10 Ways to Improve Email Reputation

Learn how to improve your email reputation with these 10 actionable strategies from Unfiltered.
When it comes to battling the black hole of the spam folder, a high email reputation shines like the North Star, directing your messages into recipients’ inboxes.

In a cyber jungle filled with countless promotional emails, keeping your sending reputation spotless is crucial.

Understand the multifaceted nature of email sender reputation and its determinants to develop your email campaigns to safeguard your email reputation.

Here's how to take control and improve your email reputation with ten actionable strategies.

What is Email Sender Reputation?

Email sender reputation is the scoring system that measures the trustworthiness of every email you send.

Imagine it as a 'credit score' within the world of email deliverability—all major Email Service Providers (ESPs) use this metric to decide where your email ends up: inbox or spam.

The better your reputation score, the more ESPs trust you, which means your emails have a higher chance of landing in your customers' inboxes.

What Determines Email Sender Reputation?

Email reputation is like a puzzle, with each piece representing various elements that contribute to the big picture.

The cornerstones of these factors are:

  • Engagement rates: How often recipients open and interact with your emails
  • Complaints: The number of recipients marking your emails as spam
  • Bounce rates: The proportion of emails that fail to reach the destination inbox
  • Blacklist incidents: Being added to spam lists indicates poor sending behavior or bad content.

10 Ways to Improve & Protect Email Sender Reputation

10 Ways to Improve & Protect Email Sender Reputation

1- Use Double Opt-Ins

In the era of consent-driven list building, it's crucial to implement a double opt-in process. This involves asking subscribers to double-check their email addresses after signing up initially. Doing so ensures that you're engaging with a community that truly desires to receive your communications.

Creating an authentic bond with your audience is important. Using double opt-ins will help you establish trust and credibility, as subscribers have willingly chosen to hear from you.

With double opt-ins, you're nurturing a community that is genuinely interested in your content, and it ensures compliance with data protection regulations and demonstrates your commitment to ethical email marketing practices.

By embracing double opt-ins, you're aligning with best practices and reaping the benefits of an engaged and responsive audience.

2- Send Email that People Love

It's not just about sending messages; it's about creating captivating content that adds value to your subscribers' lives. To achieve this, avoiding clickbait and focusing on delivering genuine value is crucial.

You're building a connection with your audience when you craft resonating content. Take the time to understand their needs, preferences, and pain points, and tailor your messages accordingly. Doing so lets you capture their attention and establish trust, which is fundamental for fostering long-term relationships with your subscribers. Avoiding clickbait is essential for maintaining credibility.

While sensational headlines may generate clicks in the short term, they can lead to disappointment and disengagement when the content doesn't deliver as promised. Building trust through consistent and reliable content ensures that your audience eagerly anticipates your emails, knowing they will find meaningful information or offers inside.

Prioritize providing value in every email you send. Whether it's educational content, exclusive offers, or entertaining stories, make sure your subscribers gain something worthwhile by opening and reading your emails. In addition to content quality, consider optimizing your emails for various devices and ensuring an aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly design.

3- Check If You Are Blocklisted

Blacklisting happens when your emails are flagged as spam or malicious by internet service providers (ISPs) or spam filter organizations.

It's essential to address blacklisting issues promptly to ensure your emails reach the intended recipients and stay out of spam folders. Blacklisting can happen for various reasons, including spam complaints, high bounce rates, or suspicions of malicious activity.

By regularly checking blacklist databases maintained by reputable organizations, you can quickly identify if your domain or IP address has been flagged. Taking swift action is necessary when dealing with blacklisting issues.

Quick fixes involve investigating the root cause of the problem and taking corrective measures.

This may include identifying and removing compromised or malicious accounts used for unauthorized or spammy emails. Conducting a thorough audit of your email list and promptly addressing issues with suspicious accounts can prevent further blacklisting and maintain a positive sender reputation.
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4- Clean Up Your Email List Often

Over time, email lists can accumulate inactive or unresponsive subscribers, which can negatively impact your sender reputation and overall email deliverability. Cleaning your email list involves identifying and removing subscribers who no longer engage with your emails.

