How to Improve Email Reputation and Boost Deliverability in 2024

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Reputation matters more than you’d think in the marketing world. It doesn’t just have an impact on your search engine rankings and visibility; it can also influence your email marketing campaigns. If you don’t have the best email reputation, the ROI of your email strategy will drop significantly. 

That’s because a bad email reputation has a direct impact on your “deliverability rates,” or how frequently emails actually reach your customer’s inbox rather than being snatched by spam filters. 

While reputation has always had an impact on the success of email marketing strategies, it’s particularly important in 2024. Major email service providers like Google and Yahoo are updating their policy guidelines, with a focus on reducing spam, and improving inbox experiences.

That means now could be the perfect time to upgrade your email reputation.

What is Email Reputation? 

Sending or receiving email concept illustration

Email reputation, otherwise known as email sender reputation, is a score given by mailbox providers to each individual or company sending emails to others. It’s how ESPs (Email Service Providers) help to distinguish between spammy and legitimate senders to improve user experience.

The exact methods ESPs use to determine email reputation vary from one vendor to the next, but in most cases, your reputation will depend on a combination of two things: your IP reputation and your domain reputation. 

Each ESP offers users a set of IP (Internet Protocol) addresses they use to send emails. Most are shared between thousands of accounts, but as a business owner, you can also purchase a dedicated IP. Each address has a reputation that tells mail servers whether emails from that source are usually trustworthy. If an IP reputation is poor, this usually means your email will bounce or be sent straight to a spam inbox to protect a user. 

Your domain reputation also has an impact on your email reputation because your “sending domain” influences your overall credibility. Domain reputation builds up over time and is affected by numerous factors, such as your domain’s web classification and any spam reports linked to it.

Which Factors Affect Email Reputation?

LCD macro photo spam e-mail message concept shot

As mentioned above, the factors that affect email reputation can vary, but some of the key factors monitored by most email service providers include:

  • Spam complaints and spam traps: Spam complaints are based on the number of people who mark or report your email as spam in their inbox. Spam traps are seemingly legitimate accounts that are actually set up by ISPs to track email spammers.  
  • Bounce rates: The number of emails failed to be delivered. Bounces can be soft or hard. A soft bounce happens due to temporary email delivery problems, whereas a hard bounce happens when an address doesn’t exist. 
  • Engagement: Higher “read rates,” as well as click-through, open, response, and forwarding rates, all show a high level of engagement that improves your email reputation. A form of engagement can even include marking your email as “not spam.” 
  • Sending history: This covers everything from sending volumes to frequency. Generally, you’re more likely to have a good email reputation if you send emails regularly, but don’t immediately bombard users with messages as soon as you get your domain name.
  • Email deletions and unsubscribes: Email deletions can have a slight impact on your email reputation if customers are deleting messages without reading them. However, high unsubscribe rates have a much more significant impact. 

Why is Email Reputation Important?

A man uses computer email box

Ultimately, email reputation is important because it affects the “deliverability” of your email campaigns. If your messages never reach your customers, you can’t expect to get any genuine results from your campaigns. The importance of email reputation is also growing, now that Gmail, Yahoo, and other ESPs are taking additional messages to fight back against spam. 

Failure to build and maintain a good sender reputation means you risk:

  • Email deliverability issues: 77% of most email deliverability issues are a result of a bad email reputation. If you have a poor reputation, ESPs will be more likely to divert your emails before they reach your recipient’s inbox. Either your messages will end up in the spam folder (which only 58% of users check) or never arrive at all. 
  • Reduced conversion rates: When emails end up in a spam folder, they’re less likely to be opened, meaning your customers never see your messages or offers. It’s even less likely a customer will click on a link in one of your emails if they arrive in the spam folder, particularly as phishing threats continue to rise.
  • Higher unsubscribes: While customers unsubscribing from your email list isn’t always a bad thing, it does have an impact on your ability to nurture leads. A higher rate of unsubscribes can reduce your website traffic and sales opportunities, leading to lost revenue.
  • Damage to brand reputation: A poor email domain reputation can negatively impact your brand. Not only will subscribers perceive your organization as less trustworthy, but they may share their opinions with others, encouraging them to ignore your brand, too. 

