Rethinking How You Measure Sender Reputation

Email Marketing

One of the email deliverability articles I enjoyed most in 2015 was “The Demise of the Deliverability Reputation Score” by Oracle’s Global Deliverability Director Kevin Senne. He gave a candid and well-grounded opinion, telling why he thought the concept of having a universal number you could watch to judge deliverability was an outdated idea.

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Among the points he made was that in the beginning of the email industry, when ISPs behaved roughly the same, a single score had meaning. But the industry evolved, and each ISP evolved in its own direction, and the single score became less meaningful. As a deliverability analyst, I am largely in agreement with Kevin. I never let my clients get hung up on the score, even when it’s so low that you would think no email could be delivered. There are two main reasons why the scoring system has little to no bearing on today’s deliverability.

  • The score is primarily based on a subscriber panel, which is mainly made up of B2C email addresses, that will never accurately represent the reality of your marketing list.
  • Most major ISPs use their own algorithms and reputation system to determine delivery and inbox placement.

The world of deliverability doesn’t have to wait for Sender Score to fall completely before setting new standards for itself. To expand on Kevin’s points, an increasing number of reputation services by individual ISPs already exist and have risen as alternatives, providing a more direct and accurate way of helping you understand your true performance. Here’s a list of publicly accessible services offered by a few of the major ISPs everyone can leverage to stay ahead of the game.

Google Postmaster Tools

Available to anyone with a Gmail account, the Google Postmaster Tools are a domain-based monitoring tool that offers data for any domain authenticated with DKIM or SPF. It provides seven useful dashboards that include domain and IP reputation. Together these offer a good indication of whether the Gmail spam filter might mark emails from that domain or IP as spam. Smart Network Data Service (SNDS)

SNDS allows anyone with a Microsoft account to access and view data for the IPs they are responsible for. The tool is divided into two main sections of data:

  • One gives you a high-level status of whether any of your IPs are blocked by Microsoft
  • The other offers a more granular view of your IP metrics including volume, filter result, complaint rate and number of spam trap hits.

Note that this tool analyzes email traffic to,, and only and is in no way associated with Microsoft Office 365.

AOL Postmaster

Unlike Google Poster Tool or SNDS, access to AOL Postmaster does not require an affiliated account. The site allows you to easily check the reputation of your IP and explains some of the errors you might receive if your reputation was neutral or bad. One cool thing about AOL is that if you have a good reputation, you can apply to be whitelisted.

The presence of these tools represents a clear trend towards individual ISP-based reputations as opposed to a one-size-fits-all score. They offer different levels of valuable insights into the two things marketers care about most: is my email getting delivered, and is it getting delivered to the inbox? Now if you have a bad or low reputation at any of those three ISPs, then maybe it’s time to brush up on the best practices for sending email:

Gmail Bulk Senders Guidelines Policies, Practices and Guidelines

AOL Best Practices