When subscribers are unresponsive, it can lead to high bounce rates and low engagement metrics, signaling to email service providers (ESPs) that your emails are not resonating with your audience. This, in turn, can harm your sender reputation. High email bounce rates, caused by sending emails to invalid or non-existent addresses, can be particularly damaging.

ISPs view a high bounce rate as a sign of poor list hygiene, raising the risk of your emails being flagged as spam or reducing overall deliverability. Low engagement rates, such as low open and click-through rates, can also have a negative impact on your sender reputation. Email providers interpret low engagement as a lack of interest from your subscribers, potentially leading to your emails being filtered into spam folders.

In addition to maintaining a positive sender reputation, regular list cleaning offers other benefits. It reduces costs associated with sending emails to a large but unengaged audience, as many email marketing platforms charge based on the number of subscribers.

Moreover, a smaller, more engaged audience often results in more meaningful interactions, higher conversion rates, and a better return on investment for your email marketing campaigns.

5- Authenticate Your Email Domain

Authenticating your email domain is a critical step in fortifying your email strategy against potential threats and ensuring the legitimacy of your communications.

Let's dive into the acronyms SPF (Sender Policy Framework), DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance). These may sound like technical jargon, but they represent a trio of authentication protocols that collectively shield your domain from being impersonated during email sends.

So, what is SPF? It's like a form of email validation that explicitly states which mail servers are authorized to send emails on behalf of your domain. By configuring SPF records in your domain's DNS (Domain Name System), you create a mechanism that helps email receivers verify the authenticity of your emails. This prevents malicious actors from forging your domain in phishing attempts, enhancing the security and trustworthiness of your outgoing messages.

Moving on to DKIM. It takes email authentication a step further by adding a digital signature to your outgoing emails. This signature is generated using cryptographic keys, and the recipient's email server can verify its authenticity by checking against the public key stored in your domain's DNS records. DKIM not only provides an additional layer of security but also helps ensure the integrity of your emails. This assures recipients that the content has not been tampered with during transit.

Now, let's talk about the comprehensive protocol known as DMARC. It builds on SPF and DKIM to provide even more protection. With DMARC, you can set policies for email authentication, instructing receiving servers on how to handle emails that fail SPF or DKIM checks.

Plus, it offers valuable reporting mechanisms that give you insights into email authentication performance and potential phishing attempts. Implementing DMARC not only strengthens your domain's security but also empowers you to monitor and control your email deliverability effectively.

Together, SPF, DKIM, and DMARC create a robust defense against email spoofing, phishing attacks, and domain impersonation.

6- Warm-Up Your Email

The concept circles around gradually increasing your email sending volume over time. Email service providers (ESPs) can evaluate your sending behavior and establish a positive sender reputation. When you work with a new IP address or domain, ESPs lack historical data about your sending patterns and sender reputation.

Sending a large volume of emails all at once can trigger spam filters, as it may resemble the behavior of spammers or malicious entities.

To address this, warming up your email gradually allows ESPs to observe your sending practices, assess engagement rates, and gain confidence in the legitimacy of your email campaigns. The warming-up process typically starts with a small, controlled volume of emails and gradually increases over a specified period, such as several weeks. This phased approach helps establish a positive sending history and demonstrates to ESPs that your audience solicits and well-received your emails.

During the warming-up phase, it's crucial to focus on creating engaging content and targeted communication to encourage positive interactions with your emails.

High engagement rates during this period contribute to developing a favorable sender reputation. This, in turn, increases the likelihood that your emails will reach the primary inbox rather than being flagged as spam.

7- Avoid Spam-Trigger Words

Crafting compelling email content involves more than just delivering a message. It requires a strategic choice of words to ensure that your emails are not mistakenly flagged as spam.

Language matters significantly in the world of email marketing and being mindful of spam-trigger words is crucial for maintaining a positive sender reputation.

So, what are spam-trigger words?

These are terms or phrases commonly associated with spammy or unsolicited content. When these words appear in your subject lines or email body, they increase the likelihood of your emails being filtered out as spam by both email service providers (ESPs) and individual recipients. To prevent your legitimate messages from being incorrectly categorized, you must be aware of these trigger words and avoid them.

