Email Reputation: Easy Guide to Check & Increase Your Reputation (2022)

Your email reputation, or sender reputation, plays a huge role in your deliverability, and ultimately the success of your email marketing.

In the simplest terms, a poor email reputation score increases the likelihood of your emails being sent to spam or not delivered at all.

If your emails do not land in your contact’s inbox, they can’t open them and take action – undermining your email marketing and wasting your resources.

That is why it is so important to actively build and maintain your email reputation. A good email sender reputation is the foundation of every successful email marketing strategy!

So, how does email sender reputation work? What factors influence it? And how do you improve it?

For this guide, we have used data and insights from Woodpecker, an expert cold email outreach platform, and today, we’re covering everything you need to know about building and maintaining your email reputation.

First, we cover what email reputation is, why it is so important. Then we go over key factors that influence it, how to check your email reputation, and how to improve it.

Let’s dive right in!

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    What is Email Reputation?

    In the simplest terms, email reputation refers to the email reputation scores assigned by different Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to every organization sending out emails.

    The better a sender’s score is, the more likely their emails are to be delivered to their recipients’ inboxes. The poorer their score, the more likely they are to be sent to spam, or not delivered at all.

    Every ISP determines the factors they will use to determine sender reputation, and how much each factor will count in the overall email reputation score they calculate.

    As a sender, your reputation scores will vary across different ISPs, and each ISP’s score will fluctuate depending on how you’re performing against each of the factors they use.

    Every ISP uses its own set of factors to calculate email sender reputation. However, the most commonly used factors include:

    • Age and status of your IP address and domain
    • Volume of emails sent and the frequency at which emails are sent over time
    • Hard and soft bounce rates
    • The number of recipients that report or mark emails as spam
    • How many and how frequently a sender’s emails are caught in the ISP’s spam traps
    • A sender’s status on various blacklists
    • How recipients engage with the emails sent to them – open rates, replies, forwards, clicks, and deletions
    • The number of recipients that unsubscribe from a sender’s emails

    As such, a sender’s email reputation scores are dynamic and constantly changing, across different ISPs.

    Checking and monitoring your email reputation, and continuously implementing email marketing best practices, is essential for establishing and maintaining a good email sender reputation.

    Summary: What is Email Reputation?

    Email reputation refers to the standing position of an organisation’s email activities as per different Internet Service Providers (ISPs) rating scoring system. Different ISPs use their own different scoring systems to rate their users and the scores fluctuate depending on the email user’s performance against the factors used. Keeping posted on your email reputation will guide you towards best marketing communication practices for improved deliverability.

    So, why exactly is your email reputation so important?

    Let’s take a look at that in more detail:

    The Importance of Email Reputation

    Email reputation plays an important role in your email deliverability, which is the foundation of any successful email marketing program.

    Deliverability can be defined as “the measurement and understanding of how successful a sender is at getting their marketing email into people’s inboxes” (HubSpot Academy).

    In other words, if your deliverability is poor a large percentage of your emails will not make it to your contacts’ inboxes, which means they won’t be able to open them and take action.

    For a snapshot of deliverability and its importance, check out this short video by Woodpecker.co:

    Every email you send needs to reach its destination inbox. If it goes anywhere else, for example to spam, it is a waste of resources.

    It also undermines the success of your email marketing as a whole because the more emails are flagged as spam, the lower your email reputation becomes.

    This means that establishing and maintaining your email reputation is critical for not only your email deliverability but ultimately the fate of all your cold email marketing campaigns!

    Luckily, there are some great cold email outreach tools, like Woodpecker, that will set you up for success from the get-go, and help you continuously monitor and improve your sender reputation.

    Summary: The Importance of Email Reputation

    Email reputation is vital to any organisation that uses email to reach its audience. Good email reputation is the deciding factor when it comes to email deliverability, and successful email marketing campaigns depend on emails reaching the recipients’ inboxes so that they can take the desired action. Poor email reputation results in emails being diverted to spam or not delivered at all.

