Hitting send and assuming that your email will end up in the recipient’s inbox can work for personal communication. But at scale (such as in the case of email marketing), things can get trickier. Just take a moment to reflect on why some emails end up in your inbox and others in the spam folder. Well, the email sender reputation is a huge determining factor here.
With many email service providers automatically categorizing incoming correspondence – Gmail’s Primary, Promotions, and Social tabs, for instance – building a credible sender reputation is critical for the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns.
Consider this: Google in its 2018 year review said that its machine learning algorithms block 10 billion spam or malicious emails EVERY MINUTE. Given that this single email client has over 1.5 billion active users every month, a business’ marketing initiatives can take a significant hit if it is recognized as spam or not credible by Google.
To make sure that your business is not amongst these, let’s dive into email sender reputation and how building upon this parameter can give your marketing initiatives a new lease of life.
What is Email Reputation?
Email Sender Reputation, or email reputation, is essentially a score assigned to a business or an organization by an Internet Service Provider (ISP). This score determines the deliverability of your emails. Naturally, a high score means higher chances of reaching your target audience. A low score puts your emails at the risk of being flagged, marked as spam or blocked.
This score, as well as your reputation, isn’t static.
They can change quickly depending on the ISP’s assessment of the quality of your campaigns. Similarly, the email reputation can also vary from one ISP to another.
Top 10 Factors that Affect Email Reputation
Your email reputation depends on a lot of different factors. The top metrics that govern whether or not you’re a spammer are:
1. Domain Reputation
When you send an email, the email service provider cross-checks whether the address in the ‘From’ field matches the domain used for correspondence. In the case of shared domains, provider-specific authentication is added to the ‘From’ field to ensure that it matches your sending domain. However, this can dent your email reputation, and in turn, the deliverability of your messages.
Using a registered domain gives your emails an added layer of security and credibility. Thus, making them more likely to pass any spoofing checks.
2. IP Reputation
Much like your domain reputation, your IP reputation also largely depends on whether you use a shared or dedicated IP address. Using a shared address means your activity is intertwined with that of other users. Their malpractices can affect your email sender reputation. This is known as ‘bad neighborhood’.
A bad neighborhood isn’t just limited to a shared IP address. Other users within a subnetwork can also affect your reputation. In fact, an Internet Bad Neighbourhoods study indicated that this phenomenon can also take place on ISPs, and a majority of dodgy activities such as spamming and phishing can be attributed to a small cluster of such bad neighborhoods.
3. Bounce Rate
The bounce rate of your emails is determined by the percentage of email addresses to which your communication could not be delivered. This is further divided into two categories – hard and soft bounce. A hard bounce happens when you’re sending emails to addresses that don’t exist whereas when your email delivery fails on account of recipients’ inbox being full or a message being too large, it is considered a soft bounce.
Hard bounce impacts your email sender reputation significantly, as it points to an unauthenticated email list. Purchasing bulk email addresses puts you at the risk of a greater bounce rate.
4. Content Quality
The quality of the content you are sharing with your subscribers also impacts your email reputation. Frustrating user experience on account of slow loading messages or poor design, using too many keywords and choice of images are some of the factors that can lead your content being flagged as spammy.
5. Emails Marked As Spam
If your subscribers consistently mark your messages as spam, the ISP considers it as a sign that you’re not delivering relevant content. This, naturally, impacts your email reputation.
6. Unsubscribe Rate
It is expected that at least some of your recipients may unsubscribe to your emails at some point. That’s alright. However, if there is a sudden or steady rise in the unsubscribe rate, it is considered a red flag.
7. Low Engagement
Engaging emails organically generate click-throughs. If your email template fails to deliver on that metric, the ISP can consider it as a reflection of poor user experience. Your emails may start ending up in the recipients’ spam folder.
8. Falling in the Spam Trap
These traps are emails used by service providers to monitor spam. If your HTML emails end up on a lot of these spam trap IDs, your reputation can take a hit. Curating high-quality email lists through genuine signups rather than purchasing them from bulk providers is a simple way of avoiding these traps. You must also audit your email lists from time to time and weed out all hard bounce addresses to prevent being caught in the spam trap.
