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How to Rescue a Poor Email Reputation

A successful email marketing campaign involves sending compelling content to a mailing list of quality subscribers while maintaining a positive email reputation. Most marketers understand the importance of writing great content and building targeted lists, but their email reputation? Many don’t give it a second thought, though, they should.


Your email reputation is a score given to your organization by your internet service provider (ISP.) A low sender score will lead to serious deliverability issues as ISPs begin to mark your messages as spam or, possibly, even refuse to send them.


In this post we’ll explore the main factors that affect your sender score and some best practices for rescuing a down-in-the-dumps email reputation.


The Foundations of Email Reputation

Your overall email reputation is built upon three pillars: the reputation of your IP address and domain, and the level of engagement your email campaigns generate. Let’s take a closer look at each of these:


IP Address: The “IP” in IP address stands for “Internet Protocol” and internet service providers (like CenturyLink, AT&T and Time Warner Cable) supply one to every device on their network in order to accurately route user requests. In regard to your email reputation, the quality of the IP address you are sending from is taken into account by the ISP delivering your emails. If you or other people on the same network, fellow wifi users at a local coffee shop for example, regularly practice poor email etiquette, your IP address reputation will plummet.


Domain: While it’s not always possible to control the reputation of an IP address, the reputation of a domain is completely reliant upon the person or people using it. In order to maintain a positive domain reputation, simply follow the good email marketing practices we’ll outline in the rest of this post.


Engagement: Beyond IP addresses and domains, the engagement level of your email campaigns plays a role in your reputation as well. ISPs want to see proof that the messages you send are enjoyed by the people receiving them. If you continually mail to dead addresses and receive high bounce rates, consistently experience below average or declining open rates, or receive numerous spam complaints, your ISP will conclude that you’re unwelcome in subscribers inboxes and your sender score will shrink.

Recognizing a Poor Email Reputation

As an email marketer, it’s your job to not only understand the different elements ISPs use to calculate your sender score, but also recognize if and when your organization begins to suffer the effects of a poor email reputation.


A poor reputation most noticeably manifests itself in low open rates. Take some time and analyze your email data; the more of it you can study, the better. If your open rate is significantly below the general email marketing average of 25% or steadily declining over your last few mailing, there’s a good chance your sender score has been damaged and is in need of rescuing. Other signs of an impaired sender score are high bounce rates and significant amounts of spam complaints.


Remedies for a Poor Email Reputation

If your email deliverability isn’t where you’d like it to be, don’t worry! There are ways to redeem a poor reputation.


Own Your Domain: As basic as it may sound, owning your own domain is a crucial first step in improving your reputation. If you mail from an @gmail rather than an @yourcompany address, you’ll most likely experience a higher bounce rate and lower sender score.


Receive Permission: Every single subscriber on your list should have given you explicit permission to email them. Purchasing or renting an email list from someone else is quite risky and can easily damage your reputation due to the higher probability of spam complaints. Instead, employ ethical list building strategies and ensure everyone you mail to is happy to receive your messages.


Keep It Consistent: Your subscribers have short attention spans and if you neglect to email them for a stretch of time, they’ll be much less likely to engage with your content. Develop a regular mailing schedule and stick to it.


Create Compelling Content: Creating compelling content is a fantastic way to improve the third pillar of a good email reputation: engagement. After all, your subscribers will be more inclined to open your emails and click on links if they enjoy receiving the things you send them.


To do this effectively, you must have a deep understanding of your list and what they’re looking to get out of your emails. You also must do your best to provide personalized experiences for each of your subscribers.


Verify Your List: Studies show that the average email list consists of 60% dead leads due to subscribers changing occupations, email providers and more. That means that, for most companies, 6 out 10 subscribers will never even receive the emails they send them.


While you have no control over when a subscriber changes their email address, you can control whether you keep emailing them or not. By using an email verification service like Email List Verify, you can quickly and easily purge these dead addresses from your mailing list so that you receive less bounces and your reputation isn’t constantly being damaged.


