Strengthen Your Sender Reputation

Overview

If you believe you're experiencing deliverability problems and have already updated your DNS records, the next step is to determine whether these problems are stemming from sender reputation issues within your control.

If you're a brand new sender, these practices are important because they allow you to establish a good reputation upfront. This, in turn, will allow you to gradually send to a broader audience while maintaining a high reputation and open rates.

On the other hand, if you've damaged your sending reputation, these best practices will help you get back on track and rebuild engagement.

Trade Your Master List for an Engaged Segment

Most major email clients (like Gmail and Yahoo) track how recipients interact with emails from your domain. Specifically, they look at:

  • How many emails get marked as spam
  • How many are opened
  • How many bounce

They then use this information to determine where your emails will be placed, whether it’s in the recipient’s primary inbox or in the spam folder. This means that if several people mark one email campaign as spam, the odds of your next campaign landing in the spam folder for all your recipients is higher.

We know that Gmail, in particular, looks closely at how recipients are engaging with your emails. If you send regularly to lists or segments where a percentage of recipients haven't opened an email in 3-6 months, Gmail will start to place your emails in spam for all recipients.

Using the segment builder, it's easy to isolate engaged and non-engaged profiles.

  1. Isolate all inactive profiles in your master list. A good definition to use here is those that have been receiving emails for 6+ months but haven't opened an email in at least 4 months.
  2. Next, create a very engaged segment of your master list. This segment should include subscribers who have clicked or opened at least one email in the last month.
  3. Send exclusively to your very engaged segment for  2-4 weeks; during these 2-4 weeks, it’s essential that you exclude anyone who has been on your list for 4 months but hasn’t opened an email in 4 months.

This will help you build up your sender reputation with Gmail and other email clients. Once you've sent to a very engaged segment for 2-4 weeks, check to see if your open rates have increased.

If so, you can add to this engaged segment by adjusting the segment's definition -- for example, expanding to include subscribers who have clicked or opened at least one email in the last 2 months.

After another few weeks, you can expand this definition to those who have engaged at least once in the last 3 months. That's where we recommend you stop, since sending to those who haven't engaged for 4+ months is known to catch the eye of email clients that use email engagement as a determination for inbox placement (i.e. Gmail).

After creating your inactive segment, it may be temping to try and get these unengaged users back with a winback campaign right away. However, we recommend waiting until you've sent to your highly engaged list for at least 3 weeks. If you try to send a campaign to these inactive profiles before making an effort to improve your sender reputation, it's likely this campaign will end up in spam for most recipients.

If you attempt to re-engage inactive subscribers and are unsuccessful, we recommend suppressing them or otherwise ensuring they remain isolated from your main sending list moving forward.

Strengthen Sender Reputation for a Specific Domain

If you notice that your open rates are only suffering for a specific email domain, you can take steps to improve your sender reputation for this domain. In this example, we'll use Gmail. 

To expedite the process of improving your sender reputation with Gmail, you will need to do the following for your next 3-5 campaigns:

  • Remove all Gmail addresses from your regular sending lists 
  • Create a segment of Gmail addresses that have recently engaged with your campaigns and separately send to this segment alongside your regular sending list

How to Exclude all Gmail Email Addresses from a Sending List

If you have a standard list that you are planning to target with a campaign, you will want to create a sub-segment of this list that excludes Gmail addresses using the segment builder. To do this, create a segment with two conditions:

If someone is in or not in a list > Person is in [insert list name]
AND
Properties about someone > Email doesn’t contain gmail.com
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If you have a dynamic segment that you're planning to target with a campaign, you'll want to add a new condition to this existing segment -- using AND -- in order to exclude all Gmail addresses. To do this, add the following condition:

AND Properties about someone > Email doesn’t contain gmail.com

How to Build an Engaged Segment of Gmail Subscribers

Now that you have excluded all Gmail addresses from your regular sends, you will want to separately send to engaged Gmail addresses. In order to do this, you must first isolate all Gmail addresses on your regular send list that are highly engaged.

You will want to use an aggressive definition of engaged here. Depending on how often you send, this can be "has Opened Email at least once in the last 2 weeks" or "has Opened Email at least once in the last 7 days."

If you typically send to a static list, you will want to create a segment of this list using the segment builder that includes only engaged Gmail addresses. To do this, create a segment with three conditions:

If someone is in or not in a list > Person is in [insert list name]
AND
Properties about someone > Email contains gmail.com
AND
What someone has done (or not done) > has Opened Email at least once in the last 7 days

If you typically send to a dynamic segment, you will want to add two new conditions to this segment -- using AND -- in order to include only engaged Gmail addresses. To do this, add the following conditions:

Properties about someone > Email contains gmail.com
AND
What someone has done (or not done) > has Opened Email at least once in the last 7 days
 
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