy is focused on sending email to people who want to receive it and are actively engaged with your brand. Adopting a strategy that only focuses on increasing circulation will not increase the number of emails your customers are receiving in their inbox.

Utilize customer data to create targeted messaging

Over the years, numerous studies have been run regarding the impact of targeted messaging on engagement and without fail, it was found to have a noticeably positive impact on performance.

It’s not a problem to occasionally send generalized bulk messages, as it’s a good idea to give customers a more sweeping picture of the products and/or services you offer. However, if overdone, you run the risk of consistently sending messages that fail to provide value to the individual consumer.

Here are some great ways to utilize data to create personalized content:

  • Use a personal name within the subject line and content
  • Send abandoned cart messages
  • Campaigns based on past holiday purchasers
  • Provide popular gift suggestions for friends/family
  • Automate holiday-inspired campaign drips
  • Recommended products based on past purchases
  • Feature holiday bestsellers

If you’re not quite sure how to start creating more targeted messaging, be sure to read up on our custom categories and unique arguments features!

Avoid IP warmup during peak sending season

Introducing a new brand/service/product is an incredibly exciting time. It can be and often is the culmination of months or years of hard work.

If you plan to use email to spread the word about your newly launched brand/service/product and new sending infrastructure (domain/IP/DNS records) is needed, I  recommended that such matters are taken care of before or after peak season.

Warming up an IP can be a difficult and complicated process that requires a significant amount of time and resources. (For more information on the ins and outs of warmup, please visit our email IP warmup guide). As such, it’s important that enough time be given to not only complete the warmup process, but to do so in a manner that allows for the proper resolution of any and all issues that may present themselves during it.

While there is always pressure internally to get a project up and running smoothly—regardless of the time of year—introducing new infrastructure that requires warmup during peak season ratchets up that pressure to new levels.

Try to eliminate this from being an issue altogether by avoiding warmup on a domain and/or IP during peak season. If that’s simply not possible, give yourself as much time as you can and be aware of what potential issues could arise and how they might impact your organization financially.

For more tips and advice to get your holiday sending ready for one of the most important times of the year for many businesses, listen in our Holiday Email Sending Webinar.



Alex Price
Alex comes from a background in compliance and deliverability for the past nine years and has just recently joined SendGrid’s Delivery Consultant team. When he’s not helping senders optimize their email marketing programs, he’s out road biking or watching his favorite sports team, Manchester United.