Updated September 2020.
We always stress the importance of a strong sending reputation. Your sending reputation, or how mailbox providers judge your mail, is driven by how your subscribers are reacting to your messages. If the messages you send generate a lot of spam complaints, your sending reputation will worsen and future messages will be harder to get to the inbox.
On the other hand, if recipients are engaged with your messages, your sending reputation will be stronger and your messages will be more likely to make it to the inbox. Unfortunately, there is no single value or score that describes your sending reputation across all mailbox providers. However, there are a few tools, stats, and tips you can use to monitor and better understand your sending reputation.
While it is true that there is no singular score that all mailbox providers use to evaluate your sending, there are some third-party tools and even mailbox-specific tools help you track your sending reputation. All of these tools are based on different data sources and attempt to score senders based on their practices and results. As single sources of truth, these scores don’t often tell the entire story, but when used in conjunction with other data points, can be very helpful in identifying reputation issues. Some tools offering reputation scores are:
Like a credit score, a Sender Score is a measure of your reputation. Scores are calculated from 0 to 100. The higher your score, the better your reputation and the higher your email deliverability rate. Numbers are calculated on a rolling 30-day average and illustrate where your IP address ranks against other IP addresses. This service is provided by Validity.
Barracuda Networks provides both an IP and domain reputation lookup via their Barracuda Reputation System; a real-time database of IP addresses with “poor” or “good” reputations.
TrustedSource, run by McAfee, provides information on both your domain’s email and web reputations as well as affiliations, domain name system (DNS), and mail server information. It also provides details on the history, activation, and associations of your domain.
Google offers their Postmaster Tools to senders allowing you to track data on your high volume sending into Gmail. The helpful data they provide includes IP reputation, domain reputation, Gmail delivery errors, and more.
Similar to Google’s Postmaster Tools, Microsoft offers a service called Smart Network Data Services (SDNS). Among the data provided by SNDS is insight into data points like your sending IP’s reputation, how many Microsoft spam traps you are delivering to, and your spam complaint rate.
Not every mailbox provider gives you insight into how they view your sending reputation, but two of the largest mailbox providers do. Through Google Postmaster Tools and Microsoft SNDS, you can freely see a day-by-day evaluation of the reputation of the messages these major providers see from you. While Google’s and Microsoft’s view of your sending reputation has no impact on how other providers see your mail, it’s a good bet that troubles at these major providers will be accompanied by similar troubles elsewhere.
Reputation is one part of a healthy email program
We also want to emphasize that while each of these data points is a great help in evaluating your sending reputation, none of them, singularly, tell a complete story. For example, it is not uncommon to see email senders with SenderScores around 98-99 that are still having inboxing problems.
It’s important to know that just because you have a high reputation score from a third party or don’t have any deny listings, doesn’t mean you won’t be getting throttled, sent to the spam folder, or blocked outright.
When taken into account together, the scores from the tools above and the insights and tips recommended below will give you a very good idea of how your current sending reputation stands with mailbox providers.
Review your statistics over time to identify trends
All senders’ reputations change over time.
Understanding how your statistics are trending is critical to understanding how your overall reputation is changing. Since sending reputation is all about how much of your email makes it to the inbox, seeing trends like decreasing open rates or increasing spam complaint rates tend to be the most reliable indicators of existing or pending reputation degradation.
Conversely, seeing improving delivery or open rates over time can indicate that your sending reputation is improving. Since each mailbox provider operates a little bit differently, it is even more helpful if you can keep an eye on these changes on a domain-by-domain basis to identify specific reputation issues at specific providers.
Regularly look for IP and domain deny listings
When your email sending is generating too many negative signals such as spam complaints or delivery to spam traps or honeypot addresses, it is likely you will see increased deny listings of your IP, your domain, or both. While not all deny lists have a significant impact on your delivery rates, seeing increases in deny listing events for your sending is an indicator that your sending reputation is suffering. A great, free tool to use to keep an eye out for deny listings is https://mxtoolbox.com/blacklists.aspx.
Send yourself messages
It’s never a bad idea to send yourself messages as if you were a recipient.
If you have multiple email addresses at different mailbox providers, send to them all. While you can never make broad assumptions about how a mailbox provider is treating all of your mail based on results to a single address, seeing changes in how your emails are landing in your inboxes or spam folders can be a good indication that your reputation may be degrading, especially when combined with other data points. Just remember to do yourself a favor and positively engage with your messages. If they do land in your spam folder, pull them back into your inbox.
Your email reputation is always in your control. By taking advantage of these tools and tactics, you’ll have more accurate visibility into how the mailbox providers view your mail. All of these data points are signals of whether or not your mail is seen as wanted by recipients. So the more proactive you can be with your email deliverability, the better.
If you’re interested in having a partner to help with your sending reputation and email deliverability, check out SendGrid. Our Expert Services offer over 130 years of combined email industry experience to ensure your email program is set up for success.