Email Reputation / Deliverability

What is Email Reputation?

Your email reputation is like a credit score for your email-sending habits. A poor email reputation means that email providers consider your emails to be at a high risk of being something their users don't want to see. They use a number of metrics to determine what your score is, and the exact algorithm is determined by the individual providers. 

There are some common elements that go into calculating an email reputation, however. These elements allow third-party tools to help you judge your email reputation. We'll look at some of those tools later and then discuss some of the things email providers look for when evaluating your email reputation.

Why is Email Reputation Important?

Email remains a primary way to contact customers for most issues. Sometimes, the emails you send are important to your marketing efforts. These emails not getting to the customer can have a negative impact on the ROI of your marketing campaigns. Sometimes, however, the emails you send are more consequential.

Customers may miss important information about their accounts. They may not be getting responses to the support requests they send to you. In these cases, the risk of negatively impacting the customer and your reputation increases. Keeping your email reputation high can avoid these negative consequences. 

How to Measure Email Sender Reputation?

While the exact method used to calculate your score varies depending on the provider, there are some key factors that all providers use. Several companies have created tools to use that information to show you your email reputation. We've assembled some of the most commonly used tools below:

  • SendForensics

Although not a free service, SendForensics offers a complete set of tools for email senders to evaluate their sender's reputation and other aspects of how their emails are received and perceived by recipients. It can break down specific issues that might be having a negative impact on your IP reputation.

  • Google Postmaster Tools

As a major provider of email services, Google is a good barometer for how good your email reputation is. Thankfully, Google provides a comprehensive set of Postmaster Tools that let domain owners gain insight into how the tech giant views emails from them. The ranking provided by Postmaster Tools is less precise than other tools listed here, operating on only a 4-point scale.

  • Sender Score

This is a service created by Validity, a company focused on helping businesses determine the validity of their data. At the Sender Score website, you can check email reputation and blocklist membership for your domains. Being on a blocklist plays a big role in your domain email reputation, so it's good to see if you're on any.

  • Talos Intelligence

Cisco is a well-respected name in the tech industry, particularly in the area of networking. Talos Intelligence is one of the services they run to examine security threats and other network issues. While their site has a lot of information on the topic, their IP and Domain Reputation Center is of interest here. By entering a domain into their search, you can view the email reputation of any IP address that sends emails through that domain.

What is a Good Sender Reputation Score? 

An email reputation score is typically scored between 0 and 100, Email reputation checker Sender Score has provided a helpful breakdown of what scores in various ranges mean about your domain reputation.

  • 70 and under - This is considered a low score. At this level, your emails are likely being prevented from reaching the inbox of many of your customers. If one of the email reputation check services gives you a rating this low, you'll need to be proactive about improving your reputation. Email providers will resume delivering your messages as your score improves.
  • 70-80 - If your spam score check comes back in this range, then you have a middle-of-the-road score. At this level, you likely aren't being blocked by any providers. However, your room for error isn't as good as those with a higher score. You'll want to pay close attention to the best practices we'll discuss below to ensure the spam score checker results don't get lower with time.
  • 80 and over - An IP reputation check in this range means that email providers think highly of your emails. That doesn't mean you can slack off and stop paying attention to best practices. But it does mean that you're likely doing something right and should continue your good habits.

What Are the Results of a Negative Email Reputation?

If your email reputation score gets too low, your messages won't make it into the recipient's inbox.  Messages may be sent to the spam folder or deleted. The exact action taken depends on how poor your score is and the email provider of the recipient. Worse, changes to your email reputation score aren't instant.

When you have a poor IP reputation among email providers, it can take weeks to repair it. This slow movement of email domain reputation scores prevents minor mess-ups from wrecking a reputation domain owners have spent a long time building up. It also prevents legitimate spammers from quickly recovering only to resume their poor habits.

How to Improve Email Sender Score

If you check spam score results and find that your score needs some improvement, the tips below can help. As we go through the list of tips, we'll also discuss what email providers are looking at when they evaluate sender scores. This can give you some additional insights that may help you improve yours.

  • Avoid Shared IPs

Many hosting services provide shared IP addresses for the domains they host. This can be a more affordable option but has a serious downside for email reputation. If any of the other companies hosted on the same IP are using poor email habits, their score reflects on you. You could even find your IP address is on a block list because you share it with a notorious spammer. 

  • Use Authentication

When you download an application through an official app store, it comes with a signature that ensures the computer that the app is from the developer it claims to be from. This same level of authentication exists for email. SPF, DKIM, and DMARC are three important terms to understand. By properly authenticating your emails, you're giving email providers and recipients assurances that no spammers have hijacked your domain.

  • Acquire Your Email List Ethically

Unsurprisingly, sending unsolicited emails is a good way to get marked as spam by the people you email. If enough people mark your emails as spam, email providers will take notice. When that happens, your score suffers. You should always use ethical means to get your email lists. Purchasing bulk email addresses, especially those unrelated to your products can only hurt your email campaigns. 

  • Purge Invalid Email Subscribers

Another thing email providers look for when determining domain reputation is how often your email messages bounce. If you're sending a lot of messages to accounts that don't actually exist, it's assumed that you didn't acquire that list through the most legitimate of means. However, over time, email accounts get abandoned. Removing email addresses that bounce will help prevent your domain from being viewed negatively. 

  • Verify the Email of New Subscribers

For the same reason that you should purge old emails, you should verify the address of new subscribers. This serves two purposes. First, it prevents people from filling your list with invalid email accounts that will harm your IP reputation. Next, it adds an extra layer of assurance that the people receiving your email actually want to see them. 

  • Gradually Increase Volume

When you first start sending emails from a new IP or domain, you have no reputation. Let's go back to the credit score analogy. If you have no credit, you can't take out a massive loan. Similarly, if you send a lot of emails right out the gate, it will be viewed poorly by email providers. Instead, slowly increase the volume of emails that you send. This allows you to build up a reputation so the large volume isn't seen as a red flag. 

  • Write Effective Emails

We've seen how getting marked as spam decreases user scores. It also doesn't look good if a lot of your subscribers are unsubscribing. The solution to both of these problems is to write emails that people want to read. Instead of blasting out frequent emails that aren't interesting in the hopes of making one stick, send fewer emails that are of higher quality. 

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