    Now that you have a clear understanding of what email reputation is, and why it is so important, let’s look at some of the key factors that influence your sender reputation:

    Email Sender Reputation: 7 Factors That Influence It

    Your email reputation is a dynamic score that changes over time, across the different ISPs you’re sending emails to.

    Numerous factors influence your email sender reputation. While the weighting of these factors will vary from ISP to ISP, it is important to take them into consideration, monitor, and manage them.

    Doing so will help you build and maintain a good email reputation, which will improve your email deliverability, and, ultimately, the success of your email marketing strategy.

    Here are seven key factors that influence your email reputation:

    1. Domain Reputation

    Every domain has a domain reputation, which is an important component of your email reputation. It is key to establish and maintain your domain reputation on an ongoing basis.

    Email reputation - example of a domain report from Talos
    Image Source

    Domain reputation is established over time, taking many factors into account. These include the activity on the domain and what it is used for, what the domain is classified on the web, and if it has been blacklisted on one or more blacklist websites.

    2. Email Server IP Reputation

    Like your domain, your IP address also has an email server IP reputation. Your IP is provided by your email provider and will depend on the service provider you use, and who they’re hosted by.

    A poor IP reputation will hurt your email reputation. Many IPs will already have a reputation attached to them when they’re assigned to you, so it’s very important to look up your IP reputation before you begin using it.

    3. Email List Quality

    A high-quality, organic, email list is essential. All your contacts should be active email addresses, that belong to real people.

    A poor-quality email list will result in high bounce rates, which will hurt your sender reputation scores.

    4. IP Age and Sender History

    In addition to your IP reputation, the sending history of your IP address is important because it allows ISPs to verify your legitimacy as a sender more quickly.

    Spammers have to change their IP addresses frequently, which means they cannot establish a long history.

    As a result, ISPs consider all new IP addresses as ‘neutral’, which is automatically suspicious. Having an established sender history allows them to verify that you’re not a spammer.

    5. Volume and Frequency of Emails

    ISPs look at the volume of emails you send, and how frequently you send them. If you’re sending a huge number of emails off the bat or sending big batches of emails in rapid succession, followed by periods of inactivity, ISPs will flag your activity as suspicious and erring towards spammer behavior.

    Your daily email volume might look like this:

    Email reputation - graph of uneven email sending distribution from Woodpecker
    Inconsistent email sending patterns (Image Source)

    Organic email lists tend to grow gradually, and genuine email marketing campaigns tend to send emails more consistently.

    Ideally, your email volume should look more like this:

    Email reputation - graph of even email sending distribution from Woodpecker
    Even, consistent sending volume (Image Source)

    6. Email Engagement and Open Rates

    Mailbox providers pay close attention to their user’s preferences. How your contacts interact with your emails is an important aspect of your email reputation score.

    Open rates, replies, forwards, clicks, and deletions can all impact your sender reputation scores. If your emails are getting very low or no engagement, they’re more likely to be filtered out.

    7. Emails Marked as Spam or Caught in Spam Filters

    ISPs monitor how often your emails get caught in their spam traps, and how often your contacts complain or mark them as spam.

    When your IP address is frequently associated with spam trap hits or user complaints, it damages your sender reputation score and your emails are more likely to be diverted to spam or not delivered at all.

    Summary: Factors That Influence Email Sender Reputation

    • Domain stature
    • IP address stature
    • Quality of email list
    • IP address activity history
    • Email traffic flow
    • Email engagement activities
    • Amount of emails flagged as spam

    How to Check Your Email Reputation

    There are several tools you can use to check your email reputation. Different tools use different datasets and focus on different factors that impact your overall email sender reputation.

    Remember that your sender reputation is dynamic, and assessed differently by different ISPs, so these tools can’t give you an exact score, that applies to all ISPs.

    They will, however, will give you a very good indication of what your overall email sender reputation is and where you need to improve!