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How to Check Your Email Sender Reputation

Before you can start repairing your email reputation, you need to evaluate it. You might discover there’s nothing wrong with your sender reputation at all, which could mean that your marketing campaigns are suffering because of other issues. Here are the best ways to evaluate your score.

Use Email Deliverability Tools

It’s often difficult to track your domain score independently because the algorithms used to determine these rankings are kept secret. However, there are tools that can give you a basic idea of your reputation by analyzing various forms of data. Common options include:

  • SenderScore: You can check your domain rating here without an account or sign up to get a detailed report on email reputation metrics. 
  • Talos Intelligence: This Cisco service allows you to track for free whether your ranking is good, neutral, or poor. 
  • Google Postmaster ToolsSpecifically used for Google domains, this tool gives you a detailed look at your IP reputation, delivery errors, and spam rates.

Explore Other Reputation Tracking Tools

Outside of using email deliverability checkers, there are a few other solutions that can give you an insight into your sender reputation, such as:

  • ISP feedback loops: Feedback loops provided by email providers like Microsoft, Yahoo, and Gmail send notifications to your domain when senders mark your emails as spam.
  • Anti-spam blacklists: Some companies maintain email blacklists online, such as SURBL and Spamhaus. If you’re listed on one of these websites, your email reputation may be poor.
  • Email metrics: Reviewing email marketing metrics like open rates, click-through rates, unsubscribe, and bounce rates can help you track changes to your sender reputation.

How to Improve Your Email Reputation in 2024

Isolated email button and a green cursor ready to press the button

If you discover your email reputation isn’t as great as you’d hoped, don’t panic. There are things you can do to improve your reputation and boost the ROI of your email marketing campaigns. These are the steps I’d recommend to anyone looking to improve their sender reputation in 2024.

Authenticate Your Domain

In 2024, email authentication is a requirement for successful email marketing, thanks to Google and Yahoo’s new guidelines. Proper authentication protocols ensure servers can determine that you are exactly who you say you are. You’ll need the following set up in 2024:

  • SPF: Sender Policy Framework is the email authentication method that verifies incoming email is sent by an authorized, legitimate sender (not a relay server).
  • DKIM: DomainKeys Identified Mails ensures no alterations have been made to the message during transmission. Public key encryption links a digital signature with the domain name DNS, and the recipient system verifies the mail using a public key.
  • DMARC: Domain-based message authentication, reporting, and conforming help to ensure the email isn’t a spam or phishing attack, using both DKIM and SPF techniques.

You’ll also need to ensure you maintain valid and reverse DNS records or PTR records to help contribute to the traceability and legitimacy of your sending domains and IPs. 

Grow Lists Organically (Don’t Buy Subscribers)

Many of the factors that harm your email reputation, such as bounce rates, spam traps, and spam complaints are a result of sending messages to people who don’t want to receive them. Although it might be tempting to “buy” email contact details so you can reach a wider number of potential leads, this is a dangerous practice. 

You’ll get much better results if you use double opt-in methods to ensure each person on your email list actually wants to connect with you. Allow customers to opt out of your email list whenever they like, with a clear “unsubscribe” list, and make sure that you’re giving customers genuine value. Ultimately, you can’t force people to read content they don’t care about.

Clean Your List Regularly

Just as you shouldn’t add people to your list who don’t want to be there, you shouldn’t force people who lose interest in your emails to stick around. Cleaning your email list regularly and removing inactive or disengaged contacts will help to reduce your risk of being marked as spam.

It also gives you an opportunity to remove any emails that may not be in use anymore, which reduces your risk of “hard bounces.” Make the time to regularly double-check that all of the emails in your list are accurate, active, and held by people who are engaged with your content. 

If you don’t want to remove someone from your email list immediately, add them to a separate list, where you can send occasional “re-engagement” emails rather than constantly sending them the same messages as everyone else. 

Increase Email Marketing Volumes Gradually

Sneding regular email drip campaigns to your customers is a great way to nurture leads and increase sales, but it’s important to be cautious about how frequently you send messages to your customers, particularly if you’re just getting started with a new IP or domain address. 

If you’re launching a new email address, follow “domain warmup” practices by sending a small number of emails to your most engaged and active users. Over time, you can begin to increase the number of emails you send as your email reputation evolves. 

