What is your email reputation?

Do your emails arrive and are they opened and appreciated? Or do some end up stranded and useless? Here are seven tips that can improve deliverability!

You have developed content with great care and designed an email to promote it. Of course, you want people to open, read and possibly forward the content. We all want that. Especially at a time when there are few other contact options.

But what if your mail doesn’t arrive at all?

This could mean your email reputation is poor, and this can often happen. We would, therefore, like to share some tips to improve your sending reputation and email deliverability. But first, we have to get a bit technical.

As soon as an email leaves an email server, it goes through all kinds of other servers – connected via the internet – to the final receiving server. Unfortunately, emails can disappear in this maze of servers, referred to as the black hole. The black hole has nothing to do with your email reputation, but this is where your emails start to lose power. The better your reputation, the more your sending server and sending email domain are “known” in the network of servers; therefore, the more likely your email will be delivered.

If your email does reach the final receiving email server, there is still a chance that the email could be rejected or will disappear into the receiver’s spam box.

This rejection is due to your email reputation or sender score, which is linked to the sending email server and the domain. Several factors are involved here:

1  The number of emails sent and the frequency

If you start by sending thousands of emails within a short time with a new email server/new domain, your reputation will quickly become ‘bad’. If you have a mailing portal that has been active for a long time, with which you have been sending large numbers for a longer time, the problem is much smaller. The build-up to a large number of emails is called “IP warming”. With this, the sending email server is as it were “warmed up” for sending large numbers. Nevertheless, we are always careful and especially when it comes to thousands of recipients, we still spread the delivery over a few hours or days. With many senders, you can set this up in advance.

2  Recipients mark your emails as spam

Unfortunately, you can have little influence on this – other than of course ensuring you send engaging content to people who have opted in to receive your email.

3  When emails are marked as spam by the receiving email server

Each receiving mail server has its own rules, such as the ratio of images to text in an email. We have some influence on this by working with a good proportion of images and text (you can imagine that, especially in retail, an email sometimes only consists of images).

The total size of the email also helps: a massive email with images totalling several MBs will get rejected more quickly. Just remember that your recipients may open your email with their mobile data subscription and could use up a high per cent of their total data-package. Receiving email servers also filter on that, so make sure your images are compressed. An ideal size to use is a maximum of 256 kb per image. Also, take into account the text/images ratio. A spam filter wants to be able to “read” the emails. A spam filter cannot read images and therefore cannot determine whether there is nonsense in the email. An email server can read the text, so this is applicable. Also, the use of certain words in the subject line (“Free”, “Promotion”, etc.) is always discouraged because spam filters pick up on these words.

4  Whether a sending email server is on specific blacklists (these are generic lists that an email server may end up on if emails sent by that server are often marked as spam)

Blacklisting only happens if you send too many emails too often and your email is labelled as spam. But be careful, it can still have negative consequences for the service you use. For example, they can choose to block you from email deliveries temporarily – and you can’t do anything about that!

5  Bouncing emails (including invalid email addresses)

We do have some influence on this. Fortunately, many email senders do that themselves. The moment an email registers as invalid (hard bounce), this email is automatically excluded from further sending on many platforms. Temporarily unreachable email servers and full inboxes, which means that an email cannot be delivered at that particular time is called a soft bounce. We don’t have any control on soft bounces, that’s just the luck of the draw. However, most Marketing Automation platforms then try to re-deliver soft bounces for 48 hours. If that fails after those 48 hours, the attempts stop. The email is then not registered as invalid but can be taken back with the next transmission. An email sender does record a hard bounce after a certain number of soft bounces in a row, and then that email address is excluded from sending.

6  How often emails are opened, clicked, answered, forwarded and deleted by recipients

We can also influence this, and it has to do with the commitment of a recipient. When a recipient never engages with our emails, it is better not to email them. A few months later, you can always try again, but be careful, you only want to send to those who open your email, thereby increasing your open and click rates!

7  How many recipients unsubscribe

We must always keep an eye on the rate of unsubscribers and ensure that it remains below 1% (industry benchmark).

In addition to the above points, several components can have an impact, but these are not always clear, because this differs specifically for each receiving email server. The main question we need to ask ourselves is whether it makes sense to send an email to someone who doesn’t open it. That only affects the results of your email and the chance that it will yield something is quite small.

Photo by Onlineprinters on Unsplash

About the author

Gerard van den Bogaart , Managing Director at BBN Netherlands (Referro), has been working with SMEs and within the corporate environment for over 20 years. He has been working with marketing intelligence along with online marketing, campaign management, marketing automation and telemarketing for many years and understands the need for e-mail campaigns to generate good ROI.


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