Another consideration when crafting email content is maintaining a healthy text-to-image ratio. While visual elements can enhance the visual appeal of your emails, excessive use of images without enough text can trigger spam filters.

Striking the right balance between text and images contributes to deliverability and ensures that your message is accessible to recipients who may have images disabled by default in their email clients.

Now, let's talk about some common examples of spam-trigger words.

These include terms like "free," "guarantee," "limited time," and excessive use of exclamation marks. While innocuous in many contexts, these words have been historically associated with spam and can raise red flags for spam filters.

To avoid being falsely categorized as spam, consider using alternative language that effectively conveys your message without relying on these trigger words. Focus on providing value, being transparent, and tailoring your content to your audience's preferences.

8- Provide an Easy Way to Unsubscribe

From a practical standpoint, offering a hassle-free unsubscribe process can help keep your complaint rates in check.

Complaint rates, which measure the number of recipients marking your emails as spam, are monitored by email service providers (ESPs) and can impact your sender reputation.

If recipients find it difficult to unsubscribe or the process is clunky, they may mistake your emails as spam instead.

Legally, most jurisdictions, including the CAN-SPAM Act in the United States and similar regulations globally, mandate that commercial emails must include a clear and conspicuous mechanism for recipients to opt-out or unsubscribe from future communications.

Failure to comply with these regulations can result in legal consequences and damage your brand's reputation.

However, beyond mere compliance, providing a straightforward way for recipients to unsubscribe is a proactive step that benefits both your audience and your email marketing strategy. An easily visible unsubscribe option demonstrates transparency and respect for recipients' preferences, fostering a positive relationship with your audience.

This transparency is crucial in building trust, and subscribers are more likely to view your emails as respectful of their choices.

To optimize the unsubscribe process, consider placing the unsubscribe link prominently in your emails, typically in the footer. Use clear and straightforward language to guide recipients through the process, and ensure that it's a one-click operation rather than requiring multiple steps.

9- Choose a Reputable Email Service Provider

A trustworthy email service provider (ESP) maintains a good reputation score for its sending infrastructure. This directly impacts whether your emails end up in recipients' inboxes or get flagged as spam. They actively monitor and manage their infrastructure, implementing measures to prevent abuse and staying compliant with industry best practices.

When evaluating ESPs, consider the tools and features they offer for deliverability optimization. Robust tools like bounce handling, spam complaint processing, and engagement tracking are essential for reaching your intended audience and gaining valuable insights into campaign performance.

Customer support is another critical factor. A reputable ESP should provide reliable and accessible support to assist you with technical issues, deliverability challenges, and general inquiries.

Quick and effective support can make a significant difference in resolving issues promptly and minimizing any impact on your email marketing. Scalability is also important.

As your email list grows and your needs evolve, a reputable ESP should seamlessly accommodate your expanding requirements. Look for a provider that can scale its services to match the size and complexity of your email marketing operations.

10- Don’t Use a Shared IP Address

Shared IP addresses are a cost-effective option offered by many Email Service Providers. However, they come with the trade-off of having your email-sending reputation intertwined with others sharing the same IP.

This means that if one sender on the shared IP engages in spammy practices or experiences deliverability issues, it can affect the reputation of the entire IP address, including your emails. It's a riskier option, especially if the ESP doesn't effectively manage and monitor shared IP pools.

On the other hand, a dedicated IP address provides exclusive control over your sending reputation. It's solely assigned to your organization, so the actions of other senders don't impact your deliverability.

This reduces the risk of being affected by unrelated parties' behavior. If you have a consistent and high-volume email sending pattern, a dedicated IP can enable more personalized and targeted email marketing efforts.

However, it's important to note that maintaining a positive sender reputation on a dedicated IP requires diligent email marketing practices. Sending engaging and relevant content, effectively managing your email list, and sticking to best practices like authentication protocols are crucial for building and maintaining a favorable reputation.

Read our blog, Shared IP vs Dedicated IP Address, to learn more.


Your email reputation is, in many ways, your digital handshake with the online community. It defines the first impression you make and has a direct impact on your outreach success.

Integrating these ten practices into your email strategy will boost your email reputation and ensure that your messages reach the right audiences at the right time.

Remember, building a great email reputation is not a sprint, it's a marathon.
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