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What is more important for deliverability: Reputation or content?

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Answer: This is a good question; unfortunately the answer isn’t straightforward. In fact, it really depends. If you have a poor reputation, it won’t matter what your content looks like because it probably won’t get to your customer’s inbox. On the other hand, if you have a good reputation but your content is getting caught by anti-spam software, your customer still won’t get your messages.

To answer the question, it helps to start at the beginning. If you were to set up a brand new mailing system with new IP addresses, you would definitely want to focus on reputation. Many receivers do not trust new IP addresses and will view you as guilty until proven innocent. That being said, you need to build a positive reputation with the receivers, and you do that by starting slowly. When building a new reputation, make sure to send to smaller segments of your list on the new system and test to make sure those e-mails are getting through. Be sure to start with your best and most active customers. As you continue to see positive delivery rates, you can increase the percentage of your list that receives the e-mails until you get to full production. By doing this in an iterative manner, you allow the receivers to look, assess and put a (hopefully) positive reputation on your new system.

Once your positive reputation is secured, you need to make sure your content isn’t causing problems. There are many ways to do this, but the most important one is to test. Use one of the many tools available to test your messages against the most common anti-spam software. By doing this, you will be able to tell if your content might cause a delivery issue. Remember to follow standard best practices such as having a good HTML-to-text ratio, personalizing the content in the message, and steering clear of commonly used spam words.

Spencer Kollas is director of delivery services at StrongMail Systems (www.strongmail.com), a provider of on-premise solutions for marketing and transactional e-mail.

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