Once you find a frequency and cadence that works well for you, make sure you stick to that schedule. Use analytics and reports to find the best time and day to send your emails (when customers are most likely to read and open them) so your messages don’t stagnate in the inbox.

Experiment with Boosting Email Engagement

As I mentioned above, engagement metrics, such as click-through, open, and response rates, matter a lot to your email reputation. If an email provider shows that your customers are regularly interacting with your emails, they’re more likely to consider your domain trustworthy. 

To boost your chances of higher engagement:

  • Experiment with different subject lines: Use a wide range of intriguing subject lines in your emails to see what convinces customers to click and interact with your messages. Just make sure you stay away from spammy terms like “Free.” 
  • Get the CTAs right: Encourage customers to click on the links in your emails with high-power CTAs positioned at the right point in your email. This will improve your email marketing ROI and traffic to your website. 
  • Segment your email subscribers: Arrange your customers into segments based on their interests, locations, characteristics, and other factors. This will help you to create more relevant and personalized emails. 

Notably, make sure you avoid using spammy words in all of your email content, not just the subject lines. Certain words and phrases, as well as capitalized phrases, can sometimes capture the attention of spam filters and reduce your email reputation.   

Improve the Quality of your Emails

This almost goes without saying, but the more exciting, interesting, and valuable your emails are, the more likely customers are to interact with them and mark them as “not spam.” Make sure you’re following the right best practices in your email campaigns, such as:

  • Improving email design: Ensure your emails are beautifully designed, with a simple color scheme, clear typography, clean layouts, and fast-loading images. Make sure that every email you send can load just as well on a smartphone or mobile screen as it can on a desktop. 
  • Including valuable content: Make sure you’re delivering genuine value to your customers with every message. This could mean sharing news and updates, insights into your latest blog posts, or giving customers offers, discounts, and deals to take advantage of. 
  • Consider interactive content: Interactive emails are becoming increasingly popular in 2024. Consider implementing video players, embedded widgets, surveys, polls, and other features that encourage customers to actively engage with your content.

Use your email marketing software to monitor relevant engagement metrics for insights into which of your campaigns are having the best impact on your audience. 

Use Your Tools to Your Advantage

Finally, it’s important to pay close attention to your deliverability and regularly take advantage of analytical solutions. Every time you send an email campaign, you should be monitoring how your deliverability levels change. If your deliverability rates suddenly drop, this indicates something is going wrong with your email reputation. 

Keep in mind, some email marketing software solutions also offer access to specialist solutions you can use for deeper insights, such as “spam score checkers” that examine emails before you send them, to define whether there are any spam triggers in your content. You can use tools to check links, to ensure that you’re not sending broken links to customers. 

Additionally, there are “inbox render tests” which allow you to look at how your email will appear across different browsers, devices, and clients, to ensure responsivity. 

Improve Your Email Reputation in 2024

Email Correspondence Communication Digital Concept

Your email reputation has the potential to make or break the success of your email marketing campaigns, particularly in 2024. If you don’t have the right reputation, you risk constantly dropping deliverability rates, a worse brand reputation, and a lower return on investment from your marketing strategy. Fortunately, there are ways to improve even a bad email reputation.

If you’re struggling to showcase your credibility to email service providers, or you’re launching a new email strategy and want to set yourself up for success, reach out to Growth Collective. 

Our email marketing consultants and freelancers will help you to design, implement, and grow the perfect email strategy. 


How do you check email reputation?

The best way to check your email reputation is to take advantage of online tools, such as Google’s Postmaster Tools or Sender Score. You can also monitor email blacklists on the web and track your own deliverability metrics for insights into reputation issues.

How do you maintain your email reputation?

To maintain a strong reputation, ensure you’re segmenting your customers, and sending personalized, relevant emails to every subscriber. Regularly clean your email lists, and make sure customers can easily unsubscribe. Also make sure you monitor your email metrics.

What is a good email reputation score?

The way different companies score email reputation can vary. However, usually, it’s best to aim for a sender score of 90 and above. The higher your reputation score is, the less likely you are to encounter issues with email performance. 

Rebekah Carter
Former company
About Author
Rebekah is a dedicated writer with years of experience producing exceptional content for brands around the globe. Her commitment to producing the best possible content means she’s constantly developing new skills and experience.
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