Zoho Banning Cold Emailers - What Happened?

Written by

Michael Benson

Uncover the Zoho cold email ban incident, unraveling the reasons behind it. Stay informed about the latest developments and implications.

In the world of cold email, word spreads fast when issues come up regarding deliverability. Whether you are a small business performing outreach activities to grow your company, or a fortune 500 company with an entire team dedicated towards cold email outreach, if an issue arises with one of the core tools utilized by tens of thousands of businesses across the industry, professionals are quick to pick up on this and talk amongst themselves on what is happening, and what the root cause of the issue may be.

In this case, it appears that there have been some growing changes with the sending provider Zoho in terms of how they have been handling their cold email customers. Throughout 2023, there have been many discussions among marketing groups and professionals within the industry regarding the open/engagement rates of their email campaigns under Zoho. While many of these situations cannot be proven outright and primarily come from shared instances of issues arising at the same time among those in the industry, enough commonalities point towards the fact that Zoho is not practical for cold emailers any longer due to its performance, as well as steps Zoho has taken against their own users who are performing cold email outreach.

In this article I want to explore what exactly is happening with Zoho in regards to their performance and handling of cold emailers, why this is happening, why they are suddenly making this shift with their service, and what you should do as a cold emailer with this information. While there is little to no way to prove for a fact that this is happening until Zoho puts out an official statement on the subject or an extensive case study is performed, what we can do is analyze what the industry is discussing from their experiences and how this paints an overall narrative of the current situation in terms of how email providers typically handle cold emailers under their services.

What Happened?

Throughout early 2023 across various marketing groups on Linkedin, Reddit, and X.com (formally Twitter.com), there have been hundreds of posts from cold email marketers ranging from freelancers to founders of successful cold emailing platforms and services discussing a rapid change to the open/deliverability rates they have been having under Zoho. Bounce/open rates among many highly active cold emailers sending tens of millions of emails daily have seen a drastic decline in their performance without a direct reason for why this shift has occurred.

For many companies performing cold email outreach for single or multiple companies, a workflow and approach towards targeting new clients via email tends to be established early on, and minor adjustments alongside A/B testing are performed in order to further hone in this approach. This includes adjustments to who you are contacting within an industry, the sending solution you are utilizing for your mailboxes, and the content you are sending out towards these contacts.

Once these factors are honed in and have a proven track record of success, companies and individuals tend to stick to this in order to ensure consistent results, and will develop and hone in other campaigns alongside proven successful approaches to ensure long term success. As anyone with experience performing cold email outreach knows, there are hundreds of issues that can arise that can bring an email campaign to a halt. Some of these causes are easy to track down and fix, but other issues appear to come out of the blue not caused by any actions or changes made by the individual.

In this case with the rise of discussion among the experiences of Zoho users in the cold email space, it appears that traditionally successful email campaigns are suddenly either being halted completely by Zoho, or seeing extremely diminished results without any change to the target audience of their emails or changes to their email copy. For cold emailers utilizing multiple different sending services, these changes become even more apparent when comparing campaigns across platforms which adds to the discussion surrounding Zoho itself.

The response of Alex Berman of Omni to the situation summarizes the situation well, being one of the leading experts in the industry who also has also noticed these drastic changes to Zoho, citing experiences he has encountered within his circle and similar discussion groups cited earlier of this situation. To summarize the situation, cold emailers utilizing Zoho are running into major issues with their deliverability and the success of their campaigns and it seems to point towards Zoho itself being a primary factor.

Why Doesn’t Zoho Want Cold Email Users?

While we cannot say for certain what Zoho’s definitive statement is on the matter, or if these issues are intentional or not on their end, historically email providers tend to want to avoid being associated with cold email sending activity due to the many other various applications of email that are utilized by these major providers, and the fact that to the casual observer cold email can be easily associated with spam activity if done incorrectly or abused for nefarious purposes.

The similarities between cold email and actual spam activity can make determining legitimate senders from spammers a very difficult task, and for a sending provider as large as Zoho this becomes a monumental task to avoid other sending providers from associating them with hosting and supporting spammers on their platform. For this reason, a move such as banning cold emailers could be a preventative measure from Zoho to ensure the stability of their platform and the deliverability of its users, as from these marketing groups there has been discussion that deliverability with Microsoft specifically has drastically reduced when compared to the performance of campaigns prior to this shift.

Without confirmation from Zoho itself on the matter, we are left only to guess at what the reasoning of this shift could be, as from the end of the users we can only determine that some type of shift occurred internally to render cold email outreach activities on their platform to have poor deliverability and open rates.

What Do I Do Now If I’m Using Zoho For Cold Email?

If you are utilizing Zoho for your cold email outreach activities, we highly suggest that you migrate your sending solution over to a new service provider or take the time to setup your own custom hosted mail server, as it is not recommended to utilize Zoho at all for cold email sending activity. While there has been no concrete evidence provided by Zoho itself to suggest these changes were intentional or a part of a shift of focus with their business practices, there has been enough discussion among professionals on the topic, as well as negative performances from historically stable campaigns to suggest it is not viable as a cold email outreach tool.

This may not always be the case, and this does not suggest that Zoho’s platform is unsuitable for other types of email sending activities such as newsletter or transactional email, but for cold emailers specifically it is better to stay on the safe side of deliverability and move over to another email provider such as Mailreef for your sender addresses for cold email campaigns.

What Does This Mean For The Future Of Cold Email?

While it's impossible to get an accurate gauge on what this means for the future of the cold email industry, I do not believe that this could be considered a broad shift among email hosting providers to shut out cold email activity altogether. While the act of cold emailing is not a broadly known marketing channel outside of those who work within the marketing industry, it is still a widely used method of acquiring new customers for nearly every other industry operating worldwide. With demand comes supply, and while the largest email providers such as Google and Microsoft do not directly condemn cold email activity, they do not hinder this type of outreach activities as long as you are following best practices and abiding by the CAN-SPAM Act/GDPR Compliance, there has been no indication by either of these providers that they are cracking down on cold email sending activity, nor have plans to do so in the future.

Google and Microsoft specifically within the past 2 years of activities have made some changes that have made setting up and managing cold email campaigns a bit more difficult, such as the broad shift of disallowing API authentication connections to certain warming services and automated sending providers, but these shifts were primarily done as a way to reduce actual spammer activity, and not cold email sending activity.

The situation with Zoho is still a relatively new issue that has sprouted up within the month of this article going live, so as new information comes to light this article will be updated accordingly, but for now while the situation with cold email deliverability under Zoho indicates that it is unviable for sending activity, we suggest avoiding them entirely for your cold email campaigns.

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