Why the Google Crackdown Is the End of Cold Email As We Know It

Google and Yahoo's strict new requirements for bulk senders come into effect February 2024. Here's why they'll fundamentally change cold prospecting and what Sales teams need to do to survive.

Gautam Rishi
2023-11-22

The upcoming Google/Yahoo email crackdown is the final nail in the coffin for prospecting as we know it.

Spray and pray is done.

Companies that have been ignoring questionable practices coming out of their Sales teams will no longer have a choice when email is blocked for the entire organization.

If outbound teams don’t abandon bulk cold outreach—and the tools that enable it—they’re in serious trouble.

Here’s what the new cold email rules mean for your outbound sales programs in 2024.

What’s happening?

Starting next February, Google and Yahoo are introducing stricter requirements for senders in an attempt to crack down on “more complex and pressing” threats to inboxes to keep them “safer and more spam free.”

Changes will affect all senders. But they’ll affect bulk senders the most—anyone sending 5,000 or more emails per day to Google accounts.

(I.e. your outbound sales team.)

Bulk senders now need to:

  • Authenticate and validate email by setting up SPF, DKIM, and DMARC records
  • Enable one-click unsubscribe and honour unsub requests within 2 days
  • Aim for a 0.1% spam rate and avoid anything higher than 0.3%, especially for long periods

The consequences for violating these new requirements are high. Frequent offenders will find it harder and harder to hit the inbox, and may have their emails blocked entirely. Serious cases can see email accounts suspended.

Penalties are not at the individual level. They are at the domain level.

Which means if your email is suspended, it suspends every single address associated with that domain.

Who is impacted

The most significant changes won’t just affect bulk senders. They’ll impact everyone sending emails.

Only three of the new changes are specific to bulk senders: DMARC authentication, one-click unsubscribe, and aligning the 'From:' address with the validated domain.

The new lower spam threshold applies to everyone.

This is why these new rules will have such a monumental impact on sales teams and cold outbound.

It doesn’t matter how many emails you send per day. If you’re consistently over the threshold, you’re in trouble.

What does 0.3% look like? Let’s make it concrete.

If your company sends 1,000 emails, only 3 complaints put you at 0.3%. 

And getting your spam rate back below that level is an uphill battle. 

How did we get here?

Three reasons:

  1. Sequencers unlocked mass generic outreach at scale.

Email sequencing tools came along around 2015 and took the B2B sales world by storm.

It’s important to remember that before these tools came along email prospecting was entirely manual. This new capacity for automation now meant you could send emails quickly and on a massive scale.

So outbound became a numbers game. The equation was simple: more emails equals more revenue.

  1. The predictable revenue model worked. For a while. 

This model was so effective it got a name: predictable revenue.

The predictable revenue movement gave rise to the SDR and was even a major driver of the SaaS explosion. 

Outbound became the largest driver of net-new revenue for businesses. Successful prospecting was all about following the latest tactic or framework, delivered to prospects at a greater and greater scale.

But in sales, nothing is new for long.

Popular tactics became played out. Prospects caught on, and they tuned out to the generic emails they were now being bombarded with.

The effectiveness of cold prospecting began to slip.

  1. Email service provider crack downs.

This isn’t the first big move from Google, Yahoo, and the other big email providers to crack down on spam.

Google’s AI-powered defences already stop 99.9% of spam.

Yet as people’s inbox became more crowded and more unusable, they had to pull out bigger and bigger reforms to counter spam.

And yes—unsolicited emails from salespeople count as spam, for a lot of people.

As people got more and more turned off by emails with zero relevancy or personalization, the spam reports climbed.

So who will be the most affected? 

Businesses and teams sending the most unsolicited emails. In other words, your Sales team.

What it means for Sales teams

The days of spray and pray bulk cold emails are done.

Email sequencing tools are done. 10-step sequences and stupid bump and “break up” emails, no more.

