You can't buy or transfer Domain reputation. Like any other reputation, it can only be earned. Whether you're a big brand, running the business for ages or a startup with a new domain name, low domain reputation is now becoming a common problem in the industry. This low domain reputation is directly proportional to your email deliverability, which means.
Low Domain Reputation = Low Inbox Placement
This tutorial will help you in learning A-Z of domain reputation and steps to build or rebuild it from scratch.
Before going deep into Domain Reputation, let's first understand the term email deliverability, which gets impacted because of low domain reputation.
There is a big difference between email delivery and the term email deliverability. When your email service provider claims to offer 98% email delivery, ask what does that really mean? Is it just submitting the emails to ISPs like Gmail, Yahoo or Outlook or does that mean delivering emails to recipient's inbox?
Email delivery refers to the number of emails successfully submitted to ISPs for actual delivery to the recipient mailbox. This stage of email delivery doesn't care about whether the emails are actually getting delivered to the recipient's mailbox or not. However, Email deliverability refers to the number of emails that are not just getting delivered, but are actually landing in the recipient's inbox.
Achieving high email deliverability is a by-product of the high domain and IP reputation.
It's a common myth among email senders that achieving high inbox placement rate is only possible by sending emails from a highly reputed IP address. And, hence they keep switching email service providers and pay a premium in the hope that they will get a premium set of IP addresses for delivery. But, that's not how the email deliverability works with most of the leading ISPs.
Low Domain Reputation + High IP Reputation = Low Inbox Placement Rate.
While IP reputation is an important factor to consider, but its contribution to inbox placement is probably less than 10%. Which means distributing your email volumes between different email service providers is not a solution to get high inbox placement rates.
Let's see what this domain reputation, which takes the remaining 90% of the credits for inbox placement.
Domain reputation is the reputation of an email sending domain built based on the historical pattern of email sending and the ratio of engagement on those emails. There are primarily three types of domains used while sending an email. It's important to understand which of these domains are used by the ISPs to check the domain reputation:
Interestingly, all these three types of domains contribute to Domain Reputation. And, hence building a good domain reputation requires proper management of these three domains.
It is always tricky for an individual to go deep into the technicalities of these domain reputations, so you need to check with your email service provider whether they provide you with the right tools to measure and manage the domain reputation for your domain.
If your emails are landing in spam, because you have a low domain reputation, then changing the domain in the from address is not enough to rebuild the reputation. Neither this will help you in increasing your inbox placement rate. Just changing a from domain is a stop-gap arrangement with lesser pros and more significant cons.
If you're currently observing a low domain reputation or just starting with your new email programs, it is always a good practice to keep your email streams segmented at the domain level. Segmenting doesn't mean just changing the from domains, but you need to actually change the domain which has been used to sign your emails.
You shouldn't be buying a bunch of domains for sending your different email streams. Instead, use different sub-domains of the same primary domain for different email streams.
Unlike IP reputation, domain reputation moves with you. ISPs knows that brands and email service providers keep changing their sending IP address for hacking the spam filters, and hence now domain reputation is becoming a central component for ensuring high email deliverability. Domain reputation is not merely linked with your domain name any more. It is now linked with your brand name also. This is why changing domain names is also no more a solution because your brand name is still going to remain constant in your emails.
You can always change the IP of your sending domain but cannot change the domain name more often since it will mean you will have to start from scratch to build your reputation again.
A study done by Returnpath shows that the primary cause of the email deliverability issue is mainly due to the domain reputation being low. Almost 23% of cases were due to email content issues, and 77% were due to the domain reputation.
Emails with good sender domain reputation will see the light of the inbox. In contrast, emails with a neutral or lousy sender domain reputation will see the darkness of the spam folder.
Having a Low domain reputation will hurt your email deliverability regardless of from where you are sending emails from. The email reputation of your brand and domain becomes a typical asset in the email delivery. IP address can be changed, your content can be redesigned, but your domain has a sending history which determines the future of your email deliverability.
If your emails are going in the spam or your customers are complaining that they are receiving your emails, then you should check the reputation of your sender domain immediately.
Some early indicators for low domain reputation:
Your ROI will go for a toss if your domain reputation goes low.
Low Domain Reputation = Low Inbox Placement = Low Engagement = Lesser Conversion/sales.
Ideally, your email service provider should be notifying you in such an instance of low domain reputation. But in case not, then you should immediately schedule a meeting with your email service provider to discuss the potential issues.
