5 Factors for Measuring Your E-mail Reputation

Originally Published in Target Marketing’s Tipline E-Newsletter
by Britt Brouse
Oct 1, 2008

In its recent whitepaper, Your Reputation Holds the Key to Deliverability, New York-based e-mail services company Return Path argues that e-mail reputation is becoming all about the numbers, meaning that the ISPs’ fight against spam is moving away from e-mail content and toward data-driven examinations of commercial e-mailers.

Twenty percent of all valid e-mail is never delivered, and 77 percent of e-mail delivery problems, according to Return Path, were based on sender-reputation. To solidify your organization’s e-mail reputation, Return Path suggests monitoring the following five data points that each ISP looks at:

1. Volume: Spammers and legitimate permission-based mailers both have high total volume numbers. To offset your high volume, it is key to keep your complaint, hard bounce and spam trap hit rates low. Monitor complaints, especially around peak sales times when some recipients, overwhelmed by a higher frequency in e-mails, will more likely hit “this is spam” than unsubscribe.

2. Complaint Rates: A complaint rate measures how often recipients hit the “report spam” button in response to your messaging. To avoid complaints, give subscribers detailed sign-up options so they know exactly which content they subscribed to. It also helps to confirm opt-in; provide instructions to subscribers on how to add your address to their address books; and sign up for ISP notifications so when subscribers complain, you can remove them from your list.

3. Hard Bounce Rate: Lowering the number of e-mails sent to nonexistent or unknown addresses will elevate your reputation. During registration, ask recipients to enter their addresses twice to avoid mistakes. You also can send a welcome message to all registrants and remove any bounced addresses right away.

4. Spam Trap Hits: ISPs activate dormant inboxes to trap spammers. Avoid mailing to spam traps with good list hygiene. Using purchased lists that have been assembled via questionable practices is the main reason many companies mail to spam trap addresses. If you receive a majority of complaints from one data source or purchased list, then stop using addresses from that list until further investigation or reconfirmation.

5. Authentication: Since spammers spoof e-mail addresses, letting an ISP know that the return address matches the actual sender will steadily improve your e-mail reputation. Urge your IT department to participate in leading authentication programs including AOL’s SPF, Microsoft’s Sender ID and Yahoo’s DomainKeys Identified Mail.

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