Marketers Still Struggle With Email Reputation Management

Return Path just released its Sender Score Benchmark Report and Infographic where we analyzed over 130 million unique IP addresses seen in our Sender Score network.  We examined common reputation trends throughout 2011, as well as reputation measures by region, country, and industry.

The good news is spam declined.  After the takedown of the Rustock botnet in March of 2011, we saw a significant decline in the amount of spam.  The bad news is it increased again towards the end of 2011.  While avoiding previous record volumes, spam still accounted for over 85% of all email sent in 2011.  Spam is still a major problem, despite the strides made.

The massive volumes of spam ISPs receive every day makes it challenging to discern the good from the bad.  ISPs make decisions based on the reputation measures over a period time to determine if the email being sent is spam or not spam.  Most marketers were frustrated with the lack of insight into why their email was blocked.  Was it content?  Was it complaint rates?  In response, we created the Sender Score, similar to a credit score for an IP address, that gives marketers insights into why their mail was filtered by an ISP.

One industry stood out from most others for having significant reputations issues – Social Networks.  While most industries saw less than one spam traps per IP address, Social Networks saw more than 20.  Social networking sites also topped all other sectors with a 5% Unknown User rate.  To put that in context, marketers with a Sender Score greater than 90 have an average unknown user rate of .2%.  Social Network sites also had one of the highest complaint rates at 3%.

Sender Score Statistics at a Glance

  • Retail, Banking, and Corporate Services all had complaint rates higher than 3%.
  • Gaming had unknown user rates at 5% matching Social Networking.
  • Gaming had a 0% complaint rate, but only because most of their emails were blocked due to poor reputations.
  • France had the biggest problem with spam traps with an average of 11.48 per IP address.
  • German marketers saw the most subscriber complaints with an average complaint rate of 6%.
  • Brazil as a whole had one of the lowest Sender Scores at 16.

Lessons Learned


1.  Peer initiated email comes with risks. Social networking sites rely on friends inviting friends, and they achieve this by allowing their users to upload their email address books.  Address books are rarely maintained.  As a result, they are riddled with abandoned email address and recycled spam traps.  Hence the reason social networking businesses have the highest unknown user and spam trap rates.  Letting your subscribers control your list acquisition practices is a recipe for disaster.  Put controls in place by limiting the numbers of email invites, or closely monitoring these emails streams for list quality issues.

2.  Data collection laws aren’t a substitute for good mailing practices. Europe has some of the most stringent data collection and privacy laws in the world.  You would also think they’d have low reputation measures to go with it. Unfortunately, they had some of the highest complaint, spam trap and unknown user rates in the world.  It just goes to show that it’s not how clean your list is that matters, but how you use it.  Poor list hygiene and maintenance, and sending irrelevant emails will still result in high complaint, spam trap and unknown user rates regardless of how many times you make your subscribers opt in.

3.  You can’t set and forget about your reputation. Monitoring your email reputation should be part of your daily ritual.  Our Sender Score infographic shows just what can happen to your score and reputation if your complaint, unknown user or spam trap rate goes above normal levels.  All it takes is one bad email campaign with a complaint rate greater than 1.5%, or mailing to just one spam trap, to sink your Sender Score 40 points.   Things like this happen to everyone, no matter how great of a sender you are.  You can minimize the risk through constant monitoring and diligence.

How do you compare to your region and industry peers?  Download our Sender Score Benchmark Report and accompanying Sender Score infographic guide and find out.  See you in the inbox!

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