According to Pivotal Veracity’s chief executive Deirdre Baird “The misconception around reputation is that for some reason people think they can buy it, or that paying someone will change it,” she said. “And that’s not the case.”
Reputation boils down to three primary metrics, she added. “This doesn’t mean other metrics are not in play, but there are three primary metrics most large ISPs use in establishing what your reputation is.”
They are the following:
- Spam complaint rate: the percentage of people complaining that that a marketer’s email is spam.
- Unknown user rate: The percentage of the mail going to email addresses that no longer exist.
- Hitting spam traps: ISPs often turn unused addresses into spam traps. Hit these, and there is going to be trouble.
“A spam trap is an email address that theoretically has not signed up for any email,” said Baird. “It’s posted on the Web somewhere. It’s out there on chat boards. If you email to it, it means you [or someone you’re doing business with] harvested that email address. It indicates, to be polite, lackluster customer acquisition policies.”
ISPs generally rely on what’s called IP-based reputation, or the reputation of the sender’s Internet Protocol address. Unfortunately, senders sometimes share IPs with other senders and can get their reputations tarnished by others’ actions.
Moreover, if a mailers IP is in the same “range” as a spammer’s, they can find their email failing to get delivered because the ISP has blocked the whole range.
“Today, it’s not just about shared IPs, you have to worry about who’s living in your neighborhood,” said Baird. As a result, she said: “When you go to an ESP [email service provider] you have to ask who else they mail for and more importantly, what are the policies upon which they accept clients. It’s important that you understand what types of new clients they’re willing to take, how they vet those potential clients and what policies they have in place to fire bad clients.”
She added: “Bad clients can effect their ability to mail for all of the rest of their clients.”
But as murky as some of this sounds, much of marketers’ reputations are in their control and can be measured, she added.
For example, most of the major ISPs --AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft, for example-- offer so-called feedback loops, or reports that tell the marketer when recipients hit the “this is spam” button.
At most, spam complaints should be 1%, said Baird. “Your spam complaints should never
exceed 1%. Most people say strive for 0.25%. When you start exceeding
1% at an ISP, you are in severe jeopardy of them blocking all your
mail. Think about that: 1% of all your customers complain, you’re not
going to communicate with the other 99%. So does it make any sense that
marketers don’t measure this?”
Also, a marketer’s unknown user rate is easy to gauge by the number of messages that come back because the address is bad.
Spam traps are impossible to track. However, retiring old, inactive addresses and implementing a confirmed opt-in permission process—where the mailer sends a confirmation email to new registrants—will help the mailer avoid them. “You can’t measure them but you can ensure you avoid them,” said Baird.