A New Generation: Here’s What to Know about Email Reputation

What’s Your Reputation?

Sure, bad reputations are great fodder for songs like the iconic rock song by Joan Jett, but they’re disastrous to email marketing. A bad email reputation can determine whether or not your emails ever reach the inbox and if your prospective students lay eyes on your message. So, don’t follow Ms. Jett’s lead – give a damn ‘bout your reputation.

Gone are the early days of email marketing where it was acceptable to batch and blast indiscriminately to your entire list. Gone are the days where simply making sure you avoided a few ‘spammy’ works like “free,” “money,” or “guarantee” was enough. No longer will just adhering to the perfect image to text ratio get your email in the inbox. It’s a new generation of email marketing and reputation is everything!

But what is an email or sender reputation? In a nutshell, it’s how your emails are viewed by ISPs (Internet Service Providers). They look to see how closely you adhere to their best practices and how welcomed your emails are in inboxes. Sender reputation plays a HUGE part in your overall email deliverability.

IP Reputation

There are two very closely related reputations to consider when it comes to email: IP reputation and domain reputation. Your IP reputation reflects the quality of the IP address being used to send your emails. If you’re using an email marketing service it’s likely you’re using a shared IP or block of IPs, so what other senders are doing within the same IP can be a concern. So, consider what other clients your email marketing tool also works with. You could have the best conceived email campaign but if your email service is rubbish – so are your emails.

Domain Reputation

Domain reputation reflects the quality of the domain being used to send your emails. It’s common practice to use a dedicated domain or subdomain for email marketing efforts. You may even use more than one domain, so you have separate sender domains for your separate email initiatives. While your typical prospect or subscriber won’t pay much attention to your sender domain (they’ll mostly be looking for the From Name), you’ll still want to make it clearly connected to your school’s primary domain. It will also be extremely important that you set up the domain with the appropriate authentication so ISPs can verify you – your school – is the true sender of the email and you’re not a spammer or fraudulent mailer.

If your emails are on the up and up and are being consumed, i.e. read, by your subscribers, you’re in a good spot – with a good reputation. However, if your reputation gets a little scuffed up, you’ll notice a decrease in your engagement metrics, and it won’t be because subscribers stopped falling in love with your beautifully designed email and concise copy; it will be because they never even saw the email.

As your sender reputation diminishes, more emails will get caught up in spam filters. Then, even worse, emails will be outright blocked by the ISP. This can be a tricky ditch to crawl out from. However, you can take steps to create – and keep – a strong reputation. Here are a few steps to follow:

List Hygiene

Make sure you maintain a clean list by asking people to opt-in to your email campaigns and then quickly removing subscribers who ask to be unsubscribed. Also, you’ll want to remove subscribers who don’t engage with your content. But before you give these unengaged troublemakers the boot be sure to try and re-engage them first. If that doesn’t work say goodbye to those email addresses. By maintaining a clean list you’ll also reduce your risk of hitting spam traps – email addresses used by email providers to identify suspicious or spam email senders.


Keeping a close eye on some of your key performance metrics can tell an important story about your reputation and overall performance. First, (and this also relates to list hygiene) take careful note of your complaint and bounce numbers; pay specific attention to your hard bounces or your unknown user bounces.  Both of these metrics should be low – we’re talking 1% low and, really, you want your complaint rate to be below .5%.

You also want to note your engagement metrics – open rates and click-to-open rates. High engagement metrics are critical to strong reputations because if people engage with your emails then they signal to the email service provider (ESP) that you’re a welcomed sender.


Be consistent in your sending habits. Huge spikes and long drop offs can raise a red flag with ESPs. They can also be troublesome for subscribers; if you send too often, you’ll become a nuisance but if you send too little, they’ll forget who you are.  It’s a good idea to have a well thought out content calendar to keep a consistent email flow.

There’s a lot that goes into a good email strategy. You need to cultivate a strong reputation from the broad stroke ideas to the nitty gritty technical set up and the beautiful creative. If you need help. the email rock stars at ESM Digital are here for you.

~Marcy Ansley