Reputation, not content, affects whether consumers receive your e-mails

When it comes to e-mail deliverability, delivery hinges on having a good reputation. Most marketers don’t have a clue where to start when it comes to determining delivery issues, much less in figuring out what Internet service providers think of them.

Consider this: 97 percent of IP addresses have reputation Sender Scores so bad that they will likely get blocked by e-mail receivers û and fewer than 1 percent are good enough to get delivered (Return Path Sender Score Reputation Monitor, 2006).

Knowing where your e-mail program fits in that spectrum is critical to your programs success. The higher your score, the higher the likelihood you’ll make it to the inbox.

Reputation in the eyes of receivers is based on several factors, including complaint rates, volume of e-mail sent, unsubscribe functionality, unknown user rates and e-mail infrastructure.

The good news is that you control most û if not all û the factors that ISPs consider when forming opinions of you.

Here is a quick checklist of the actions you can take today to improve your e-mail reputation and subsequent delivery rates:

Clean your list. Remove unknown users from your file. Set up a bounce handling process to remove them from your file. Remove non-responders after a set period of time. Run e-mail list hygiene and ECOA to update incorrect or expired addresses.A little list maintenance goes a long way to minimizing the spam appearance with ISPs û an increasing delivery of your entire campaign.

Be relevant. If your customers want your e-mail, they are much less likely to hit the “This is spam” button to get rid of you. Content relevancy is the only way that content does affect delivery rates in that it keeps your customers happy and responding. Look through your “Reply to” e-mail, customer service inquiries and ISP feedback loop data to find out what customers think of you and what factors could be hurting your program.

Get authenticated. Make sure that your e-mail program is using the e-mail authentication protocol that makes sense for you, whether it is SPF, Domain Keys or Sender ID. Read our authentication primer, for full instructions: ves/2006/03/implementing_em.php

Honor unsubscribes. Make sure that you honor every unsubscribe request immediately. If you mail to them or harvest them for other purposes, your reputation is mud with the e-mail receiver community. The first step is to know what your email reputation is so that you can improve it. Return Path can tell you your Sender Score or you can gather other reputation data from companies like Habeas. Any data you can get should be used to improve your inbox reach. The time spent finding your reputation will be much more valuable than changing minor words in your latest e-mail to trump spam filters.

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