Take Charge of Your Sender Reputation
May 07, 2015
Better Reputation = more people get your emails delivered into their inbox, so don't let small email marketing mistakes damage your reach.
Marketing managers keep a close eye and work on their company Online Reputation. But what about their Email Sender Reputation?
Sender Reputation is not about people’s opinions, it’s about servers' evaluations. When you send a bulk mailing campaign, servers, before people, look at the Sender's past activity, and calculate an email’s worth. Servers make the decision: will this email get to the user’s inbox, or not?
Sending is not delivering. Internet service providers like Yahoo and Google want their users to have a good experience, so they do sort and filter emails, getting rid of Spam and unwanted messages.
As a Bulk Sender, you enter a sort of a “limbo” of assessment process.
One of seven or less emails that are sent by marketers doesn't get delivered. The emails that don't get in, don't make it because of the Sender's Reputation, in eight cases out of ten.
"It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it."
This is so true when talking about Sender Reputation. For example - one spam trap hit can take off 20 points of your Sender Score (according to a 2013 benchmark report).
So, don’t let small mistakes damage years of hard marketing work.
What exactly is Sender Score?
Email Service Provider Return Path offers a free tool for rating Sender Reputation.
Scores are calculated by several metrics, including unsubscribe and spam reports.
The process is quite complex, but bottom line is nobody gets 100 out of 100. Any score over ninety is great.
How to boost your sender reputations?
Brand name, Sender name (also as part of the subject line), message size, style and layout - these should be consistent.
Even when undergoing marketing strategy or personnel shifts, don’t let your emails' content become erratic or hard to identify.
Consistent activity is another factor: if you send from the same Sender to about the same size list, in about the same time every week or month - over time your Sender Score should go up.
Engagement and Feedback
Avoid Spam traps by not buying lists, and don't harvest addresses. Best way to avoid Spam traps is to let subscribers confirm their sign-up ("double opt-in").
I have mentioned above that a spam trap hit can cost you 20 point. from 90 to 70 is a steep decline!
Good subscribers’ engagement rates matter a lot: opens, clicks, forwards, TINS (this-is-not-spam).
Also helpful is to filter out of the list people who have not opened or clicked your emails in the last few months.
Gmail and other services look at how people behaved with your emails in the past - this is the most basic Reputation rating process. And this matter is in your hands as a marketer.
If you get many Spam complaints, you should reconsider your entire email marketing strategy.
One complaint for every 1000 users is a fare rate.
Domain / IP Maintenance
As a Sender, the IP address is the biggest Reputation asset.
A good IP will deliver more emails.
Mailing services aim to provide you the best possible IPs available - they should demonstrate and offer excellent Reputation scores.
Mailing services maintain their IPs Reputation by keeping a steady mailing volume on shared IPs, and make sure no spammers use their platform - so Reputation will not be tarnished by rogue users.
Make sure your provider works with similar type businesses and sending to high volume lists as you do.
What if the damage is already done and your Sender Score is not great?
Theoretically, and technically, you can get a clean slate: get a new IP any time you like, and use it for building a better Sender Reputation.
However, a completely new IP raises even more suspicion.
The reality is: The longer you've been around, and the more consistent you have been, the better your score will be.
When you do switch, or start working with a new provider, they will need to pay close attention to building your reputation.
They will warm up the new IP address, start with only a few hundreds of subscribers, and gradually raise traffic.
Along this carefully monitored process, another process should get done:
Many marketers don't understand the value of Authentication.
It removes part of the filtering obstacles standing in your email’s way.
There are a few techniques mailing providers can use:
SPF, SenderID, that require uploading an authentication code file on the sending server,
and the more advanced technique called DKIM - when authentication code is embedded in the email itself, like a digital signature.
Worst thing that can happen to you as a sender is to get blacklisted.
Google, Yahoo, AOL and such use existing blacklists, and some sources in the industry say there are about 50 lists out there.
On the blacklists are IPs that have received a high volume of spam reports.
Another major factor is the volume of "hard bounces" (invalid addresses marketers didn't filter and remove).
Your service provider needs to prevent such situations, and can take you off blacklists.
Whitelisting: Email providers keep whitelists, too.
Senders can apply for whitelisting with services like AOL and Yahoo.
This process may take a few days or even a few weeks.
Keep in mind that being on the whitelist is not permanent - you might be taken off for Reputation issues, like many Spam complaints.
- Undelivered emails are useless.
- Your Sender Reputation will determine how many of your emails get delivered and placed in the user's inbox.
- Most of all, Sender Reputation, unlike “Real World” Reputation, is determined by algorithm. Mailing services deliverability teams work hard at building and maintaining that reputation.
But it's up to you too - here are key Action Points:
- Don't change your Sender name (“From”).
- Clean your list - make sure no bots or complainers or unsubscribers are on it.
- Aim for getting users engage with your content (click on links).
- Make sure your Email Service Provider authenticates your campaigns.