Email Reputation: What It’s All About

March 5, 2018
By Kirsten Onsgard

Email_Validation_ReputationEmail marketing programs are only as successful as the number of subscribers who see and respond to the messages sent. Mailing to undeliverable addresses, toxic emails and people who complain about your messages negatively impacts your email reputation, causing your emails to go to the junk folder or even get blocked entirely.

But what exactly is email reputation? And how does it impact your communication efforts? We break it down here.

Email Reputation Defined

Email (or sender) reputation is the measurement of your email sending practices and how closely you follow the standards established by Internet service providers (ISPs). ISPs use these criteria, more so than content, to filter spam and unwanted email. Email reputation is primarily measured for a sending IP address.

Put simply, your email reputation is like a credit rating — it takes time to earn a good reputation, but you can also easily destroy it if you’re not careful.

3 Principal Components of Email Reputation

  • Bounce rate: The number of messages returned as undeliverable divided by the number of emails sent
  • Complaint rate: The number of people who report your messages as spam divided by the number of emails delivered
  • Spam trap hits: The number of messages delivered to addresses that are explicitly used to trace and catalog spam

A slightly poor reputation will cause some messages to land in the spam folder or filtered into tabs.

The worst case is your IP address ends up with a bad reputation or exhibits behavior that appears to demonstrate poor email practices, and then it could be blacklisted or blocked by some ISPs, according to Mitch Lapides, president of Fulcrum Tech.

Each ISP treats reputation differently. With AOL, for example, a complaint rate greater than 0.1% may send some of your messages to the spam folder, and a rate above 0.3% may cause messages to be blocked. For most ISPs, a double-digit bounce rate or mailing to a single spam trap can result in some blocking.

Getting Your IP Unblocked

If you get blocked due to a poor sender reputation, many times you can wait several hours or a day for the block to lift. However, if you mailed to a spam trap or consistently violated an ISP’s thresholds, you may get put on an actual blocklist. Each ISP maintains its own internal blocklist, and there are public ones such as Spamhaus. Getting off a blocklist can require significantly more effort on your part. For example, you may need to:

  • Submit a form on the list holder’s website.
  • Improve your mailing practices, then apply to have your IP removed from the list.
  • Change your IP address or email service provider.
  • Send an opt-in message to all your subscribers, in the most extreme cases.

Improve Your Email Reputation

In this blog, we shared tips email marketers suffering from a poor sender reputation can use to improve their reputations, thereby likely increasing email marketing ROI. Those tips included:

  • Reducing complaint rates by refraining from sending unsolicited mail
  • Improving engagement with more personalized content
  • Making it easy for recipients to unsubscribe
  • And using dedicated (or unique) IP addresses

An additional tip is to maintain a clean email list with email validation which can have the biggest impact to your reputation.

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