It’s been a while since we touched on the subject of email deliverability, so we thought it was worth revisiting as much has changed in this area. Historically the focus, when it comes to spam filtering, was on content. Filters would work on the basis that spam tends to have common themes (get rich quick, stocks & shares, prescription drugs etc etc) so, put simply, filters would use keywords to select what to block. Although this is still the case, especially when it comes to desktop spam filtering, and decisions as to whether to place the mail in your junk folder or inbox, things have changed somewhat when it comes to server side and corporate spam filters. Here, reputation is key. Every email is sent from an identifiable IP address and spam filters monitor these to assess the likelihood that an email coming from a specific IP will be spam, or not. This reputation is based on many factors with key ones being:
- Email volume
- Number of SPAM complaints received
- Bounce levels
So what does this mean in the real world? Put simply, when you are planning an email campaign, you should think carefully about the mechanism you use to send emails, and who you are sending to.
It isn’t simply that high volume is bad, but more a case of unexpected volume is bad. If an IP address normally sends only a few emails, and then suddenly the number spikes, this can negatively affect the reputation of that server, and hence deliverability. In the real world this means that the best mail server to use when sending your marketing email is one that regularly sends volumes of high quality marketing emails. Relying on your ISP’s mail server (where sending profiles will be very different) can raise problems. In our experience trying to send marketing emails using Outlook going through your normal ISP mail server is a recipe for disaster Outlook really isn’t designed for email marketing! If you are sending marketing emails, (unless you are sending very low volumes) you should be using a dedicated emailing system like mailchimp or consider using a specialist email marketing service provider (like BSA Marketing) to provide a comprehensive, full-service solution.
This is the biggie when it comes to reputation, if you are sending from an IP address that generates SPAM complaints (either your own, if you are using a bad list, or others if you are sharing an IP address), this can seriously affect your deliverability. This is a key reason that we recommend only using your own lists to send email (Rather than renting or buying). Not only will this minimise the chance of SPAM complaints affecting your reputation, it should also measureably improve results.
Reputation is also affected by how many of your emails get returned, so managing bounces is important too. Make sure you immediately remove permanently bad email addresses (hard bounces), and monitor temporary (soft) bounces, removing them if they persist. Good emailing systems should do this for you automatically.
Monitoring your Reputation
Warning, Techie stuff ahead! If you are using SAAS such as Mailchimp, the provider should be monitoring reputation as a matter of course and this is the reason they will quickly jump on you if they think you are doing anything that may affect the reputation of their servers (especially using poor lists). If, however you are a little more technically minded, and would like to monitor your own sender IP (you will find this in the headers of your emails) simply send an email to yourself, and then look at the headers. You will find details on how to do this here. Starting from the top of the headers, you will see a number of lines that start “Received: from ……..” Look at the last one of these, and take a note of the IP address listed. This is usually your mail server IP Armed with this information go to senderscore.org, and enter the IP address. This will tell you your reputation out of 100, colour coded Green, Orange or Red, Ideally the result should be green. If you want more info, simply create a free account and log in, you will then get a more complete report on the reputation of the IP address. In our recent experience 90% of deliverability issues have been down to the reputation of the IP address the email is being sent from, so its well worth keeping an eye on it! If you want to discuss how we can help you manage your email reputation, or just have a question, please get in touch