European society has long recognized the power of a good reputation and the difficulty of repairing a damaged one. A few of Europe’s most renowned authors such as Victor Hugo, William Thackeray and Shakespeare created characters that thrived or suffered because of their reputation. Some even argue that the concept of reputation as a social management tool was born in Europe during the Victorian Age. The Victorian Honor Code helped create structure in a rapidly changing society.
In 2009, the European email industry began seriously discussing sender reputation. Now, four years later almost every reputable European ESP has at least one article on their website about the importance of reputation and yet, listening to actual senders at industry events or in online discussion groups, one gets the impression that many European senders still don’t fully grasp how vitally important email reputation is, how they can manage their reputation or what it means for their inbox placement rate.
As a sender you probably consider opens, clicks and conversions as the most accurate measurement of achievement. However, as the European author Joseph Conrad said, “As a general rule, a reputation is built on manner as much as on achievement”. In other words, how you do something matters just as much as what you do. Your sending reputation isn’t based only on opens, clicks, and conversions, but also on how end users respond to your mail. The end user response is the greatest driver of your email reputation.
There is another thing to consider when managing your own reputation and that’s the reputation of the “company you keep”. If you’ll allow me one last quote, this time from an American, George Washington said, “It’s better to be alone than in bad company”. Many European senders use an ESP and shared IPs to send their mail. Don’t assume your ESP is monitoring your reputation for you. It’s still your job as a sender to optimize your sending behavior. To that aim, you could benefit from Return Path’s Reputation Monitor as part of our eMail Intelligence Suite and the Return Path Reputation Monitor to track your IP’s reputation.
Reputation is about perception. Not necessarily what you are but what others think you are. In this case, “others” are the European ISPs. They know what you’re doing and what they think about it can make or break your inbox delivery success. How important is reputation to the European ISPs? Well, when I was perusing through old, witty quotations from European surveyors of society, I thought you might also like a few from modern-day European gatekeepers, i.e. the actual ISPs that decide whether to deliver your mail to the inbox or not.
Here is what they think about your reputation. One of the largest ISPs in France told me, “Reputation is essential for us. It allows us to both effectively limit the number of unsolicited mails to our customer’s inbox and to ensure that our customers actually get the mails they want to receive.”
A German ISP told me, “I can’t stress enough the importance of reputation if you want to get mails to the inbox. Just imagine being "Blacklisted by all possible lists/ISPs" as one point (the worst) on the scale of IP-reputation. This is one extreme and you definitely want to stay clear of that zone. But remember, delivery problems may not always manifest in the form an actual blacklisting, there are other indicators for lack of reputation.”
And finally, one of Italy’s best known ISPs had this to add, “building a relationship with your ISP based on excellent reputation improves both the senders’ and our customers’ satisfaction. It also helps us by easing our workload because we have less false positives and complaints to manage.”
In Europe, many ISPs use filter providers that filter first based on reputation and secondly on content. If you have a bad rep, you’re not getting past the gate or if you do, your mail will go directly to the spam folder. Reputation was a crucial social management tool to a burgeoning Europe during the Victorian age and the subsequent industrialization. A lot has changed in Europe in the past 150 years but one thing remains. In the European email community, reputation is still everything.