    Talos by Cisco

    Cisco’s Talos Reputation Centre allows you to look up your domain or IP and will give you a score of Good, Neutral or Poor.

    Email reputation - screenshot of the Talos tool to check your sender reputation
    Image Source

    Talos states that its Domain and IP Reputation center scores are aggregated from the “world’s most comprehensive real-time threat detection network”.

    Their ratings and reports offer detailed information on your domain, IP, and sender reputation.

    Sender Score by Validity 

    Validity’s Sender Score is a measure of your sender reputation, calculated from 1 to 100, that is calculated as an average over the last 30 days.

    Email reputation - screenshot of the Sender Score tool to check your sender reputation
    Image Source

    A higher score denotes higher deliverability and a better email reputation. Using Sender Score will give you a good idea of how your IP ranks in comparison to other IPs.

    BarracudaCentral

    The BarracudaCentral tool lets you search their Barracuda Reputation System, which is a real-time database of reputation rankings for both IPs and domains.

    Email reputation - screenshot of the Barracuda Central tool to check your sender reputation
    Image Source

    This will provide insight into how your IP and domain are impacting your deliverability, and if you need to take corrective action or not.

    TrustedSource

    McAfee’s TrustedSource, gives you detailed information on your domain reputation, web reputation, affiliations, and mail server.

    Email reputation - screenshot of the Trusted Source tool to check your sender reputation
    Image Source

    TrustedSource will also give you information on your domain history, activations, and associations. This tool is one of the more holistic options, which looks at numerous different factors that impact your email reputation.

    Google Postmaster Tool & Microsoft SNDS

    Google’s Postmaster Tool is a free online tool that any sender who sends a large number of emails to Gmail accounts can use to analyze and monitor deliverability.

    The Postmaster Tool gives you access to information directly from Google about your domain and IP reputation, as well as your email sender reputation, deliverability, security, and performance diagnostics.

    Email reputation - screenshot of the Gmail Postmaster tool to check your sender reputation

    Microsoft’s Smart Network Data Services (SDNS) is Microsoft’s version of Google’s Postmaster Tool.  It will give you insights into your IP reputation, your spam complaint rate, and how many spam traps you’re sending to.

    These two tools give you insights into how your email reputation is faring, day-to-day.

    They also give you a good idea of what other ISPs will be looking out for, even if they don’t use the same formula to calculate their sender reputation scores.

    4 Ways to Improve Your Email Reputation

    Once you have checked your email reputation, you will have a good idea of where you stand and what you need to do to improve.

    Following email best practices and providing genuinely relevant, valuable content to your contacts is essential. If your emails are interesting and highly clickable, your messages will receive good engagement from your contacts.

    That signals to ISPs that you’re not sending spam, are a legitimate sender, and your emails are valuable to their recipients.

    That said, no matter how great your content is or how carefully you’re segmenting and sending your campaigns… If your sender reputation is poor and your emails are not making it into your contacts’ inboxes, everything you’re investing is wasted!

    So, how do you improve your email reputation and increase deliverability?

    It comes down to creating a solid foundation with good domain and IP reputations, establishing and maintaining a high-quality email list, and consistently monitoring your data to improve your campaigns.

    Let’s take a look at how to do that, exactly:

    1. Warm Up Your Domain and IP Before You Start

    When you’re starting from scratch with a new domain and IP, it is critical to implement a warm-up period.

    New domains and IPs have a ‘neutral but suspicious’ status and it takes a while for that to change, to either a good or bad reputation.

    Generally, any mail sent in the first two to three weeks from a new domain will automatically be flagged as suspicious and it takes around three months to properly warm up a new domain and IP.

    This gives you time to establish a history and demonstrate that you’re a legitimate and trustworthy sender.

    Take a look at this video by Woodpecker.co for a step-by-step guide warm up your domain:

    You can implement your warm-up period manually, or you can use a tool like Woodpecker, which provides a free warm-up module to its users, to automate the process.

    An advantage to using a tool like Woodpecker is that you can use one email to send campaigns, while your new one warming up on auto-pilot.