CEOs and VPs of Sales who’ve been ignoring what SDRs are putting out will no longer have that luxury come February when the entire org is suspended from sending emails.

(SDRs aren’t to blame, by the way. A generation of sales leaders who’ve trained them to be nothing more than spamming robots, however, are.)

Ultimately, finger pointing is useless. 

We’ve all collectively let it get to a point where mum and dad (Google and Yahoo) are stepping in to take our toys away.

One thing is for sure:

Sales teams need to fundamentally rethink how they approach outbound sales.

And they need to do it NOW. Before the February deadline.

Whether we like it or not the current way we’re doing things will change.

As far as I’m concerned, this is a good thing. Results from outbound programs have been in the toilet for years. Spray and pray stopped working a long time ago. Good riddance.

Is there a future for email in GTM?

Yes. But maybe not for a while.

It will take some time for the credibility of email as a biz dev channel to recover.

People’s mental spam filters (as the folks at Lavender put it) are so fine-tined that just a hint of generic, irrelevant content is all it takes for an email to be ignored/deleted/reported.

But therein lies the solution.

Email can be a highly effective GTM channel when done right.

What does the right way look like in 2024 and beyond?

Intent + personalization + solid email infrastructure

Thoughtful, relevant outreach delivered in a respectful manner to people with a genuine interest in the problem you promise to solve.

This means acting on deep intent signals instead of shallow firmographics.

Deep intent signals

Like these:

  • People who’ve visited key pages on your website, e.g. pricing
  • Warm contacts who are engaging with marketing collateral
  • Follow your company/founders on LinkedIn
  • Previous customers who’ve changed jobs
  • Company signals like hiring trends, funding, and tech stack

Are clues that people are in the market for a solution to a problem.

If you can offer such a solution, your unsolicited email transforms from an annoying hindrance to a lightbulb moment.

Intent leads to relevant personalization

Once intent is established, it acts as the catalyst for outreach.

The reason you’re reaching out in the first place.

Effective personalization is born out of these deep signals that indicate someone has the problem you solve. The key here is to tie this back to your value prop in a way that makes sense. 

But of course, none of it matters if your email doesn’t get through. Hence the need for…

Solid email infrastructure

This means prospecting from warm, verified domains.

Ideally separate from your primary domain as to move any potential risk away from the one the rest of your company relies on for critical communications.

These domains must be monitored constantly and maintained regularly.

Spam report rates will become a new KPI for Sales, and teams need to be ready to burn domains that are falling under the new required threshold.

Ops and IT support is important here. Email infrastructure is complex, and may require a specialist to help monitor and maintain.

The real driver of prospecting progression in 2024 and beyond

Is AI.

Intentful prospecting is the only way forward once these changes come into effect.

AI excels at finding these intent clues quickly.

This is the best use case of AI in sales today: 

  • Locating target prospects displaying intent signals your business cares about
  • Using that intel to get a massive head start generating outreach messages that will get your prospect’s attention.

The word “cold” will become obsolete in modern prospecting. Reaching out to warm, interested audiences will be the only effective strategy.

That means Marketing needs to do a really good job of getting your brand in front of the right people. And Sales needs to capitalize on that by reaching out to the right people with the right message at the right time—they need to strike while the iron is hot.

AI will change not only how we prospect, but who prospects.

It could be AEs sourcing their own pipeline. It could be CEOs/founders.

Seems crazy? Not when effective prospecting takes 1 hour/week instead of 40.

This is the promise of AI. We have a chance to go back to the drawing board and redesign outbound sales from the ground up. What was fantasy a few years ago is now a reality.

I know because OneShot.ai is making it a reality.

The future of outbound is bright. These new requirements are a forcing function. My guess is we’ll see some really creative solutions pop up over the next few months, driven by the greatest technology in a generation, artificial intelligence. Teams that innovate quickly here will have a massive first mover advantage. 

But the clock is ticking.

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Gautam Rishi
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