Protect your e-mail reputation

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Spam filtering continues to evolve. Content is still an important factor, but increasingly, Internet service providers are leaning on sender reputation as a key component of their filtering practices. This evolution has significant effects on your e-mail marketing and presents challenges to deliverability.

If you send e-mail, you already have a reputation with ISPs, corporate and government e-mail servers and e-mail reputation services. Your reputation score is based on such variables as complaint rates, volume, list management and unsubscribe compliance. A good reputation increases the chances your e-mail will be delivered. A poor reputation can seriously cripple your deliverability. And unlike your credit score, you don't have access to this super-secret grade.

But there are ways to optimize your reputation. One of the more important tactics is regularly managing your lists and bounces, with careful attention to the User Not Found category of e-mail bounces.

User Not Found means the ISP has returned a message telling you that there is no e-mail user at that domain. If you send another e-mail to that same address, the ISP will again return a message letting you know that the message could not be delivered.

If you continue to send e-mails to the same address over and over, the ISP will determine that you are not managing your lists and will scrutinize future e-mails more closely. Your reputation with this ISP will be degraded … and rightfully so.

There are two simple methods you can adopt to deal with this. First, suppress User Not Found bounces. If an e-mail address bounces twice in 30 days, suppress it. Stop sending to that address. Make sure that you suppress across your entire enterprise so that any e-mail list at your organization reflects the change.

In addition, review your e-mail database . Ensure new e-mail addresses are entered into your database correctly and devoid of typos. Require subscribers to enter their e-mail address twice - and then validate the two. Also regularly analyze all User Not Found addresses for common errors.

Of course, some of this relies on having a tool - e-mail server software or an e-mail service provider - with high-level bounce information to inform your actions and parse through synchronous (immediate) and asynchronous (delayed) bounce messages. Some ESPs will automate suppression of User Not Found bounces.

But if you correctly manage your bounces and lists, the ISPs will reward your efforts by letting your e-mails into their gated communities. Your impeccable reputation will precede you.

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