Understanding Email Sender Reputation

An email sender reputation is a score that an Internet Service Provider (ISP) assigns to an organization that sends email. It’s a crucial component of your email deliverability. The higher the score, the more likely an ISP will deliver emails to the inboxes of recipients on their network. If the score falls below a certain threshold, the ISP may send messages to recipients’ spam folders or even reject them outright. Several factors can go into determining the score, including, but not necessarily limited to:

  • The amount of email sent by the organization
  • How many recipients mark the organization’s emails as spam or otherwise complain to the ISP about the messages
  • How often the organization’s emails hit the ISP’s spam trap
  • The organization’s inclusion on different blacklists
  • How many of the organization’s emails bounce because they were sent to unknown users or for other reasons
  • How many recipients open, reply to, forward, and delete the organization’s messages, as well as click the links found in them
  • How many recipients unsubscribe from the organization’s email list

Each ISP decides which factors to include in its sender reputation and how heavily it weights those factors when calculating the reputation for each organization that sends email to some of its users. A sender could have varying reputation scores for different ISPs. If a sender has multiple domain names and sends email from different IP addresses, each one will have its own sender reputation.

How do you protect your sending reputation?

It’s crucial to follow some best practices so you can keep your sending reputation score as high as possible.

Maintain your email list: Purge your list regularly of invalid emails and non-responders. High bounce rates can affect your sender reputation so keeping your lists clean will go a long way to achieving higher email delivery rates. You can review and manage your bounce lists right from the dashboard of the SparkPost web app.

Adopt an opt-in policy: Send a confirmation email when users subscribe to your list. This way you can ensure that the user’s email is not only valid, but that they in fact want to receive your email messages. And never purchase an email list from a third party – you’re setting yourself up to trash your sending reputation if you use such a list.

Monitor your email delivery: Track your email delivery rates by paying close attention to your bounce rates as well as your response rates. With regular monitoring, you can catch potential failures before they happen.

Pay attention to bounce codes: Hard bounces are easy to deal with, because they mean the address is DOA and it should be added to your suppression list. (SparkPost does this for you automatically.) However, a soft bounce is a temporary problem that occurs for a variety of reasons, so it’s important to look at the accompanying bounce code to determine how to handle that address. (SparkPost’s deliverability features really make a difference there.)

Make your emails interesting and click-able: How people interact with your messages has an impact on your sending reputation, so give them destinations to click to and offer reasons for them to open your emails and take action. If you come across as spammy, you can hurt your sending reputation even if you take care of everything else.

Implement an IP warm-up plan: The last thing an ISP wants to see is a new sender bombarding their network with messages. The best way to establish a good sending reputation with an ISP is to methodically add campaign volume week-over-week.

The bottom line is that you should think about your sending reputation the same way you think about your professional reputation. If you’re an easy person to work with and don’t make life difficult for others, you’ll earn a good reputation and your career will have a better chance for success. However, if you create problems, people will likely avoid you and your career will suffer.

Your email sending reputation works the same way. Protect it as if your company’s success rides on it because, in part, it does.

Learn More about Email Sender Reputation

Read more email sending reputation best practices

Sites where you can check your sending reputation:

Get help with email sending reputation with SparkPost

The SparkPost Support Center is a good place to start learning about SparkPost in general.

  • What Are Email Bounces?: An explanation of hard vs. soft bounces and how to handle them. You can find more information about bounces in the Support Center.
  • IP Warm-Up Overview: Learn how to carefully build your sending reputation with various ISPs.
  • Requirements For Sending Domains: We explain how to become a Responsible Sender through SparkPost, so your sending reputation remains strong.

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