The Key to Email Deliverability is Reputation

Email Marketing


Mentioned in a previous post, Top 5 Resources for Email Deliverability, the Return Path paper, Your Reputation Hold the Key to Deliverability, provides best practices for improving sending reputation at your company. The slightly disturbing stat, reporting how 20% of legitimate email never reaches the inbox, should make you want to give this paper a quick read through. If time is of the essence, take a look at the summary below:

Data That Drives Email Deliverability

The five data points to keep in mind include volume, complaint rates, ‘hard-bounce” rate, spam trap hits and authentication. If your company has a high volume of email, remember that so do spammers. Make sure if you have high volume, your complaint and bounce rates are low. Complaint rates (the amount of times email recipients hit ‘report spam’) and bounce rates (caused by non-existent or unknown addresses) can dramatically affect your inbox performance. Keeping complaint rates stable and lowering bounce rates increases your chances of maintaining your reputation. Spam traps are old inboxes that ISPs reactivate specifically to trap spammers. Because these addresses were never registered to receive mail, any email that lands in this inbox is marked as spam. Poor list hygiene leads to inclusion of spam trap addresses on a mailing list. Lastly, authentication lets the ISP know that the sender is who they say they are. With the help of your IT department, you can take steps to further authenticate your IP with approaches such as SPF, Sender ID and DomainKeys Identified Mail.

Repair and Protect Your Reputation

You must monitor deliverability from the viewpoint of sender reputation; it is the only way to know your mail is reaching the inbox. Looking at open rates only gives you part of the story. If an email wasn’t opened perhaps it never reached in the inbox; it could have gone into a bulk folder or just was lost in space.

If you discover a reputation problem, take action. Remove “unknown user” addresses on your lists with these approaches:

  • Require recipients to enter email addresses twice on registration forms.
  • Send a welcome email to registrants. If any bounce, immediately pull them off your lists.
  • Employ and maintain list hygiene processes.

Prevent and Manage Complaints

Below are some strategies to prevent complaints:

  • Sign up for ISP feedback to receive instant notification of subscriber complaints.
  • Make changes to your subscription page to give people a clear idea of what they will receive. Some new subscribers drive complaints because they aren’t receiving the content they wanted or expected.
  • If complaints are from one data source, stop using those addresses or reconfirm the source when doing email marketing.
  • If complaints come from non-responders, remove them from your lists.
  • Check to see how your email will render in each ISP. If your recipients cannot make sense of the email, they will most likely call it spam.

Subscribing Best Practices:

  • Provide subscribers with detailed sign-up options so they have a clear idea of what they will receive.
  • Give instructions on your sign-up page and your welcome email about adding your email to their address book.
  • Utilize the highest permission standard you can support, such as double opt-in.
  • Make it easy for people to unsubscribe.

Maintain Your Reputation with Continued Monitoring

Be sure to keep monitoring even after you’ve fixed the problems affecting your reputation. Continually monitor deliverability as programs change and you’ll be able to spot problems more quickly and prevent further complaints.

Want to read more? Check out the entire paper on email deliverability.