Should I Use a Separate Domain for Marketing Emails?

A client asks:

We’ve been told that we should use a separate and unique domain for email that’s different from our main Web domain.  Is this something you’d recommend?

The most common business case for using a separate email domain is that doing so can help protect a company’s main Web domain ( from spam complaints, and thus minimize the chance of that same domain being blacklisted.  However, there are pros and cons to the approach, and it’s not a slam-dunk decision.  (If it were, everyone would do it.) 

Let’s look at the arguments for and against separate domains:

marketing emails

* Many email service providers use domain reputation as the basis for sender reputation, which in turn impacts whether your emails get delivered or under which folders they get categorized (in an email client like Gmail.)  If your main domain isn’t used for marketing emails, it can help preserve that domain’s reputation and thus improve email deliverability.

* Protecting your domain’s reputation can be particularly critical if your company sends emails to large consumer files or purchased lists.  If that’s the case, however, it might be easier to simply adopt a more permission-based approach to email vs. going to the trouble of setting up a new domain.

* Use of a separate email domain only ever makes sense if you’re using a dedicated IP address.  If you’re using a shared IP address (through a marketing automation provider, for example), then your email reputation will always be subject to the behavior of other senders on that same IP, so any efforts to otherwise protect your domain will be for nought.

* The set-up process for a new domain can be complicated and time-consuming.  For example, you’ll need to make sure that all mail gets redirected to email addresses using the new domain.  In addition, marketing automation users will need to use the new domain email address as their login to avoid accidentally sending emails from the old domain.  (This creates particular complications for individuals who have linked their Salesforce and Pardot accounts.)

* Furthermore, new IP addresses require a stringent “warming” strategy to ready that domain for sending.  Otherwise, service providers will interpret a high volume of emails from your new domain as spam behavior.  There’s also the argument that any address other than your main domain might look fake to potential recipients, especially customers.

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In sum, separating email and Web domains can have benefits, and those benefits are greater for high-volume senders.  (A separate email domain will rarely be worth the time, effort, or complications if your email volume is relatively modest.)  Also, most of the benefits from a separate domain can be construed as protection from the consequences of bad email behavior.  An optimal mix of email frequency, cadence, and relevance, founded on general best practices, should generate few complaints. 

If you’re considering a separate email domain, take a close look at your current email strategy and examine how else you could minimize the incidence of spam complaints:

* eliminating the use of purchased lists for all but one-to-one sales outreach

* launching an email preference center (subscription management page) to provide email recipients more choices on the topic and frequency of emails they receive from your company

* segmenting email sends by interest, persona, or behavior to increase relevancy (and engagement)

* hiring a professional writer to draft, review or edit email content to minimize spam triggers and increase overall performance

In more cases than not, adoption of basic best practices should eliminate the need for a separate email domain, and also make email management much less complicated.

Many thanks to the Spear marketing automation team for their help with this article.

Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash


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