How Is Your Email Reputation Going to Increase Your Email Delivery?

Ensure your Email Delivery in 2008. Stop thinking avoid spam filters and Start thinking Email Reputation NOW!

First of all when we talk email reputation we are talking about the reputation of your server IP address. Not so much the reputation of your domain, but for now your associated email servers IP address.

Reputation is simple to understand. ISPs take every possible spam filter, roll them all into one big overall result and then decide if the email in question goes thru. This is why I have been calling the “this is spam button” a spam filter.

This is an oversimplification (somewhat) so don’t call me on it please :]

Email reputation is a score created by an ISP or a third party provider.

ISPs are using a complex algorithm to create a single number from all the different filter technology results. If your reputation is above a certain number your email goes thru. Lower and you land in the spam folder or get blocked altogether.

Email Reputation is determined by the opinions of:

  • A: The ISPs
  • B: The antispam community
  • C: Your own subscribers

A + B + C = Email Reputation

Let’s look at how each of these opinions is formed….

A: The ISPs: Yahoo!, Microsoft, Comcast and AOL

  • Authentication (SPF, DK and Sender ID)
  • ISP Whitelisting and FBLs
  • ISP spam traps
  • DNS entries
  • Spam complaints
  • URLs in emails

ISPs soon will be demanding email authentication and turning up the screws on further filters if your email can’t prove it’s identity. Yahoo! is already quoted as saying that your email delivery will face more filtering if DomainKeys and is not in place.

While many will say email authentication does not determine deliverability it is soon to be the first step in your email reputation. It will also help to save your reputation from phishers and spammers.

List hygiene also plays a large part. Don’t send to nonexistent addresses, full mailboxes or abandoned inboxes.

B: The Antispam community

  • Spam Complaints
  • Spam Tram Hits

Spamhaus and SpamCop still remain huge in email delivery. Yahoo relies on Spamhaus and Return Path now owns SpamCop. Return Path is the parent company of Sender Score Certified.

I believe Return Path also supplies further data on senders outside the program. Think email reputation monitoring here. If they have all this information on senders in the program I am sure they have the same on those of us not willing to pony up the big bucks for Sender Score Certified.

C: You Own Subscribers

  • Spam Button
  • Spam Complaints

Yes, the dreaded “this is spam” button still lurks around every corner. On topic content sent on a regular basis is still the solution here.

The #1 reason that you run into delivery problems is that the spam complaint rate is too high. AOL quotes on its site that an acceptable rate is 1 per 100 emails.

In the past a complaint rate of 0.5% or higher could result in major delivery issues. However, according to Ben Chestnut, co-founder of e-mail service provider MailChimp, 0.5% isn’t necessarily a reliable statistic.

“I’ve seen less than that get blocked and I’ve seen a lot more than that get by. Either the formula’s constantly changing or there’s one guy out there changing the rules on a daily basis,” he said. “I’ve seen some pretty bad stuff get by and wondered: ‘Wow. How in god’s name did that not get blocked?’”

Chestnut recommends marketers strive for a complaint rate of less than one per thousand, or less than 0.1%.

Reputation Starting Points

  • Add all the current authentication methods: SPF, Sender ID and DomainKeys.
  • Sign up for all available ISP Whitelists.
  • Sign up for all available Feedback Loops.

Avoid changing your email server IP address.

Some ISPs put throttles on the amount of mail a new IP can send as a way to help fight spam. With the ISP not knowing anything about a new IP, they are initially more cautious with the amount of mail they let through.

Do not send HTML on the first message.

Since your HTML is not going to display on the first email until your subscriber whitelists you, consider a text only welcome email. AOL online, Yahoo, Hotmail and Gmail do not show HTML images until you enable them.

Make sure your HTML emails are still appearing the way you expect them to. New IPs and senders not already whitelisted by the user may not layout the way you planned if HTML graphics don’t load.

Do not change your “From” address. Settle on your email appearing form the publisher’s name, your business name or the website business name. This is important for user whitelisting.

If you change your “From” address, make sure to send out a notification to your subscribers before the change. This way, they can add the new address to their address book, and you are more likely to get it to the inbox.

Be vigilant about your unsubscribe process. Getting opt-outs off the list as quickly as possible is key to minimizing complaints. Test your process on a regular basis (ideally, before each send) to ensure that it works. Also, be sure to process feedback loop complaints and remove them from your list before every send.

Look at your program from your subscribers’ viewpoint. The likeliest cause of a bad reputation is a high complaint rate.

Be very clear as to what you are going to deliver. Cross promotions are a great way to add second lines of income. Cross promotions are also a great way to get spam complaints. If you don’t think your subscribers will complain you are wrong.

What Does Reputation Mean To You

It has been said that a man’s reputation is everything and that has never been truer than today when it comes to sending email in 2008.

It will be more important than ever in 2008 to ensure your email delivery efforts aren’t lost because of poor sender reputation.

ISPs are more and more focused on deleting spam than ever.

Remember every email costs an ISP money. The good news here is that ISPs say technology is getting better and false positives are dropping. They also claim that eventually email reputation will become portable and follow your domain. That is the promise of DKIM and mostly from Yahoo! but two years down the road.

Just remember that email reputation is the whole picture not just another spam filter that can be circumvented with some tricks.

One Comment

  1. Posted March 11, 2008 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    This is an informative post, and something which everyone communicating through email lists should keep in mind. I can’t believe how some normal people, start going overboard sending email day after day. I guess soon systems will put necessary filters based on reputation of the sender – resulting in a tiered inbox, with most trusted to least trusted, and of course a bagful of spam.