Do you ever wonder why when sending an email marketing campaign, or receiving an email from another company, some emails end up in the inbox while others find their way directly to the junk or spam folder?
The most important factor in determining whether your email is marked as spam, and ends up in the junk folder, or goes to your subscriber’s inbox is directly related to your sender and IP reputation. While there are other factors, your IP reputation is inevitably the most important. Sender reputation is directly associated with the IP address of the email server you are using to send your email campaigns. ISP’s (Internet Service Provider) score a sender’s IP address or reputation by assigning a value or score, weighing various factors related to email marketing activity. They then use their own algorithm or scoring metrics to determine your reputation and if your emails will be destined for the inbox, junk folder or simply rejected. In essence, your sender or IP reputation indicates to an ISP the trustworthiness of the source of the email that is being delivered. What constitutes a trustworthy sender will vary from ISP to ISP, so in order to build a strong sender or IP reputation you’ll need to understand all of the factors that ISP’s look at when determining a score and how or if to deliver your email marketing messages at all.
A sender or IP reputation is built over time. Simply setting up a new IP address and sending your emails from it won’t guarantee that your emails will make it to the inbox. Oftentimes clients don’t understand why emails being sent from a brand new IP address would land in the spam or junk folder. Their rational is usually, “This is a brand new IP. The IP reputation can’t be bad. Why would they send all of our emails to the junk folder?” A brand new IP with no history of email activity is normally regarded as suspicious by the ISP, because they do not know anything about the IP address that is being used to send the emails. You can think about it the same way banks use credit scores. If you have no credit, payment history or credit score, a bank is less likely to give you credit or loan you money. While if you have a good credit history of paying your bills on time and being diligent about your finances, banks are more likely to lend you money or extend you the credit you’re asking for.
What factors are used in determining your sender and IP reputation?
- Spam Complaints – How many users click the spam or junk button when receiving your emails? What percentage of recipients complain about the emails they receive from you and your ever so important IP address?
- Clean Email Address – Having a list of email addresses that are valid and deliverable are also a key factor in scoring your IP reputation. A quality email list, will in most cases, allow you to deliver your emails to the user’s inbox. Email List Cleaning is extremely important because it stops you from sending to invalid and unwanted emails. Having a high percentage of hard bounces (bad or undeliverable email addresses) is a sure way to let the ISP’s know your list is either old, scrapped, purchased, not optin or simply not maintained. While validating your email list is extremely important, cleaning your email list is equally critical. Sending to spamtraps is a sure way to ensure, even if you did before, you’ll no longer be able to deliver your emails to the users inbox.
- Volume of Email being sent – If you normally send to a list of 3,000 emails twice weekly and then decide to buy a list and start sending to 300,000, you’ll normally find out pretty quickly that your emails are being rejected or being sent to the spam folder.
- IP Blacklists – Most ISP’s will use some type of external blacklist to see if your IP address is negatively listed for either sending to spam seeds or complaining recipients.
- Valid DNS – Ensuring that the DNS is correctly setup for your sending domain and the IP address is validated to allow you to send from it is critical in delivering your emails without any problems. The main DNS records that need to be correctly configured are: A, MX, SPF, Domain Keys (DKIM), and Reverse DNS
- Email Content – While the content or keywords in your email is important, most industry experts will agree that it only accounts for approximately 20% of the score determining if an ISP will accept and deliver your email to the inbox or spam folder or outright reject the email being sent.
Conclusion – Delivering your Email Marketing to the Inbox
If you have your domain and IP configured properly in DNS, clean and validate your email lists regularly, send to only optin email addresses of your customers or people who have signed up to receive emails from you and don’t send spammy looking emails that will entice a recipient to click the spam button, you should be OK. Following these basic rules is the framework of any responsible email marketer.