    You can also check domain age and configuration, and the IP sender history to see if it has been associated with any spammy activity in the past.

    2. Build and Maintain a High-Quality Email List

    The quality of your email list impacts your email reputation in many ways, from the number of invalid email addresses to low engagement rates to high bounce rates, and everything in between.

    Growing your list organically and populating it with real, verified, addresses is the first step. Thereafter you need to regularly review and clean up your list.

    Monitor your bounce rates and codes, and regularly purge your list of invalid or inactive addresses and non-responders.

    You can pull out the low engagement addresses and send them a follow-up campaign to reengage them, if that doesn’t work, it is best to remove them from your list.

    A good email outreach tool can help you verify your addresses and reduce your bounce rates and increase delivery rates.

    Maintaining a clean email list of validated emails is one of the most important ways to increase your email sender reputation, as well as keep your email campaigns focused on real prospects.

    3. Send Confirmation Email as Part of Your Opt-in Policy

    Sending a simple, automated, confirmation email to new subscribers is an easy way to ensure that you’re only adding valid email addresses to your list.

    It also ensures that the recipient genuinely wants to hear from you, which means they will engage with your emails down the line.

    Email reputation - example of an opt-in confirmation message
    Image Source

    4. Monitor Your Email Engagement, Delivery, and Response Rates

    Keeping a close eye on your data allows you to see any trends that are emerging, and get ahead of any issues before they do too much damage to your email reputation.

    Pay attention to your delivery rates, open rates, response rates, bounce rates, click-through rate (CTR), and click to open rates (CTOR).

    You can compare these to industry benchmarks to see where your campaigns need attention.

    Summary: Ways to Improve Your Email Reputation

    • Implement a warm-up period when working with a new domain and IP.
    • Grow and maintain a high quality email list – prune it often
    • Send a confirmation email to your subscribers
    • Pay attention to your email engagement, delivery and response rates

    Final Thoughts

    As we have seen, establishing, maintaining, and protecting your email reputation is vital for deliverability and the success of your email marketing as a whole.

    As such, it is important to understand how email sender reputation works, the factors that influence it, and how to check, monitor, and improve it.

    Actively protecting your email reputation, following best practices, and using tools like Woodpecker to manage your email reputation are key to every successful email marketing program.

    Today, we have covered everything you need to know to get started on the right foot and maintain your email reputation for steady growth and ongoing success in your email marketing!

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is email sender reputation?

    Email sender reputation refers to the email reputation score assigned to every sender by the receiving ISP. This score is a dynamic score, based on numerous factors, designed to help ISPs identify spam. How the ISP scores your email reputation determines how likely your emails are to be delivered to the inbox, or diverted to spam or not delivered at all. Check out the full guide for more info on email reputation and how to manage yours.

    How do I check my email reputation?

    There are numerous tools to check your domain and IP reputation, as well as your overall email reputation. Reliable tools to use include Talos, TrustedSource, Sender Score, Google Postmaster Tools, and Microsoft SNDS. Read the full guide for more info on how to check and improve your email sender reputation.

    What affects email reputation?

    Email reputation is influenced by numerous factors, including the reputation of your domain and IP, your sender history, the quality of your email list, subscriber engagement rates, bounce rates, unsubscribe rates, and the volume of spam complaints. Check out the full guide to learn more about the factors that influence email reputation.

    References

    Business 2 Community: The 2021 Email Deliverability Guide for eCommerce Businesses

    Campaign Monitor: How to Measure Audience Engagement in Email Marketing

    Mail Trap: Understanding Your SpamAssassin Score and Fixing It

    Omnisend: Email Deliverability Guide 2022: Common Issues and Best Practices

    Send Grid: 5 Ways to Check Your Sending Reputation

    Validity: Email Marketing Benchmarking Report – 2021

    Woodpecker: How to Warm Up My Email Address before Cold Outreach

    Woodpecker: How to Regain a Good Domain Reputation