February 11, 2009
How To

Check Your Email Reputation to Improve Deliverability with Easy, No-Cost Tools

SUMMARY: Boosting your email reputation – one of the most important factors in making sure your messages make it to inboxes – is often overlooked when trying to improve deliverability. A first step is to see how you score.

Here are three no-cost online scoring services to help you check up on your email reputation. And running a check is relatively easy to do.
Boosting the reputation of your email can improve deliverability. But reputation is not the first place marketers usually look to make sure messages reach inboxes. In fact, less than one out of four marketers (23%) surveyed for MarketingSherpa’s 2009 Email Marketing Benchmark Guide reported using third-party accreditation and reputation services to improve deliverability.

A sender's email reputation is one of the most important ways ISPs and spam filters assess your messages to decide whether to block them or let them through. The good news is that it’s relatively easy to check up on your email reputation.

Your email service provider likely provides a reputation-monitoring service. Or, you may use a paid, third-party reputation monitoring service. If you don’t use either of those services, however, there are free online tools that can give you a snapshot of your reputation score – and point out problem areas you can address to improve your standing.

Checking additional scoring sites is a good practice as well. Every service measures reputation in a different way. Monitoring a range of sources could help you spot problems that your service might miss.

Here are three no-cost reputation-scoring services you might try. We describe the significant components of their reputation report, along with their scoring methodology.

Common components of a reputation score

Each reputation scoring service uses its own data sources, criteria and algorithms to determine reputation. But there are several common factors that appear within these different scoring methodologies. Here are some of the most important:

o Message volume

Message volume, by itself, isn’t a major influence on reputation. But reputation scoring services judge the number of spam reports or deliverability problems associated with your domain based on message volume. Sudden spikes in message volume may cause your message to be interpreted as a spam blast and hurt your reputation.

o Delivery rates

Message acceptance and bounce rates from your domain are compared to delivery statistics for other senders. Lower acceptance rates can lower your reputation.

o Blacklist status

Your emails can be filtered or blocked if your domain is included on third-party lists of suspected spammers. Naturally, appearing on several blacklists can hurt your reputation.

o Spam

Monitoring services measure incidences of spam associated with your domain in several ways, such as consumer spam reports and spam-trap hits. Your reported or observed spam totals typically are assessed in relation to your overall message volume.

Three free online reputation monitoring services

1. IronPort Sender base

Data source: 100,000 organizations representing 25% of global email traffic

Key report contents:
- WHOIS information (who owns domain name)
- Email magnitude, on a scale of 1-10, with 10 representing 100% of the world’s email volume
- Daily and monthly volume statistics, with volume change vs. previous month
- Date of first message sent from domain – new domain sending at high volume is considered more likely to be sending spam.
- IP addresses used to send mail
- Forward and reverse DNS match – a non-matching forward and reverse DNS can get your email labeled as spam.
- Blacklist status

Scoring system:
- Good = “Little or no threat activity has been observed from your IP address or domain. Your email or Web traffic is not likely to be filtered or blocked.”
- Neutral = “Your IP address or domain is within acceptable parameters. However, your email or Web traffic may still be filtered or blocked.”
- Poor = “A problematic level of threat activity has been observed from your IP address or domain. Your email or Web traffic is likely to be filtered or blocked.”

2. Return Path’s SenderScore

Data source: 60 million email addresses within a network of ISPs, spam filtering and security companies.

Key Report Contents:
- Monthly email volume
- Deliverability, reported as a percentage of email messages being accepted within the SenderScore network
- Blacklist status
- IP addresses used to send mail, and authentication services used
- Proprietary reputation measures, with individual scores:
o Complaints
o Volume
o External reputation (how your domain’s status on whitelists and blacklists compares to other domains)
o Unknown users (hard bounces)
o Spam trap hits
o Last spam trap date

Scoring System:
- Numerical score on 0-100 range, with 100 being the best. All scores are measured against other IP addresses and calculated on a rolling 30-day average.

3. SendMail’s IP Reputation

Data Source: Network representing 95% of all Web traffic.

Key report contents:
- WHOIS information
- IP Reputation Class: a compiled assessment of all measured classifications
- Average daily message volume from last 30 days on a 0-10 scale
- Weighted risk level based on a range of variables, measured on a 0-10 scale
- Spam ratio, measured by observed spam divided by total message volume over the last 30 days
- Valid bulk ratio, measured by the total valid bulk volume divided by total message volume over the last 30 days

Scoring System:
- Risk level represented visually on colored, sliding scale from red (high risk) through yellow (medium risk) to green (low risk)

Useful links related to this article:

How to Fix Your Email Deliverability - 4 Easy Strategies to Lift Deliverability 20.4% & Sales 143%

How to Improve Email Deliverability: 3 Steps Tested by Real-Life Mailer

Deliverability Cheat Sheet - 27 Action Points to Fix Your Email Reputation Now

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