Email sender reputation (also referred to as sender score) is as important to your email marketing campaigns as the content itself. This behind-the-scenes metric can mean the difference between emails being delivered to inboxes or junk folders.
In this post, we’ll pinpoint what sender reputation is, what impacts your score and what you can do today to either maintain a healthy reputation or repair a damaged one.
What is Email Sender Reputation?
Email sender reputation is a score that your Internet service provider (ISP) assigns to your organization based on your email activity. It’s a way for mailbox providers like Gmail to gauge how trustworthy your emails are. If your score is high, your emails will land in your contacts’ inboxes. If it’s low, then your emails might go straight to the spam folder.
What Impacts Email Sender Reputation?
There are different contributing factors to your sender reputation, including:
Low email engagement
Invalid send attempts
Hard and soft bounces
Add all of these together and they will begin to lower your overall email sender reputation.
What Happens if Your Reputation Is Bad?
A big problem with sender reputation is that you may not know it’s an issue until it’s too late. Your email marketing provider will generally give you warnings if they notice a problem, which can give you time to make improvements. But if they continue to see negative activity like a rise in spam reports, you could be put on a probationary period or even locked out of your account permanently.
Unfortunately, email platforms have to do this. Your sender reputation doesn’t affect just you – it also hurts their servers. Luckily, it isn’t an immediate removal, so you’ll have some time to make necessary changes before your account gets terminated.
What Can You Do To Avoid or Fix This?
It’s a lot easier to prevent your account from having a bad reputation than it is to increase your standings. Thankfully, there are some fixes that will both maintain your reputation and repair a damaged one. Let’s talk about a few of them.
Run Your Old Lists Through a Verifier
Sending emails to dormant email addresses is a huge red flag and should be avoided at all costs.
In most cases, using old lists, purchased lists or sending to inactive contacts are the main culprits for bad sender reputations. These lists/contacts will either have invalid email accounts, or the email addresses are valid but the recipient marks your email as spam/unsubscribes because they are no longer interested in your services.
If you are unsure of the health of a specific list, email verification tools like BriteVerify or ZeroBounce can help. These low-cost options will test the address to make sure it’s still working without harming to your reputation. They’ll provide a report of which ones are valid and which ones should be deleted, making your cleanup job much easier.
Clean Up Hard/Soft Bounces
If an email hard bounces, stop sending to that address immediately. Some them automatically while others don’t, so you’ll want to check your settings to make sure it’s happening.
While soft bounces have the potential to be valid email addresses, we recommend removing them as well. Do this before your score starts to suffer from it and if your sender score has already been impacted negatively. In all cases, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Watch Out for Spam
A high amount of spam complaints will also lower your sender reputation. While you might have little control over that, it might be a sign that you are missing your mark. If you see a specific list generating a high amount of spam reports for a particular campaign, they might not be the correct audience for that content.
It’s a little-known fact but sending the same email multiple times to the same email address will hurt your reputation.
While duplicate contact records can happen from time to time, it’s best practice to clean those up quarterly. That will not only prevent your score from getting dinged, but it’ll also keep your database nice and tidy.
Remove Inactive Subscribers
If a contact hasn’t interacted with any of your marketing material in over 10 emails, remove them before they mark you as spam. If they haven’t found value with what you’re offering by now, then they might not be the right lead for you.
Send Quarterly Opt-In Emails
As you’re removing inactive subscribers, it can be beneficial to send one last opt-in email. Every quarter, directly ask these people if they want to continue receiving emails from you. This is unnecessary for contacts that regularly interact with your campaigns, so only send them out to the inactive subscribers.
These emails don’t have to be anything fancy. A simple “Are you still with us? Click here to unsubscribe if you aren’t” will do. Feel free to make it clever or give them one last offer to entice them to stick around. If they unsubscribe anyway, then you know that they weren’t right for you.
Proceed With Caution While Using Purchased Lists
You always want to grow your database naturally but, in some instances, that isn’t an option and you might end up having to buy a list. These are great in theory, but these lists have a historically bad rep for causing declines in sender reputation by having outdated and incorrect contact information.
The bigger the list, the bigger the risk, so if you’re in a situation where you must use one, try to limit your email sends to that specific list to emails monthly (about 100 per week). That gives you time to send weekly small-batch emails and clean the list until you have a smaller one that yields engagement without causing any complications.
Purchased lists may also include company spam traps. These email addresses are strategically created to ward off unwanted marketers. If you send an email to one of these addresses, your sender reputation will suffer AND companies can also use that to blacklist your domain name. That means you will not be able to send emails to anyone within the organization ever again. It’s best to just avoid this scenario entirely.
Improve Your Engagement
The best way to boost or maintain your sender score is to have high levels of engagement. Try holding off on sending out cold marketing emails and focus on reaching out to contacts that you know will open and click your emails. After a month or so, you’ll start to see your overall scores go up.
For HubSpot and Marketo users, you can even implement AI email software like Seventh Sense to help boost your email engagement. Having high engagement scores is another great way to keep your sender score high.
Authenticate Your Email
Is your email marketing platform authenticated? This is something that Google, Microsoft and other Internet service providers will check. While some platforms do not require this, you can still implement DKIM and SPF records to your account to fortify it. It’s a good extra line of defense from having your emails appear as spam in your recipients’ inboxes.
Keep Your Email Sender Reputation in Great Shape
By taking these steps, you’ll be able to maintain a healthy email sender reputation. If you are already experiencing issues with your send status, these can also help you repair your score, so your reputation will bounce back in a few months.