9. Too Many Emails
While you want to create a recall value among your subscribers, sending out too many emails is not the way to do it. For example, if you’re sending 5 to 7 emails to your recipients every day, the service provider may consider it as too intrusive. This can negatively impact your deliverability.
Limiting the number of emails you send, optimizing the send time, and choosing quality over quantity is the way to go.
10. Spike in Reach
Of course, you want to reach out to more and more target users through your email marketing campaigns. As long as the growth in the number of email addresses you target is gradual, you’re in the clear. However, if you are sending emails to 1,000 addresses one day and 1 lakh the next, it is bound to raise questions about the credibility of your marketing initiatives.
How to Check Your Email Reputation?
Considering the impact of email sender reputation on the effectiveness of your marketing initiatives, it is only natural for you to wonder ‘how do I check mine?’ Fortunately, the internet is awash with tools that can perform this task for you.
Here are the top five resources that you can consider using:
1. Sender Score
Sender Score gives you a measure of your reputation in definitive figures. Taking into account the above-mentioned factors, it gives you a score between 0 and 100. A higher score reflects a better reputation. Your score is reflective of a 30-day average of the performance of your emails on various metrics. You also get insights on where your IP address ranks vis-à-vis others.
2. Reputation Authority
Reputation Authority by WatchGuard has been developed to protect businesses and organizations from spam, phishing attacks, spyware, malware, and malicious code. It works both for your emails as well as web traffic. You not only get a reputation score in the range of 0 to 100 but can also get insights on good versus bad emails, domain authority, and IP address.
3. Talos Intelligence
Talos Intelligence is another credible resource for checking your email reputation. As opposed to giving you a score, it categorizes your reputation as Poor, Neutral, or Good.
While Good indicates that your email reputation is sound, Neutral means there is scope for improvement. If your email reputation falls in the Poor spectrum, it means there are serious problems in your email activity. In all likelihood, your messages are being filtered as spam or blocked altogether.
4. Google Postmaster
This is a free tool provided by Google for checking your domain reputation. It also helps you analyze how Gmail views your emails. The results are categorized as Good, Medium, Low, or Bad. Of course, Good is a sound result whereas Bad indicates that your email reputation leaves a lot to be desired.
5. Trusted Source
Trusted Source also gives you insights on both web and email reputation, in addition to domain name system (DNS), affiliations, and mail server information. You can also use it to access details of associations, activation, and history of your domain.
How to Maintain a Good Email Reputation?
Your email reputation directly impacts your deliverability. That’s why it’s imperative to build, restore, maintain a good reputation. To do this, first and foremost, you must check your email initiatives vis-à-vis the metrics that determine your reputation score and ensure that you follow the best practices for optimum deliverability.
In addition to that, you can bolster your email reputation using the following:
1. Sender Policy Framework
This protocol helps add authenticity to your emails by differentiating them from those sent out by spammers. Sender Policy Framework (SPF) essentially works to prevent the ISP from being tricked by hackers using fake domain names.
It verifies IP addresses and checks the originality of servers using ‘Return-Path’ value. By using this protocol, you tell ISPs that emails sent by you can originate from only certain specified servers or IP addresses. This eliminates the risk of fabrication and boosts your email reputation.
2. Domain Keys Identified Mail
Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) uses a digital signature to associate a domain name with your emails. When you sign an email, the DKIM system generates a combination of unique characters that can be used to authenticate you as the sender. A mail transfer agent (MTA) then verifies it. Once an email passes these checks, it can pass filters set up by ISPs.
Using DKIM in tandem with SPF gives you a higher degree of credibility.
3. Transport Layer Security
This is a security protocol that encrypts communication and keeps your email communication safe from intrusions and attacks. Transport Layer Security (TLS) uses authentication, encryption, and integrity to enhance the credibility of your emails. This improves your reputation in the eyes of the ISP.
To Wrap It Up
Creating campaigns that your subscribers will love is not enough. You also have to ensure that they land in their inboxes. Now that you know what is at stake when your email reputation takes a hit and how to turn it around, take the right measures sooner than later!
Learn more about how we at Email Uplers can help you execute reputation-proof email campaigns.