5 Critical Errors that Can Kill Your Email Domain Reputation

Email icon on mobile

Due to rising email volume and questionable tactics from too many email marketers, landing your emails in the inboxes of your recipients has become an ordeal. You need a good domain reputation to make sure your emails aren’t relegated to spam.

Domain reputation is the overall health of your domain, calculated by recipient Internet service providers (ISPs). It is similar to a credit score for your email sending domain. Like your credit score, it’s hard to dig your way out of a hole once you land there. The ISP’s have gotten good at determining if recipients want and engage with the email from a given sending domain, and this informs their filtering decisions.

Domains with poor recipient behavior, such as low open rates or too many complaints, will struggle. Let’s examine five factors that affect your mailing success:

1. Content Filtering

Since the early days of email, spammers have scammed people by writing fraudulent messages, often composed of fake offers or threats. As a result, early spam filtering emphasized screening email by the content of the email itself, looking for “spam words”. A legitimate sender who inadvertently used the wrong word might find a wanted piece of email hitting the spam folder across the board.

The use of domain reputation has overridden this practice in most cases, thankfully. Still, the presence of spam words in an email, even if it is a legitimate one, can throw your email into the spam folder. These days, it is more of an indicator of your domain health. A marginal domain is much more likely to have an email filtered due to content. A strong domain can send the same message and hit the inbox.

The common approach in the old days was to avoid words like “free”, “congratulations”, and “guaranteed”, because they often showed up in spam. Today words from certain categories can be scrutinized more closely by the ISPs. An example is the financial category — the ISPs are tough on this category in their efforts to protect their users from phishing attempts.

2.Employing Mass Emailing

Mail emailing was a popular marketing strategy, used to send the same advertising spam to a large subscriber list. Although successful at first, it became progressively more difficult as the ISP filtering evolved. This cuts the profit from the tactic and the bad guys had to find other approaches.

3.Falling Into a Spam Trap

Internet service providers (ISPs) or blacklist providers create email addresses used for catching spammers in the act. It appears exactly like a real email address, but it is not owned by a real person and is only used to detect users who send spam emails.

Spam traps can pose a serious risk to your email marketing ambitions and ignoring them can put you in a bind. Your domain reputation will be affected, which in turn inflicts damage to email deliverability and bounce rates. More worryingly, you will be blacklisted by your ISP i.e. your emails will be intercepted and discarded before they reach your intended recipients. Once you get into a blacklist, it takes a significant amount of time and effort to fix your domain reputation. There are three types of spam traps:

  • Pure spam traps — Created by anti-spam services and ISPs to detect spam.
  • Recycled spam traps — Old, discarded email addresses that are turned into a spam trap.
  • Invalid and fake email addresses — When a subscriber misspells their email address, which can happen to be a spam trap.

If you have spam traps on your list, this indicates an issue with your email address acquisition or hygiene practices. Possible issues:

  • Users don’t understand what they are signing up for.
  • Bad sources of traffic.
  • No confirmation of the user intent.
  • No list hygiene; you are keeping inactives around for too long.

Solutions include confirming them via double opt-in at the time of sign-up, using an outside hygiene vendor, and removing unengaged users after a period of inactivity.

4.Not Implementing DMARC

Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC) is a type of protocol that relies on Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) and Sender Policy Framework (SPF) to assess the credibility of an email. It is easy for ISPs to counter malicious email tactics, especially domain spoofing, used for exploiting recipients with phishing with DMARC.

DMARC allows email senders to configure email handing — the ones that are were not authenticated with DKIM or SPF. Next, the sender can either block those emails or send them to the junk folder. In this way, the ISPs identify spammers and intercept malicious emails from getting into a consumer’s inbox.

5.Getting Spam Complaints

When you follow shady email marketing practices, it can put off potential customers. They retaliate by hitting the “Mark as spam” button. As a consequence, ESPs receive this complaint and record the instance. When ESPs receive too many complaints about the same sender, they ‘clean’ their system by banning the sender. This is also why you should steer clear of purchased lists because they are likely to file more complaints against you. After all, you didn’t earn their contact through organic means.

Getting your mail in the inbox is a full-time endeavor. If you are facing challenges with your newsletter list or communicating with site traffic after they leave your site, please contact us! Our co-brand newsletter program might be the solution you are looking for! We’ll run your newsletter for you and share the revenue as well!

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store