Report: Email Marketers Getting Serious About Improving Their Reputations

A new report from email deliverability firm Return Path shows that senders are getting better at protecting their reputations—but there’s still plenty to do to keep those reputations strong.

Want to ensure your marketing messages aren’t growing less effective over time? Take a good, long look at your sender score—and the things that could be dragging it down.

That’s a key point laid out by Return Path, whose 2019 Sender Score Benchmark Report [registration] finds that there’s been a lot of improvement in email deliverability in recent years—with 54 percent of senders having a score above 80 out of 100—but there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

The report is based on an analysis of more than 4 trillion emails sent during 2018 from IP addresses with calculated sender scores.

While this report highlights a need for progress, it does paint a great story for those who manage email clients: In 2012, more than 60 percent of messages had sender scores of 10 or less, a number that is down to just 16 percent in 2019. So even if you’re not a marketer, take solace in the fact that we seem to be winning the war on spam.

“While the drop in spam over the last eight years can mostly be attributed to the takedown of botnets, email marketers are also more aware of reputational risks and have more tools and solutions at their disposal to monitor and solve reputation issues,” the report said.

And what’s a key factor in lowering sender reputation scores? Two words: spam complaints. The report notes that senders with a score above 90 have complaint rates of less than 1 percent, but that rate sharply rises for the other tiers, ranging from 4.6 percent to 6.3 percent. And complaint rates are rising, too—which is bad news if you’re trying to keep your messages in the inbox.

“A high complaint rate signals to mailbox providers that users perceive the message as spam or abuse, and helps the mailbox provider to automatically detect similar spam or abuse messages in the future,” the report explained.

Other issues at play include a high number of “unknown users” on your list, which might tell an email server that your address practices poor list hygiene; and triggering a “spam trap,” a decoy address used to expose spammers who are emailing resold addresses or addresses that have not been publicly disclosed. In each case, accounts with the highest send scores were less likely to be affected by issues with spam traps or unknown addresses.

Marketers have strong reasons to ensure that their accounts are in tiptop shape: Delivery rates fall sharply for senders with a sender score of 90 and below, with 91 percent of messages successfully getting delivered for those at the highest tier. Just 71 percent of messages get delivered for accounts with a sender score between 81 and 90, and less than 50 percent of messages are received in cases of senders with delivery scores below these levels.

In a news release, Return Path Senior Director of Research Tom Sather noted that part of the driving factor behind the requirement for high sender scores is a need by mail providers to show that they’re tough on spam issues.

“Mailbox providers face competition just like any other business, so they are constantly improving their filtering algorithms to create a better inbox experience for their users,” he said. “Sender reputation offers unique insight into the source of each email, making it a key factor in those filtering decisions.”

(alexsl/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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