How’s Your Email Reputation?


You remember that kid in High School who had the questionable reputation.  It didn’t matter what they said, how they dressed or the way they acted, once the bad reputation was there, it stuck.  It may have been a fair assessment of their behavior and it very well may have been completely false, but the fact that the reputation label was placed on them, right or wrong, it was theirs.

It’s really not all that different when we talk about email marketing.

I frequently talk to business owners who think their email marketing efforts are a failure.  They talk about low open rates and people unsubscribing.  They’ve purchased email lists specifically to market to and as expensive as those are, they have produced virtually nothing in sales.  “Email marketing just doesn’t work,” they say.

This despite the fact that an Epsilon Q1 2009 U.S. Email Trends and Benchmarks study shows that there was an increase in open rates for the 3rd quarter in a row, including a click rate increase of 4%.  According to Epsilon, “Email marketing continues to be an effective marketing vehicle.”

Fair or not, I believe these business owners are suffering from a bad reputation. According to Tim Roman of Fathom SEO, there are big changes coming that will shake up the email marketing industry.  And you need to understand that how you conduct yourself online can have a lasting impact on your reputation.

It’s really not accurate to pin a lack of sales from an email campaign specifically to a bad online reputation.  It requires a good deal more analysis to understand why email campaigns are not working, including the actual landing page experience, but for purposes of this post, I wanted to look at those actions that affect your reputation, and this is what the ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) will be evaluating when they decide whether they should even deliver your email or not.  Those same ISP’s are just as unforgiving as the High School students I mentioned earlier – once you’re labeled as bad, that’s pretty much it.

Many major ISP’s have adopted authentication schemes such as SPF to evaluate the deliverability of email.  IP address reputation is a major factor here.  Once these standards are universally used by all ISP’s, an email sender’s reputation will be known by all.

So what affects your reputation?

Dave Chaffey interviewed Tim Watson, Operations Director of SmartFOCUS Digital, an email marketing firm, about issues of reputation and deliverability.  Tim said that besides the sender’s reputation, technical setup issues, content and HTML could also contribute to deliverability problems, however reputation is the most important.  In Tim’s words, “Reputation issues are inevitably the result of poor targeting, lack of relevance and emailing too frequently.”

How do you address targeting and relevance?

  • Make sure you’re not using an old list, or one you have purchased from a third party where you don’t know whether the people on the list have opted in to receive your emails
  • Clean your list by doing a second request for opt-in.  This will reduce your list size but will insure that the recipients will likely not hit the “this is spam” button.
  • Ask your recipients how often they want to hear from you.
  • Segment your list and provide dynamic content that is appropriate to each group.  This requires really studying your list, their buying trends, and determining to which products or services your message should pertain.
  • Use feedback loops for spam complaints and even though they didn’t specifically opt out, remove any complainers from your list.  Windows Live (Hotmail) and Yahoo have launched these tools.

Take great care to preserve the integrity of your email reputation and it will serve you well.  By all means, make sure you do it before someone labels you as “bad.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

All my best to your success,


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