6 Ways to Improve Your Email Reputation and Deliverability

Updated May 2018

What’s your email reputation? When it comes to the deliverability of your emails, your reputation as an email sender plays a major role. The better your email reputation, the more emails make it to the inboxes of your recipients. Here we discuss 6 key email-marketing practices you should focus on to help optimize your email reputation and delivery rates.

Your Email Deliverability Depends on Your Sender Reputation

Your email (or sender) reputation largely determines whether your emails get delivered to your subscribers’ inboxes, land in their spam folders, or get completely blocked. That’s because your sender reputation is an indication of how good your email sending practices are and how closely those practices adhere to the standards set by the Internet service providers (ISPs), such as Gmail, Yahoo!, Comcast, and AOL. ISPs have standards in place to protect their users from getting unwanted emails and spam.

Although there a number of factors that determine email deliverability, your Internet protocol (IP) address—which is a unique set of numbers used to identify your email domain—plays a major role. Your domain reputation (e.g., @email.yourcompany.com) is also a key factor in email deliverability. So, if you’re having trouble getting emails into your recipients’ inboxes, be sure to also check your domain reputation.

Determine Your Email Reputation and Sender Score With This Online Tool

Knowing your email reputation is the first step in improving your email deliverability. Your email reputation is the measurement of the quality of your list and the extent that you follow best email practices. To find out what ISPs and other email receivers think of your email-marketing program, visit SenderScore.org. At this site, you’ll find a free tool that accesses data the ISPs and other email receivers use to decide whether to accept or reject your emails.

You simply input a domain or IP address and, in return, you’ll get a sender score from 1 to 100 (with 100 being the best). Similar to a credit score that assesses your credit history, a sender score rates the health of your email-marketing program. With this score, you’ll know whether you need to continue following best email practices to protect your high score, or take action to improve your sender reputation. Plus, if you have a problem with your email program, you’ll have a good idea of the scope of that problem.

Email Practices That Determine Email Reputation and Deliverability

Once you’ve determined your email reputation (and the extent to which you may have an issue), the next step is to identify your email practices that could be improved or that you should maintain. The following are the main areas of an email-marketing program that affect sender reputation:

  1. Your email bounce rate
    Sending an email to an address that’s unknown or doesn’t exist causes a bounce. Because people can periodically cancel or change their email addresses, bounces are expected. Bounce rates can vary dramatically, but with a well-managed list, you should be able to keep the rate low. At FulcrumTech, for example, we typically see bounce rates for our clients of less than between .5% and 1.5%.

    Bounce rates are dependent on:

    • The frequency of your mailings. If you email periodically, there’s a greater chance that more of your list will have email addresses that have changed. Those who tend to email regularly and not too infrequently will typically exhibit low bounce rates.
    • Whether your email list consists of more consumers versus B2B customers. Consumers tend to change their email addresses more frequently.
    • How quickly you remove the bounced email addresses. If you keep sending emails to the same addresses that bounced, your reputation will suffer. A high number of bounces means you’re not managing your list properly—resulting in a poor quality list.

    During an email audit that FulcrumTech conducted for one client who regularly sends to a list of thousands, we discovered they were sending to the same bounced addresses every day. And they were using a well-known email service provider. So by simply cleaning up their list and getting rid of these repeatedly bounced addresses, this client was able to experience improvement in their email deliverability.

  2. Your unsubscribe performance
    Your unsubscribe performance is an important indicator of your list quality and best email practices. If you send relevant content to subscribers who are expecting emails from you, your unsubscribe rate should be low. Generally, a high unsubscribe rate will contribute to a poor reputation.
  3. Your spam complaint rate
    Getting marked as spam by recipients is worse for your email reputation than people simply unsubscribing. Your spam complaint rate is yet another measure of whether you’re sending relevant emails to people who are expecting it. And, when your subscribers mark your emails as spam, the ISPs are getting a direct message that your email is not wanted. If you get too many of these spam complaints, your reputation will suffer. To help maintain a good quality list, it’s important that you get in your ISP’s feedback loop. This means the ISP will let you know who marked you as spam, so you can be sure they’re unsubscribed immediately.
  4. Your blacklist status
    Be sure to regularly check to see if your domain or IP address is included in blacklist databases. If you suddenly find that large numbers of your emails, or emails to a certain domain, are not getting opened, you may have been added to a blacklist. If you’re on a blacklist, you likely mailed to a spam trap or have been viewed as a repeat offender by ISPs. This would result in your emails being blocked or directed to the spam/bulk mail folders of your recipients. While there are numerous blacklists, Spamhaus and SpamCop are two examples.
  5. Your email authentication standards
    Email authentication verifies that the domain used in the From address is under the control of the sender. Sender Policy Framework (SPF), and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), and Domain Message Authentication Reporting & Conformance (DMARC) are the major email authentication standards used today. By employing email authentication protocols, ISPs help protect their users from spammers and phishing scams. For more information about email authentication and its role in getting your emails delivered, check out this FulcrumTech resource: “Email Authentication—Key to Getting Your Emails Delivered”
  6. Your email service provider’s reputation
    You can think about your IP address as the “conduit” or pipe through which you send emails. So if you’re working with an email service provider, your reputation depends on its reputation, as well. And if you’re working with one of the email-marketing companies that work with hundreds of other organizations and share an IP address with them, keep in mind that your email reputation—and deliverability—can be negatively affected by those other organization’s email practices.

At FulcrumTech, we also have the experts, guides, and tools to help you better comprehend and solve your email deliverability issues. Click here to email us or give us a call today at 215-489-9336 to learn more about how we can help you improve your email reputation and deliverability.

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