Maintain Control of Your Email Reputation and Avoid Blacklists

Most businesses are not aware that their company has a status on the Internet; let alone what it is or how to check it.  In fact, it is called a Reputation, and this is the grade that is given to either your domain name and/or the IP addresses/systems that you use to send email.

When you send email out (especially to Hotmail, AOL and Yahoo), the receiving servers monitor both the content of your emails as well as the amount of messages you send. They “grade” you according to complaints registered by their own customers (usually about the email being spam), as well as the number of hard bounces created. The more traffic that you generate, the higher the probability that negative feedback will affect your email reputation.

When an email campaign is sent out via mass mailing lists, it immediately creates a large amount of traffic to various receiving providers. If the lists are not properly maintained (i.e., if old or invalid addresses aren’t removed or updated), there is a higher risk of getting a bad score with the receiving provider.

The providers’ actions might include alerting you of a problem by email, which is generally included in the bounce message returned to the sender. Some providers will report your server to various RBLs  (Real Time Blacklists), or just simply block traffic from your server for a certain amount of time while they continue to monitor you. The worst part, is that you won’t know anything is wrong, you’ll keep on sending emails, but your emails wont ever arrive at their designation. Have you ever had a customer tell you they never received your email? Your servers could be blocked by some providers, or maybe your email just got caught up in a SPAM filter.

When your business relies on sending email, you have to maintain control of this situation.

Here are some steps to follow:

  • Always remove Hard Bounces from your lists. Follow-up with the email owner to verify why the email bounced. It might have bounced because that companies mail server was down during the time you tried sending, or maybe that person no longer works there, or maybe they got remarried and their email address has since changed, what ever the reason it’s worth following up on. You’ve worked hard for your leads, it’s easier to follow-up on an existing email address than to aquire new ones.
  • Immediately remove unsubscribes, because if you don’t, they could eventually mark your email as SPAM, which can hurt your reputation online as a marketer.
  • If you purchase email lists, get them cleaned up before you send.  Submit the list to a list verification service to remove any bad email addresses.
  • Consider using an online Email Service Provider, such as Constant Contact, Mail Chimp to create your email campaigns, manage your unsubscribes/bounces, and send your campaigns.
  • Monitor your mail server logs to make sure that you haven’t been hacked and someone else is sending from your mail server.
  • Try to communicate directly with the receiving providers and sign up for their feedback loops as a sign of cooperation.
  • At regular intervals, check out sites like EmailSecurityGrader, and even for a more generalized picture of your reputation. These sites will show you whether your server is blacklisted and if your mail and/or DNS servers are properly configured. They will also give you pointers on securing and adjusting your mail server/DNS settings.

Ultimately, your reputation is based on what leaves and enters your server, so it’s up to you to maintain control: set your rules, abide by your rules, and make sure your employees abide by your rules so that you won’t have to worry about your reputation. It’s much easier to lose a reputation than to try to get it back, so it’s better to be proactive instead of reactive.