3 Key Metrics to Monitor for Your Sender Reputation
The success of your email program begins and ends with your sender reputation. In addition to KPIs such as opens, clicks, and conversions, marketers must also be attuned to metrics impacting their IP health, which are critical to ensuring messages reach the inbox. The Sender Score is an easy and helpful way to determine the overall health of your email program. Much like a credit score, the Sender Score is an indication of the trustworthiness of the sending IP. Ranking IP addresses on a scale from 0-100, the Sender Score provides access to data that mailbox providers can use to determine whether to accept or reject email.
While each mailbox provider uses their own algorithms to determine placement, which may vary from one provider to another, they generally rely on these three key reputational metrics to filter messages:
A complaint is registered when a recipient marks a message as junk or spam. While complaints can happen for a number of reasons, a common factor is when someone receives an email from a brand they did not sign up for, or the sign-up process was unclear. A high number of complaints indicate to mailbox providers that users perceive the message as spam or abuse, and over time this may trigger your messages to be filtered to the spam folder for all recipients.
Recent research from Return Path’s "2019 Sender Score Benchmark" report shows just how harmful complaints can be on IP reputation. Senders with a score above 90 maintained a low complaint rate below 1% while senders with a score below 90 had high complaints rates ranging from 4.6% to 6.3%.
In order to avoid complaints, ensure your opt-in process is clear and straightforward, and that new subscribers give explicit consent when signing up. Also make sure the content you’re sending is relevant and valuable, using subscriber behavior as a key driver to determine optimal frequency.
An Unknown User — a type of bounced message — is a user that does not exist within the receiving system. These email addresses may have never existed, were closed, or were abandoned by the end user. When receiving a hard bounce code for unknown users (5xx), the email address should immediately be removed from your mailing list as senders who regularly send to a high percentage of unknown users are perceived by mailbox providers as suspicious or having poor list hygiene practices. Unknown users not only affect mailbox placement, but they can also cause messages to be throttled or completely blocked.
Typically, senders with Sender Scores of 90 or higher maintain mostly clean lists, with average unknown users rates at 1%. Senders with the highest rates often see Sender Scores below 80%.
To maintain proper list hygiene, ensure you’re actively removing unknown users from your database and consider implementing real-time list validation at the point of sign-up.
Spam traps are email addresses uses by mailbox providers to identify senders with poor or suspicious mailing practices. There are two types of spam traps — pristine and recycled. A pristine email address is an address that never existed and was set up with the sole purpose of catching spammers, often who acquire these email addresses through illegal methods. A recycled spam trap, which is much more common, is a real email address that existed at one point in time, but was turned into a spam trap by the mailbox provider after being abandoned.
Senders with a Sender Score of 90 or higher were successful at keeping their lists clean with an average of 0.41 spam traps while Senders with a score of 50 or below hit the most spam traps.
To avoid spam traps, review your list acquisition and list hygiene practices and ensure they are focused on obtaining and maintaining a high level of list quality. List validation services are a great way to not only check email addresses at the point of sign up, but to also do periodic checks on your existing database. And as recommended for the other metrics, be sure you’re only mailing to the most active and engaged subscribers.
It’s important to monitor your IP health on a consistent basis so you’re able to spot any red flags and address them before it turns into a larger issue that will negatively impact your sender reputation and deliverability. In addition to these key reputational metrics, subscriber engagement plays a key role in determining inbox placement. So, ensure your email program is comprised of relevant, targeted messages created with subscriber data and behavior in mind to drive content that will engage your subscribers.
Alexandra Braunstein has been helping world class brands grow and optimize their email marketing strategies and initiatives for over a decade. As an email strategist for Return Path, Alexandra uses her passion for analytical and creative thinking to help marketers refine their email programs, resulting in more emails getting delivered to the inbox, improved subscriber engagement, and increased ROI.