Email reputation: 6 keys that will open the inbox

Keys by Davis Biesack FlickrMarketers spend a lot of time and energy coming up with compelling ways to engage target customers with emails. But no matter how impressive a marketing campaign, there is a real risk it won’t even be read if marketers neglect to build a good email reputation that will maximise email deliverability. On average, 20% of legitimate marketing emails never reach a recipient’s inbox – for marketers, this translates into lost customers, lost opportunities and lost revenues.

The first step in helping to maximise email deliverability is building a strong sender reputation. In the email world, sender reputation refers to a set of specific metrics directly related to a sender’s email sending practices. Senders with good reputations have a much higher probability of their email reaching their recipients inbox. Senders with poor reputations are much more likely to have their email blocked at the gateway or have their messages routed to the dreaded junk folder.

A strong sender reputation doesn’t happen overnight, however.  In order to build a strong reputation, a sender should adhere to these six best practices:

1) Relevant, properly formatted email

Sending quality email that your subscribers want to receive is the basis of a great sender and brand reputation. Ensure that your recipients want to receive your email by implementing a clear opt-in during the subscription process and be sure to send relevant and interesting content. Also, make sure your HTML is properly formatted – poorly coded emails get caught in filters or don’t render properly.

2) Consistent volume

How much email do you send? Do you send approximately the same number of emails each week or month, or is your mailing schedule all over the map? Consistent volumes based on subscriber preferences are a key consideration for ISPs.

3) Minimise complaints

Do your subscribers complain or tag your messages as ‘junk’ or ‘spam’? Even a tiny increase in complaints can cause your email to be blocked by the ISPs. Keeping your complaint rate very low (less than 0.1% of mail sent and accepted by the ISP) is very important.

4) Avoid spam traps

Sending to even one spam trap or ‘honey pot’ will instantly set back your reputation and cause deliverability problems. When you send to a spam trap (an email address activated by an ISP to catch spammers), it means you’re engaging in email address harvesting (an illegal practice) or your list hygiene practices are weak. Either way, ISPs aren’t going to deliver your email. Doing everything you can to avoid a spam trap is critical – keeping a clean list and not purchasing lists is an excellent start.

5) Low bounce rates

A good reputation also means that only a small percentage of your emails bounce back or are returned by the ISPs because the account is no longer active, the mailbox is temporarily full, or the recipient is out-of-office. If a lot of your mail is bouncing back, it means your subscribers aren’t engaged and you’re not keeping up to date with them. It also indicates that your list hygiene practices are not up to industry standards. This makes your email look like spam to an ISP and your email is unlikely to get delivered.

6) No blacklist appearances

Appearing on just one of the leading blacklists is enough to get you blocked by some ISPs. Senders with low complaints, who don’t hit spam traps, and who send email consistently generally don’t get blacklisted. However, if you do get blacklisted, having a good sending reputation will help convince the blacklist administrator to remove your IPs from their list.

Paul Ford is VP of marketing at SendGrid