Getting Email Delivered - the ISIPP SuretyMail Blog

The Myth of “Domain Reputation” When it Comes to Email Deliverability

Ok, before anyone starts yelling and losing their mind, domain reputation itself is not a myth. It does exist, and it does relate to email and email deliverability. For example, it is absolutely the case that if example.com starts spamming, inbox providers are going to start putting example.com’s email in the junk folder, or maybe even block it altogether.

So why do we say that when it comes to email deliverability it’s a myth? Because all domain reputation really is, when it comes to email, is your email reputation. Does the email coming from your domain have a good reputation? That’s all that it is! I.e. are you following all of the best email practices, and do the recipients of your email want it and interact with it or, at very least, not report it as spam?

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These have been the requirements for getting your email delivered ever since the very beginning of email marketing. You need to send only permission-based email, you need to have your authentication set up, you need to include an unsubscribe link and to process unsubscribes in a timely manner, ditto for bounces. If you don’t, you are going to end up with more and more of your email being moved to the spam folder.

And, similarly, if the recipients of your email are reporting your email as spam, or even just if enough of them are deleting your email without opening it, or opening it but not clicking through on embedded links, the inbox providers will start putting your email in the junk folder.

This is all basic email deliverability and reputation 101. It’s email reputation. But hey, your email comes from your domain. So there has recently been a move to package up services aimed at charging you to increase your “domain” reputation. Now, to some degree, this has been predicated on the advent of IPv6, for which it is nearly impossible to rely on IP address reputation, and so domain reputation is a reasonable thing to throw into the mix when the inbox providers are making delivery decisions.

But to a larger (and some would say much larger) degree, it is predicated on the need for a new generation of email marketing ‘experts’ to be able to school you and sell you on something new. Because the bottom line is that when it comes to email deliverability, a good email reputation is the same thing as good domain reputation – they are synonymous.

Put another way, building good ‘domain reputation’ is the exact same thing as building good email reputation. “Domain reputation” is email reputation, packaged up in a new and exciting way.

But, but, but.., say these domain reputation experts, IP addresses can change, domains don’t, you can move a domain from one IP address to another IP address. Well guess what: moving your domain from IP address to IP address to IP address can make you look like a spammer. Why? Because that is what spammers do when the IP address through which they are sending their spam starts to decline in reputation because of that spam that they are sending.

The point is, if you move your domain to a new IP address, you will have to prove that the email coming from that new IP address is wanted, non-spam email that follows all best practices. Do the receiving algorithms look at your domain? Sure they do, as part of the bigger picture, and they always have; but you are not going to get a free pass because the email is coming from your domain, no matter how good your reputation was at that other IP address. Otherwise someone could move their domain to a new IP address and then suddenly go to the dark side and start spamming like crazy, and get their spam into inboxes instead of the spam folder (at least until the inbox providers caught on). The point is, IP address reputation coupled with your email reputation will always be in the mix.

In fact, if you do an Internet search for “domain reputation versus ip address reputation” you will find that nearly all of the sites talking about this ultimately say that IP address reputation is important, and that when it comes to domain reputation the way to boost it is to… wait for it… follow best email sending practices.

Bottom line: when it comes to email deliverability, “domain reputation” is a fancy new way of looking at email reputation, and email reputation is built by following all best sending practices. Put another way, if you send bad email from example.com, example.com is going to get a bad email reputation.

This is true regardless of whether your email is being sent through IPv4 or IPv6 addresses, the latter of which make up less than 10% of all active IP addresses as of the date of this writing, even though IPv6 has been around for 20 years.

But even in a fully IPv6 world, should that occur, the bottom line is still going to be that your ‘domain reputation’ is simply another fancy term for “do the right thing and follow all best email sending practices.”

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This article originally written on February 4, 2021, and is as relevant now as when it was first written.