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There is a lot of talk about ‘e-mail reputation.’ What does that mean, and do I need to care?

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Answer: It seems that every time you turn around these days people are talking about e-mail reputation, and every company in the e-mail space seems to offer a solution for it. Here’s what you really need to know:

  1. Your e-mail reputation is how e-mail recipients view your e-mail program.
  2. You most certainly need to care about it; reputation dictates if your messages reach the in-box, get junked or go missing.
  3. You can easily control your reputation, increasing your program response as it improves.

Think of your e-mail reputation as your credit score for e-mail. Your past and present behaviors factor into your credit rating, and your future behaviors can make it better or worse. The same is true with e-mail.

While there are thousands of data points factoring into reputation, we see that there are three primary levers that most influence reputation and subsequent delivery:

  1. Bounces: Too many bounces spell disaster in the eyes of ISPs. Removing bounces might be a hassle, but doing it regularly will have a dramatic effect on your e-mail delivery. ISPs use your unknown user rates and other bounce metrics when deciding whether to let your e-mail through.
  2. Blacklists: Sure, you’ve heard about them, but does anyone really care about blacklists? The answer is yes. Most e-mail receivers reference blacklists in order to filter unwanted e-mail. By finding out what blacklists you are on and doing everything possible to get removed, you will dramatically improve your e-mail deliverability.
  3. Backlash: If you think that your customers’ clicking on the “This Is Spam” button won’t affect your e-mail reputation, you are mistaken. Complaints drive 70% of e-mail deliverability issues. By determining your complaint rates and sources, you can begin minimizing your complaint rates at ISPs and increasing your delivery rates.

Use whatever service you need to help get your reputation in order and to keep tabs on it, but the onus is on you to be vigilant about keeping it pristine. If you don’t know what your reputation is with ISPs, find out. It is the one thing you can do today that will give you actionable data you can use to fix your reputation, get more e-mail delivered and increase program response.

George Bilbrey is general manager of delivery assurance for Return Path (www.returnpath.biz), an e-mail performance management company.

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