The first step towards troubleshooting this is to do some basic checks:
If you have specific email delivery challenges with Gmail, then the first recommendation is to check the reputation of your domain and sending IP address on Google Postmaster.
Google Postmaster categories the reputation into three categories:
Mostly transactional emails sees the green light and marketing emails in orange with some overlaps to green.
If you're in green or orange spectrum, then that's good, but if there's a decline towards the red zone than get its an alarming situation.
You can also use tools like Senderbase and Senderscore to check the domain reputation.
If you were in Green or Orange zone and saw a decline towards the red zone, then its mostly your email sending practice which is affecting the domain reputation.
Ask your marketing team to slow down on email sending and check which all campaigns resulted in lower open rates so that you make necessary changes to your content strategy.
Email or domain reputation takes a long time to build; you cannot create it overnight. But it can be lost easily by lousy email practices.
The things stated above can be quickly done by tracking email bounces, unsubscriptions, Click rates, Open rates. Most of the ESP provides webhooks for these so you can easily integrate these with the email services/software of your choice.
If you follow the above-mentioned steps, you can avoid hitting the spam traps, which are a sure way to land in the blacklist.
What I am trying to say is to clean your email list, maintain email list hygiene. Just keep the emails that are worth sending to and remove the rest. Being a minimalist is vital here.
Avoid landing in spam by keeping the email volumes in check. If you are a long time email sender, then keep your email volumes in check. Check the emails you've sent in specific days and weeks prior and increase the email volumes gradually.
For people with new domains you are at high risk, think it as you are the most suspicious person sending email on the internet and then send emails. Follow email warm up to prevent any kind of spam listing or blacklisting.
Be relevant to the user. Carefully select the people who will be receiving the emails. Do a lot of research on people who will like to receive the content you are sending through emails. Most of the emails are products or promotional emails. Narrow down your email list based on various factors such as Age group, Region, Interests, availability, and much more. Be thorough with the audience you want to target and then act on it. The emails shouldn't be force-feeding people what they don't want. Instead, they should be information people would like to know with their accordance.
Just place yourself in the customer's shoes and see if you would want to receive such emails?
Just be confident that what you send to the person will matter for them to read it.
Opt for a dedicated IP and avoid shared IP if you can. It will help to keep you out of danger most of the time. And other people's mistakes would not come to harm your reputation. If your email volumes are lesser than 10k a day, then it is suggested to be with the shared IP address. But, make sure the email service provider is following all guidelines to maintain the reputation of the shared IP address pool.
Email content still plays a vital role in improving or deteriorating your email reputation. Here are some of the points you can refer, to make your email look upfront and non-spammy. Avoid email content such as
Here is the summary of the recommended email practices form the can spam act:
Here are some of the listed tools for the domain reputation check of your email domain
Ipvoid: It checks for domain reputation and also matches your domain IP against specific Blacklisting engines
SenderScore: Provides a rating between 1-100 on your domain ranking according to certain ISPs and in detail. Then again if you want to get a full detailed report you have to create an account
MXToolBox: This shows any kind of problem with your domain name according to Blacklists, Mailserver, Web Server, and DNS. You can see in detailed info if you want to fix any issues regarding the domain listing.
BarracudaCentral: This one is one of the most straightforward reports of whether you are blacklisted or not and will show your domain category too.
TrustedSource.org: This service is owned and provided by Mcafee, and it does a lookup against several Mcafee databases and will give your reputation according to the risk levels.
TalosIntelligence: A service provided by Cisco, This service ranks domain reputation under a legacy in three categories Good, Neutral and Poor, and according to reputation as Favorable and Unfavorable. Other than that it provides many other details such as domain type and server information.
It is a tool provided by Google to check your domain reputation according to google filters. It will decide the categorization depending on the number of email delivery done to the google servers inboxes. And you should consider this since Google is the largest provider of email services in the world.
The google postmaster gives a detailed look related to the domain and IP score. It has several different categories, such as:
All you need to do is signup to the google postmaster service and check your domain. You will need a proper domain account since you have to verify yourself using SPF and DKIM credentials.
To conclude this tutorial I just want to emphasize you being habitual with the mentioned points in this article. The maintenance and improvement of the domain reputation is a long process and can take a while to understand and get a grip on it. But if you stay on top of it and don't let any loose pass by you will definitely have better email deliverability in the future. In case if you have some different observations or have any queries, please feel free to share below in comments or write to dx(at)pepipost(dot)com.