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Blog post By Paula Chiocchi on 2017-07-12

It was Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Joan Jett who claimed in a famous song that she didn’t give a damn about her bad reputation. That approach worked for her but it doesn’t make for a very effective B2B email marketer.


It turns out that your email sender reputation is critical for ensuring successful email delivery. According to a new report by Return Path, highly reputable email senders enjoy 20% higher delivery rates compared to other senders.


A sender’s reputation score – which is a number between 1 and 100 – is used by email service providers (ESPs) to assess the likelihood that an email sent from a particular IP (Internet Protocol) address is legitimate, and desired by the recipient. A mailer that sends too much unwanted email or spam is more likely to have a lower reputation score, and as a result, their emails will be “filtered” by being forwarded automatically to the spam email box.


In the Return Path report, emailers with reputation scores above 90, on average, drove 90% of their emails to their desired recipients. However, those senders with a reputation score between 81 and 90 had only a 72% delivery rate, while those with a score between 71 and 80 saw less than half (45%) of their emails delivered.


The report concluded that IP addresses with a higher sender score will “generally receive better inbox placement, particularly at Gmail, Yahoo, and Microsoft.” The top takeaway from the report, however, is that reputation scores matter to all ESPs, and B2B email marketers need to keep the following information in mind:


  • Complaints: A complaint is created when a mailbox user manually marks a message as spam or junk. Higher complaint rates indicate to the ESP that the sender’s content is not welcomed, and should be directed to the spam folder. Those emailers with a reputation score in the 90s enjoyed complaint rates of less than one percent. ESPs themselves recommend a complaint rate no higher than 0.2 percent.


  • Unknown Users: An unknown user is an email address that was either abandoned by the mailbox user, terminated by the ESP, or never existed in the first place. Such emails generate a “hard bounce code” by the ESP. Emailers who keep sending to unknown users are considered by ESPs as having poor email list hygiene, which reduces their reputation scores. According to the report, senders scoring above 90 boasted an unknown user rating of about one percent; those with reputation scores of 80 or below had unknown user ratings in the eight to 11 percent range.


  • Spam Traps: When an email address doesn’t correspond to an active user, the ESP either identifies the sender as having poor list hygiene or considers them to be a pure-play spammer. This category of email address can include those that were once legit but now abandoned, or those that were never owned by a real person to begin with, and therefore should not be on any marketer’s list. Obviously, spam trap emails were found more on the lists of email senders with lower reputation scores.


  • Engagement: Most major ESPs include some form of email engagement (e.g. open rates, deleting without reading, etc.) into their reputation scoring decisions. Obviously, the more emails that are opened and clicked, the better the reputation score for the email sender.


It is crucial for B2B email marketers to take the necessary steps to maintain healthy email list hygiene, generate interaction with their recipients, and ensure a good reputation and standing with their ESPs. If not, those email senders who ignore complaints, retain spam traps and fail to remove unknown users from their campaigns will receive lower reputation scores. In addition, they’ll experience ever diminishing delivery rates and even risk being banned by ESPs.


And that’s a reputation nobody would want. Perhaps not even Joan Jett!







Outward Media’s accurate, targeted email data can help you achieve better email marketing ROI, and convert more prospects into customers. Ask us how. Also, take a look at our complimentary e-book on building a successful B2B email marketing database.

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