Offer Plain Text: Deciding to send plain text over HTML emails is a personal decision every business must make for itself, but, as a healthy compromise, at least offer a plain text version of every HTML message you send. This will ensure that email providers like Gmail and Outlook don’t automatically place your message in the spam folder..


Rescuing Engagement Levels

As mentioned previously, low engagement levels are a primary reason for a declining email reputation. Consistently mailing quality content to a list of subscribers that care is a great first step towards increasing interaction between your brand and your customers! But given the important role engagement plays in your deliverability rates, it makes sense to discuss a few more practical tips you can use to better engage your list. Let’s talk about improving your open rates with better subject lines and increasing your click-through rates with quality CTAs.


Subject Lines: Perhaps your open rates are suffering because your subject lines aren’t compelling enough. Studies show that 35% of recipients decide to open email based solely on the subject line. If your messages don’t grab their attention from the beginning, they’ll get lost in the flood of other emails your subscribers receive every day. But how do you craft subject lines that actually get your emails opened?


  • First, try to keep your subject lines under 60 characters. The shorter your subject line is, the less likely it is to get cut off by your subscriber’s email provider. This is especially true now that so many people are accessing their email on their phones where space is more limited.


  • Your subject lines need to be specific and include an enticing benefit. Why should your subscribers open your email? Will they recieve some type of gift or glean valuable knowledge? Even more importantly, what will readers be able to accomplish with the gift or information you’re giving them in the email? It’s important to arouse some kind of emotion in your recipients that makes them want to open your emails. Mentioning a key benefit will help you do this.


  • Avoid sounding overly promotional or sales-y as it just comes across cheap and spammy. Instead, use your subject lines to inform the reader of a specific benefit (like we just mentioned) they can expect to receive.


  • Finally, test multiple subject lines to see which your audience best responds to. You can even do this for the same email by A/B testing two subject lines across a small segment of your list. The subject line that garners the most opens is the winner and should be used when you mail the rest of your campaign.


For more information on writing better subject lines, CoSchedule has a great post on the topic.


Calls-To-Action: Your open rate is incredibly important to email deliverability, but if all your subscribers ever do is read your message, they aren’t engaging with your content to the full extent and offer no monetary value to your business. Often times, a low click-through rate is a result of a poorly written call-to-action. To improve your CTAs:


  • Make sure you’re offering something your subscribers want. This may sound obvious, but the foundation of a stellar CTA is an offer your readers can get excited about. If they have no interest in the topic of your latest video or blog post, no tactic or magic phrase will convince them to click on your link.


  • Use clear and compelling language. Your subscribers should know exactly what they will receive, learn, experience, etc. when they click on your link. Also, use action words such as “discover,” “join,” or “find” to help create excitement and increase your reader’s desire to click. At the same time, avoid overused words and phrases such as “click here.” We’ve all seen that phrase so many times, it now has no effect.


  • Make your offer urgent and inspire immediate action by stating a deadline of some sort, referencing a negative outcome the reader may experience if they don’t click on your link, or playing into their feelings of FOMO (fear of missing out.)


By increasing the clicks your emails receive, you’ll improve engagement and, in turn, help to improve your email reputation and deliverability rates.



Your sender score plays a significant role in the success of your email marketing campaigns. Don’t neglect it! By practicing proper email etiquette, using the above mentioned strategies to increase engagement and regularly cleaning your list, you’ll ensure your good reputation remains intact and your messages actually arrive in your subscriber’s inboxes.


If you begin to notice signs of a deteriorating sender score, work to remedy the situation immediately. Often times, your reputation can be saved quickly and without long term damage. It just takes some investigative work to find the problem and a commitment to fix the issues once they’re uncovered. Happy emailing!

Achraf Benfdela
"I’m the founder and CEO of Email List Verify, an email list verification service that removes unverified emails, spam traps and the hard bounces and penalties associated with such emails. As you all know, we all have a sender reputation associated with our sender IP, once a hard bounce happens more than a few times, it influences our sender reputation. When your reputation is damaged, at best: your email won’t arrive in the inbox, the other option is way worse. Check out what our customer reviews and drop me a line below in the comments!"
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