The ultimate goal of any email campaign is to engage willing recipients with relevant content in order to intrigue the recipient to learn more about your product or service. This article will provide information on email and domain reputation.
The following user roles can create and send emails:
- Company Managers
- Marketing Managers
Reputation and Deliverability
Reputation and deliverability are intertwined. Ensuring that your mail is delivered for the recipient to read is essential. This is both the most pivotal and misunderstood part of the overall email sending process, and delivery issues can stop even the best campaign in its tracks before it can even get started.
Email reputation stems from two distinct sources: Internet protocol (IP) reputation and domain reputation. After passing these first two metrics, Internet service providers (ISPs) have their own black box metrics with which they rate content and decide whether or not it should be delivered to the inbox or not. Finally, there are personalized engagement metrics that influence if the email hits the inbox or the spam folder based on how that recipient has interacted with emails like that in the past. The impact of these metrics are intentionally kept secret to stop spammers from gaming the system, but following best practices and understanding each step will help ensure the success of your campaigns.
IP and Domain Reputation
When you send an email out of SharpSpring, the message is transmitted via a shared IP address. ISPs look at the reputation of IP addresses by looking at the amount of traffic coming over that IP, as well as the amount of so-called bad traffic that is sent over them. SharpSpring’s Compliance team works tirelessly to enforce best practices and to monitor associated IP addresses to ensure their health to maximize delivery. Additionally, SharpSpring's Compliance team monitors the health of IP pools is affected by all of the senders that share these pools.
Metrics that affect IP reputation also affect the particular sender’s domain reputation. Historically, spammers were simply able to send email from a particular IP until that IP achieved an unusable reputation, then change IPs in order to have a fresh start. Now, ISPs track reputation by IP and domain, so that senders with a bad domain reputation will experience subpar delivery rates, regardless of the IP addresses they send over.
This side of reputation means that you have a direct stake in the quality of your sends. By following email best practices, you ensure not only the health of SharpSpring's IP pools, but the long-term health of your domain as well.
Regarding Spam Traps
ISPs create spam traps, which are email addresses that are either new or recycled from old, unused email accounts that do not sign up for email. Spam traps are an essential way that ISPs track IP and domain reputation. Email best practices dictate that recipient lists should be recipients who have opted in to receive your emails and have validated their address.
When someone sends an email to one of these spam trap addresses, the ISP knows the sender came across the email address via shady practices. This can include purchasing lists, scraping sites for emails addresses, or even reusing old, outdated lists that have been improperly maintained. Every spam trap that is hit affects the IP and domain reputation of the sender. Not only do ISPs create and maintain these spam traps, but third-party blacklists also monitor their own spam traps. If these spam traps are hit, the IP can be blacklisted and made public for ISPs and email firewalls to filter out IPs that are known to send spam.
Hitting these spam traps affects your reputation, as well as the reputation of the other senders in your shared pool. This is one of the many reasons SharpSpring does not allow the use of purchased lists. SharpSpring encourages list cleaning and sunset policies to keep pools as clean as possible. Again, SharpSpring's Compliance team monitors trap hits closely and are quick to respond to these issues.
Recipient and ISP Filtering
After passing the preliminary test of sending from an acceptable IP and domain, individual mailboxes will inspect the mail and apply their own settings. At this stage, the mailbox will scan the contents of the email and decide whether it should be accepted, rejected, or filtered as spam. The details of how the email is rated is kept secret by ISPs, but there are some general guidelines to follow to minimize this filtering:
- Keep your HTML well-coded.
- Ensure you have a low image-to-text ratio in your email. 80% text to 20% images is considered the standard.
- Revise your email’s vocabulary to be conversational and educational, instead of sales-driven.
- Avoid suspicious or spammy additions to your email, such as exclamation points or all capitalized letters.
- Review that your email’s links are not blacklisted by any major blacklists. Tools like MXToolBox can assist in this.
- Confirm you have SPF and DKIM properly configured to authenticate your emails.
It is also worth noting your recipient may have filters of various strictness. For instance, some government organizations will block all sends that are not from a whitelisted set of IPs. Other organizations will block any email that is labeled as a bulk send and either bounce or filter them directly into a spam box. It may be worth reviewing your bounces to identify companies or domains that may have these strict filters in place.
Along with filtering emails based on bad content or bad send history, engagement plays an important role in how emails are delivered to the inbox. If a recipient has gone for a period of time without opening your emails, their mailbox may begin putting them into spam, although the email itself has not triggered any of the above issues.
Remember, as a sender, you have very little insight on what happens in the inbox once your email arrives. You know if it was opened, but do not know how long the recipient kept the email open. You will not know if they scrolled to the bottom. You will not know if they deleted the email or marked the email as spam soon after opening. ISPs, specifically Gmail, use all of these metrics to track how individuals are interacting with their email to rate it for spamminess or if the recipient wants to receive future emails.
For this reason, it is very important to keep your lists up-to-date. Consider implementing a sunsetting policy. A sunsetting policy determines after how many attempted engagements with no interaction does a sender become set as unsubscribed. By continuing to send to uninterested parties, you risk running afoul of the recipient’s inbox considering these emails as potential spam—or even having that email address turned into a spam trap which you continue to hit, further damaging your reputation.
Email marketing is the lynchpin of any content marketing strategy, but an email that ends up in a recipient's spam folder might result in losing a potential lead.
Spam, bounce and unsubscribe rates need to be within an acceptable range. At most, your spam rate should not exceed 0.1%. Depending on the ISP, anything above the acceptable rate will have consequences. The bounce rate should be below 1%. The unsubscribe rate should be below 1%.