It’s hard for me to think about sender reputation without having Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” getting stuck in my head. When it comes to being a sender of email (unlike Joan’s recommendation), you really should give a damn about your reputation!
Sender reputation is a combination of many elements. That reputation is critical to getting your messages into the inbox. So how do I get a bad or good reputation? Here’s a slew of suggestions on email content, volume, bounces, complaints and more that will give you some insight in improving your reputation or keeping it strong.
We’ll call it “The Joan Jett Law Of Email Delivery”.
There are many systematic ways for computers to determine reputation, but being relevant to the customer is hard for them to measure. Sure, Internet Service Providers (ISP) know if your recipients have read a message but do they know if they liked it? Probably not. Providing subject lines that captures the reader’s eye and content that engages the user is critical to your email campaign and your reputation.
Continually providing content that is relevant to those customers keeps them opening which only improves your reputation. Providing a conspicuous unsubscribe link and company information also helps and is a CAN-SPAM requirement.
Also be sure the message is constructed in a way that systems like. Using HTML in email messages is now a common practice, so be sure it is properly formatted and meets w3c standards. The message and envelope construction should meet IETF standards. As your messages flow through the internet, spam filters look at construction to ensure it’s correct. If it isn’t, these filters think you are trying to exploit mail reader vulnerabilities and will block the message or disable links.
ISPs closely watch where mail comes from on the Internet and how fast it they get it. If it comes in too fast from one internet address, they may block it. If it comes in too slowly from many Internet addresses, they may block it. Volume, coupled with the architectural decisions of dedicated or shared sending IPs, can really impact your reputation.
Erratic volume can also lead to a poor reputation. Consistency is key to a good reputation. If you have campaigns that lead to inconsistent sending, think about splitting your transactional mail away from your bulk or marketing mail.
Bounces are caused by a number of things. Invalid email addresses cause hard bounces. Full mailboxes, out of office replies and senders marked as spam cause soft bounces. Senders should stop sending to any hard bounced address and remove any soft bounced address from lists in a timely fashion. Proper list hygiene is critical to prevent these bounces from ruining a senders reputation.
Most ISP’s provide the option to mark a message as spam as sender reputation will decline as the ISP gets more complaints about a sender. It’s important for the sender to make it easy for recipients to unsubscribe, but it’s also important that they only send to recipients that asked to be sent to. A purchased list or 3rd party opt-in is the fastest way to get complaints.
Spam traps and blacklists
Companies that monitor reputation use many tools to do so. A common tool is a spam trap which can monitor senders’ habits by ensuring they are only sending to customers that have asked for these messages. Spam trap operators publish email addresses and monitor their inboxes. A hit on a spam trap means that sender used a list or email addresses that were not lawfully obtained. This can ruin a reputation quickly.
Once these monitoring companies detect bad behavior, they publish the sender’s IP address on a blacklist. ISPs subscribe to these blacklists to more quickly identify bad senders. Keeping off a blacklist is critical to a good reputation.
Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and Domain Key Identified Mail (DKIM) records are critical for ISP mail servers to trust the sending servers and your complete organization’s reputation. Have they been set up and configured correctly? For more on this, check out Steve Wheeler’s recent post.
Other questions to ask:
- Are your mail servers properly secured?
- Are there forward and reverse DNS records for public facing IP addresses?
- Is there monitoring of blacklists and reputation reporting sites?
- Are other departments sending via the same infrastructure?
- Is there someone responsible for monitoring all of the above?
All of these are questions that should be asked regularly and even audited. A failure to address any one of these infrastructure items could lead to poor reputation. If your IT staff is already overburdened, using an email delivery solution like DynECT Email Delivery can relieve you of these tasks. Dyn monitors the sending infrastructure and all of the above common pitfalls to sender reputation. If there is a problem with infrastructure, our global support team resolves it before it affects you.
If the problem is within the senders control, our application will alert you or you’ll be contacted by our specially trained concierge team. Following these recommendations will improve your sending reputation, improve your campaign performance and keep you from violating the Joan Jett law.