How to Fix Your Email Reputation


Picture this: you’ve crafted a brilliant email campaign with just the perfect messaging. You hit send and wait for clicks to start rolling in.

But nothing happens.

Worse, yours bounce rate sky-rocketed.

Bad news: your email reputation might have taken a hit.

Good news: you can fix your email reputation with these steps.

In this blog, we’ll cover:

What is email sender reputation?

Your email sender reputation is a score that an Inbox Service Provider (ISP) gives your organization. It is based on:

  • The number of emails your organization sends
  • How many subscribers engage with emails from you (based on actions like open, reply, forward, delete and click)
  • How many recipients mark your emails as spam or otherwise complain about your emails
  • If your organization hits any ISP spam traps or is on any blocklists
  • How many people unsubscribe
  • Email bounces

Notes: All ISPs will weigh these factors differently.

When the content is relevant to the audience, they are more likely to engage. And engagement is a positive sign to the ISP.

Monitoring these metrics (and responding when necessary) is an important step in staying on top of your email reputation and deliverability. Thankfully, they should stay in the healthy range on their own as long as you follow email deliverability best practices.

Your email deliverability is a result of your email reputation. The better your reputation, the more likely it is that you’ll also have higher email deliverability.

What is domain reputation and sender score?

Each email sender has a sending domain. It is the text that follows ‘@’.

For example, here the sending domain is ‘peppercontent.in’.

sending domain example of peppercontent

Your sending reputation depends on the domain and IP address you’re sending emails from. It’s called the sender score and is measured from 0 to 100. The higher your score, the better your email reputation.

If you’re on a dedicated IP address, you’ll have a much clearer image of your email-sending reputation. But if you’re on a shared IP address, your email sending reputation may be impacted by others on your shared IP.

Let’s take a closer look at factors that can negatively impact your email sending reputation.

Why has my email reputation gone down?

If your email reputation falls, it might be due to one of these reasons:

  • Your readers report your content as spam
  • A high hard bounce ratewhich can occur when an email cannot be delivered to an address permanently.
  • Sending emails to spam trapswhich can happen in cases of poor data hygiene or acquisition sources

If your emails are being reported as spam or hard bouncing, it could be related to one of these reasons:

  1. You did not get permission to send the person an email
  2. You are sending to an unengaged audience
  3. You are sending to an invalid address. (Typos are a common cause of an invalid email address, but people do intentionally fill out a fake email address to quickly access gated content. When you send to these addresses, your emails will bounce).
  4. Your content and/or send frequency is not aligned with subscriber expectations.
  5. Your email does not have a clear unsubscribe link and gets clipped by the email client.

When should I fix my email reputation?

If you feel deliverability issues and your email reputation has gone down, fixing it should be a top priority. If you don’t act quickly, you may start to see less than stellar performance from your email marketing efforts and your reputation will fall further. Every subsequent email you send will be scrutinized even more by ISPs, and they might end up flagging even hyper-relevant emails as spam because your organization has been deemed problematic.

How to fix your email reputation

Fixing your email reputation is not as tricky or as technical as it sounds. In June 2022, we experienced an issue with our email reputation as we noticed our inbox placement had gone from 98-99% to less than 90%.

Jaina Mistry, Director of Email Marketing at Litmus, took steps to quickly fix our email reputation. “We acted fast and were constantly looking at our inbox placement to notice when something like this happens and we can take action,” says Mistry.

She documented the whole process as a step-by-step playbook as a step-by-step playbook to help other marketers who might find themselves in the same situation.

Step 1: Identify the problematic ISP

In our case, it was Gmail.

The key here is to identify which ISP you’re having difficulty with and send only to your most engaged audiences for that ISP. While this will drastically bring down the number of people you’re reaching with your emails, it will improve your engagement rates and ensure inbox placement.

This step will indicate to your ISP that your emails are not spam, and your readers are engaging with them.

We used Litmus Email Analytics that identify subscribers who use Gmail to open our emails and segment that audience into those who engaged in the last 10/30/45/60/90 days.

We then suppressed Gmail subscribers who hadn’t opened in the last 10 days. Then, we slowly increased volume, week by week, and tracked engagement.

Step 2: Contact your Postmasters

A postmaster is the administrator of an email service. They deal with spam emails and sender reputation.

Once you’ve identified your problematic ISP, send them a report using these forms:

Gmail’s postmasters may not respond. So, until you see an improvement in your inbox placement, keep notifying Gmail of your issues through their postmaster contact form—advisably every week.

Outlook and Yahoo Mail, on the other hand, will likely respond to you via email within three to four days. Their response will indicate whether they’ve found issues with your email domain and are working on a fix, or that they haven’t found any issues.

Pro guy

Enable UTM (Urchin Tracking Mode) tracking for every email campaign:
UTM tells you where your website traffic is coming from. When you’ve enabled UTM tracking, you can use your Google Analytics dashboard to see if traffic from emails has slowed down. This can indicate inbox placement issues—a common email deliverability problem.

Step 3: Identify risky email automations and turn those off

Campaigns such as win-back email campaigns are risky. After all, they are reaching out to an already disinterested audience. The chances of them opening your emails and engaging with your content are low.

Email automations your subscribers and customers might not engage with include:

Even though these email flows can sometimes work to revive disengaged customers and subscribers, they have a higher likelihood of going unopened and not clicked on than transactional or other promotional emails. If these campaign emails do not lead to engagement, it will further damage your email reputation. Turn these campaigns off to improve your engagement rates.

Step 5: Start increasing send volume when engagement rates increase

Once you see an uptick in engagement rates, you can start sending emails to more people again.

For example, if you were previously only sending your campaigns to people who had opened your emails in the last 15 days, you can now raise the bar to 30 days. Monitor the new results and then rinse and repeat until you hit your typical, full sending volume.

For acquisition-related campaigns (where you’re contacting new/unengaged subscribers), having a secondary dedicated IP address can protect your primary IP address (used for campaigns that drive business goals and need to have good inbox placement rates).

Pro guy

For acquisition-related campaigns (where you’re contacting new/unengaged subscribers), having a secondary dedicated IP address can protect your primary IP address (used for campaigns that drive business goals and need to have good inbox placement rates).

At Litmus, we’ve onboarded a secondary IP address and a secondary sending subdomain for acquisition programs, cart abandonment programs, and re-engagement nurtures.

Prevention and spam testing are key

Litmus Spam Testing can give you the immediate insight you need to know about issues that could prevent you from making it to the inbox–and the actionable advice you need to fix them before you hit send.



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