Email Marketing: Improving Your Email Sender Reputation

4 min read
If you're sending email marketing campaigns to a list of subscribers, you need to be aware of your email sender reputation. Your email credibility affects many factors, including the likelihood that your campaigns will get delivered. Understanding and building your sender reputation is a crucial aspect of email marketing best practices and compliance.

What is email sender reputation?

Email sender reputation is a score assigned to an organization by an Internet Service Provider (ISP) that establishes your email marketing trustworthiness. It is closely linked with your email deliverability: the higher your sender reputation score, the more chances your emails have of getting to a contact's inbox. If you have a low score, your emails are more likely to get caught in spam traps, bounce, or other not-so-nice things for your campaign.

It's important to know that your sender reputation is something you can build over time. Following deliverability best practices as well as paying attention to what affects sender reputation and improving your campaign strategy can increase both your reputation and your score.

How sender reputation is determined

There are several factors that affect your business's email sender reputation score. Some of these factors include:
  • The amount of emails you send
  • Contacts who mark your emails as spam upon receiving them
  • The number of recipients who have unsubscribed from your mailing list
  • How often your emails hit spam traps or bounce back to sender
  • Overall reader engagement, including email opens and any clicks to links within the email
  • If your business is included on any mail blacklists
The ISP determines which of the above factors it takes into account as well as how harshly each one affects your score. Different ISPs may give your business different sender reputation scores.

Why your sender reputation might be low

Let's take a closer look at the specific reasons you might have a low sender reputation. Mailbox providers take various metrics into consideration and, as mentioned above, different ISPs may give different scores. Generally though, your score may be low if:
  • Your list quality is poor: If you don't maintain your email list regularly, meaning you have subscriber addresses that are unknown, outdated, or no longer exist, your emails will bounce. This signals to ISPs that your email list isn't healthy.
  • High rate of complaints and unsubscribes: The more complaints you receive the lower your sender reputation. The best way to avoid this is to ensure you're only sending emails to people who want to receive them at an appropriate time and frequency. 
  • Your emails are flagged as spam: If your email marketing campaign doesn't look legitimate, including your subject line, sender address, and content, subscribers may flag it as spam or it could fall in a spam trap.
  • You are on a blacklist: A blacklist is a list of domains and computer IP addresses that have been reported as known sources of spam. The more your campaigns are flagged as spam, the more likely you may appear on a blacklist.
  • No one engages with your emails: Low open rates, click rates, and replies can signal to ISPs that the value or credibility of your campaign is low.

How to improve your sender reputation

Remember that it's entirely possible to increase your sender reputation score over time. You're building trust online: the more you follow best practices and show that you're a credible source of email, the more ISPs, Mailbox providers, and your subscribers will be willing to trust your future correspondence. Here are some best practices to keep in mind:

Send high quality content

The seemingly most straightforward best practice is sometimes the hardest to follow: you should only be sending the most informative and relevant content to people who want to see it. The best way to increase subscriber engagement is to ensure your campaigns are tailored to their interests. This includes images, links, and more that speak to what they want to know more about.

Keep a consistent email schedule

Decide on an email frequency as part of your email marketing strategy and stick to it. There is no ideal email frequency to target; you know your business and subscribers best and should start with a 'less is more' approach. Then figure out an optimum email cadence (the timing and type of emails you send) that gets you consistent results. It's okay to experiment with different types and timing (for example you might send out promotional emails on a Friday and weekly newsletter on a Tuesday) but once you've found what works stick to a consistent schedule so as not to frustrate subscribers.

Clean and maintain your subscriber list

As mentioned above, if your subscriber list is full of unknown or outdated email addresses, every time you send out a campaign you'll get hard or soft bounces, potentially fall into spam traps, and more that will ultimately lower your email sender reputation. You should be regularly maintaining your list and checking for any addresses that you can remove.

Make sure your campaign looks legitimate

Follow best practices when it comes to what the structure of an email should be like, and what information should be there. Your subject line should be straightforward and not spammy, your company name and address should be clearly visible and all your content and images should be relevant.

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