What Is Email Reputation (And How to Improve It)?
Updated: Oct 11, 2022
Email reputation is the bread and butter for any online marketer who tries to deliver his emails to new or already-existing customers.
If your email reputation is “good”, then you are safe and sound and your emails will be delivered without any issues.
But if it is not … well … then you have a serious problem.
Let's take a look at what exactly the email reputation is, how to keep an eye on it and what you can do to improve your reputation.
Table of contents:
What is email reputation?
Email reputation (also known as domain reputation or sender reputation) is a general score given to email inboxes by Internet Server Providers (ISPs) to determine the health and safety of the given domain/inbox.
This score is used by spam filters to determine how safe it is to communicate with a domain and if there is a history of spam mail being sent from its mail server.
If an email reputation falls below a certain threshold, an ISP can essentially render a domain as being “dead”’, meaning that all outgoing emails coming from this mail server are automatically sent to a recipient's spam folder.
The reputation of the inbox is also based on the IP address from which the emails are sent.
What is IP reputation?
IP reputation is another type of score that is used to measure the reliability and health of the email inbox.
Every email inbox uses a certain IP address from which the emails are sent - this IP reputation (similar to domain reputation) indicates to ISPs the previous history of the inbox and its behavior.
A good IP reputation of your inbox can signal the ISPs that they can trust you and deliver your emails to people whereas IPs that have “bad” records can be prevented from sending any messages.
It is important to understand though, that domain reputation may take precedence over the IP one when it comes to evaluating your inboxes by ISPs - this is because domain reputation can impact your brand or company much more and is usually more important than just the IP address from which your emails are sent.
Why is email reputation important?
Email/sender reputation determines how trustworthy your domain (and your emails) is.
If an email account has a positive reputation and high score, it’s more likely that the messages will be sent through to the recipient’s inbox.
However, if a sender’s reputation falls below a certain point, ISPs will automatically forward its incoming messages to the recipient’s spam folder.
With enough spam complaints and a bad reputation, there’s a significant chance that the domain could be placed on a blocklist that brings all email communication from that sender to a screeching halt.
What impacts domain reputation?
A domain's reputation can be influenced by various factors such as:
Email complaints - the number of spam complaints that your inbox receives
High/low bounce rate - the number of emails that were not delivered into recipients' inboxes
Spam traps - email addresses that are designed to catch spammers and block them if they send messages to the traps
Audience engagement rate - the number of recipients that opened, replied, forwarded, or simply clicked on the link in your email
The number of unsubscribe requests - the number of people that do not wish to receive your emails anymore
The number of people that deleted your emails - recipients that moved your emails into the trash in their inbox
The quality of your email - quality of the text, reliability of the links in the mail (and linked websites), grammar mistakes, etc.
Blocklist placements - email addresses that are marked as unreliable or spammy in the email blacklists
It’s important to understand that not all of these components carry the same weight.
For example, if you have people unsubscribe or don’t always forward your emails or reply to them, your reputation will be minimally affected.
However, your bounce rate and spam complaints carry a lot more weight. And being placed on a blocklist is the worst thing for your sender’s reputation.
Due to these facts, you should always focus on the user experience from a pragmatic standpoint rather than just the technical one.
How to check email reputation?
Monitoring your email reputation needs to become a frequent practice for your marketing team if you want to maximize the return on investment of your email efforts.
Although there is not just one secure way that can measure your email reputation, there are multiple online tools that can help you with that.
Tip: If you are using Warmup Inbox for your email campaigns, you can quickly check out your email reputation right off the bat - simply select any of your inboxes and get an overview about its email reputation, its development over time as well as a nice overview about each of the reputation metrics:
Here are a few popular tools that you can also use for checking your inbox reputation:
Google Postmaster Tools - a tool that provides detailed information about your domain, IP reputation, spam rates, email authentication, etc.
Validity’s Sender Score - a popular email-checker tool that can score your email account on a scale of 0 - 100 by considering various important metrics such as the number of spam reports, blacklist reports, the number of unknown users you emailed, etc.
Cisco’s Talos Intelligence - a public tool that you can use to evaluate your IP reputation
BrightCloud’s Threat Intelligence - BrightCloud’s IP list can tell you how “risky” your IP is from the ISP’s perspective
MultiRBL - another simple tool that can show you whether or not is your IP address currently present on any of the well-known email blocklists
MX Toolbox - MX Lookup can verify the DNS records of the email account as well as check blacklists for your domain
How to improve email reputation (best practices)
The process of raising your sender reputation takes time and planning, but thankfully having a low sender reputation isn’t a death sentence for your domain.
Here are a few fundamental steps that will help you improve the email/domain reputation:
1. Always warm up your inbox (and keep doing it)
Preparing the inbox for your email campaigns is a “no-brainer” - warming up your account indicates to the ISPs that you are a safe sender and therefore you should be allowed to send a larger amount of emails than a regular inbox.
Although this process is time-consuming (it can take about 4 - 6 weeks), using tools like Warmup Inbox can help you speed up and automate the process so your inbox can be “ready-to-go” as soon as possible.
Warmup Inbox prepares your account for you (as opposed to doing everything manually) - this includes sending and receiving emails, pulling out emails from the spam folder, monitoring email blacklists, etc.
2. Implement SPF (Sender Policy Framework)
SPF is an email authentication record that ISPs use to verify the authenticity of a message.
It helps to prevent spammers and scammers from sending spoofed emails on behalf of your domain.
Along with a Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) and Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC), SPF is a DNS record that enables ISPs to confirm the legitimacy of a message.
3. Use double opt-in or confirmed opt-in
Instead of using traditional single opt-in measures, adopt a double or confirmed opt-in policy.
This will help you to ensure that your subscribers actually want to receive content from you (which is an important signal to ISPs) as well as it gives consumers a chance to confirm that their email was entered correctly (which saves you from any unnecessary bounces).
4. Provide an unsubscribe button
Giving your recipients the option to unsubscribe from your emails gives them a way to stop receiving your messages without reporting you as spam.
5. Create great emails
Customers will decide to open an email based on who sends it and what’s in the subject line, so you have to catch their attention right away.
Once they open the email, you want the message to be clear, concise, and engaging with a clear call to action.
If customers reading your message know what they’re supposed to do next, there’s a better chance that they’ll click the link to your site and see what you’re offering.
6. Avoid spammy words
ISPs are looking for any red flags that might indicate a message is spam, so proofread your copy for any typos or anything that could be misinterpreted as a phishing scam.
7. Keep tabs on the deliverability rate
Email bounces are bad for your reputation, so it’s good to monitor your email deliverability rate.
It is important to remember that deliverability generally only covers whether or not your email made it to the recipient and doesn’t only count the messages that make it to the inbox.
8. Clean your email lists
If your reputation is bad, you have to make sure that your email lists are “sparking” and verified.
Never buy email lists from sellers who claim to have addresses to your target audience, as these lists are often filled with fake emails and spam traps.
9. Switch to a dedicated IP
If you’re operating on a shared IP, you may want to consider transferring your information to a dedicated IP to have more control over your email practices.
Tip: If you would like to learn more about how to improve your email reputation, definitely check out our blog post about email warmup practices with tips and tricks that can help you to improve your domain/inbox reputation.