As evolving technologies have advanced email marketing (closely followed by evolving strategies), one important factor has always been, and remains, a major player: your email reputation.
At its core, a brand’s email reputation is simply how internet service providers (ISPs) such as Google and Yahoo, email clients such as Outlook, and other receivers of mail, perceive the emails your company is sending. Multiple factors help determine this important benchmark, such as:
Do your emails provide value for both new and old customers?
Is your email constantly being flagged as spam?
Is your email sending address ending up on any blacklists?
Marketers are fortunate today to have tools such as Return Path’s Sender Score to help measure and analyze their brand’s IP email reputation, and Cisco’s SenderBase as a domain reputation resource. The creators of these tools have broken down email reputation into two important subcategories, IP reputation and domain reputation. Each is very different from the other, but they are equally important in the grand scheme.
Of the two, IP reputation is more of a science. An IP reputation assessment looks at whether the email originating from your IP address (the string of numbers that is a unique identifier for the device you use to send email) contains any negative content that appears to be spam. The reputation factors in key metrics such as bounces, spam traps, complaints, and opens. Volume and frequency of the emails sent from the IP address also play a role in determining your IP’s reputation. The first step in establishing an IP reputation is deciding what kind of IP you want to use: shared or dedicated. A shared IP is one that’s used by several other companies or senders, and a dedicated IP is one that is owned and operated by one company or sender. (More information here.) Each provides a different approach in developing an IP reputation.
Domain reputation is a newer assessment technology. If IP reputation is a science, domain reputation is an art (tempered with scientific aspects). It factors in not only your IP address but also the domain attached to your email sending behavior. With the sending domain taking such a forward-facing role, your brand becomes a pivotal part of your sending reputation. If you switch IPs, the domain reputation will remain the same, good or bad, if sending from the same domain.
Two ways to help ISPs perceive your reputation as more trustworthy are to implement Sender Policy Framework (SPF), a simple open-source email validation system, and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) which lets an organization take responsibility for a message that is in transit. These both help establish identifiers for your sending domain.
The Amazingly Effective Email Marketing Automation Guide
A few more factors that affect your email sending reputation
In addition to IP reputation and domain reputation, Email marketers must also consider qualitative measures that can affect deliverability, such as:
Trustworthiness of any links in your email message, including preheaders and footers
Overall value of the content provided in your email message
Maintaining your email reputation requires a strategic blend of art and science, but the end goal is always the same – to get your email into the inbox. Both IP and domain reputation are major players in achieving this, and both must be taken into account when assessing deliverability.
Good business practice is to constantly monitor and uphold the standards of both your IP and domain reputations.
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