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Understanding Domain Reputation and Why It Matters

Ankit Ghosh
Ankit Ghosh

Gone are those days when IP reputation had been super important but now most of us send email using a shared IP which has diluted the importance of IP reputation and concentrated the importance of domain reputation.

Nowadays domain reputation plays a key factor in deciding the delivery rate of the emails sent. Maintaining a high domain reputation ensures that email inboxes like Gmail and Outlook don't mark your emails as spam and gets the right placement.

What's domain reputation?

Domain reputation is a score between 0 to 100 which is assigned to every domain name and it defines how much trustworthy the emails from the domain is.

A higher score means that the emails from the domain is actually good and not a spam.

Difference between domain reputation and IP reputation

Before we talk about these, let's quickly understand what's an IP address is and how it works. So IP addresses are dotted decimal numbers somewhat like 1.1.1.1 and these act as an address for servers.

In earlier times they used to be super important as these IPs defined the trust score but recently more and more people are using shared IP and the new IPv6 have made IP addresses very much disposable and that's why the new important factor is domain reputation and not IP reputation.

On the other hand domain reputation is directly linked to you sending domain so it's very much permanent as you can't technically switch domains like you can do with IP addresses.

What affects domain reputation

Domain reputation gets affected by multiple factors and one needs to keep them in their mind before pressing the send button. Here are top factors which affect one's domain reputation.

  • Open Rate
  • Click Rate
  • Reply Rate
  • Forward Rate
  • Action of "Report Spam"
  • Action of "Report not Spam"
  • Hard Bounces
  • Sending emails to invalid email IDs (spam traps)

Though no one really know the actual priority to determine which is more important but as a sender one should keep these points in mind.

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How to improve domain reputation

If you have degraded your domain reputation for some reason or want to stay safe by following the best practices then below are a few important tips one should follow.

Manual domain warmup

Domain warmup is a very powerful method that has the power to confuse mailbox providers(like Gmail) to even make your marketing emails land in the primary folder.

It's nothing but a way of using the email address (used for a newsletter) in which we show that this email id is used for general communication and general emails don't go in promotion tab.

The best part of it is that it's completely ethical.

To warm up your email address just add that to your email service provider(like GSuite or Zoho mail) and start using it regularly. By using it regularly, mailbox providers will understand that this mail address is being used for personal/conversational purpose too. This will improve the email creditability. The best way to begin it would be to your friends and relatives who you know will surely reply. Also, tell your friends & relatives to manually move the email to general if landed in the promotion tab.

There are also automated tools for the same purpose but I'll suggest to do it yourself.

Validate domain using DKIM and SPF

DKIM(DomainKeys Identified Mail) and SPF(Sender Policy Framework) are two of the most widely used email authentication methods which tells that whether or not the sending server is authorized to send emails from the domain.

Use DMARC to block unauthenticated emails

There are times when someone tries to spam others by using your domain to send unauthorized emails. This can do a lot of harm to your sender reputation and can even cause legal issues.

To fix this one should try to use DMARC which has the capability to block all emails which aren't verified by DKIM and SPF.

Use double opt-in

If you send marketing emails to your subscribers then it's very important to use double opt-in so that you can get authorization to send them emails.

A double opt-in also helps you get a higher open rate by adding only interested subscribers to your primary mailing list.

Use ReCaptcha on signup forms

Bots are everywhere on the web, though some are good but most of them are bad. There are certain types of bots that will keep subscribing to your newsletter by using someone else's email id which does harm your domain reputation.

Google has built a free solution to it called ReCaptcha which blocks all bots from entering data into your form, hence keeping your reputation safe.

How to check and track domain reputation

It's important to keep a track of your domain reputation on a regular basis so that you are the first one to know when something wrong happens.

There are multiple tools you can use to check your domain reputation, here are the top ones.

Google Postmaster Tool

Google provides a free tool to all email marketers sending emails to Gmail addresses to keep a track of their domain reputation. Do note that this data is only of Gmail users and not any other providers.

Talos Intelligence

Talos Intelligence is another domain reputation checker tool that is owned by Cisco. Also as Cisco provides lots of contribution to the working of the modern web, the data they provide is somewhat reliable.

Spam Checkers

Apart from the old aged open-source SpamAssassin, there are some other tools that do a great job in checking the spam score of a domain which also represents the domain reputation. The best-known ones are Barracuda and McAfee which do a great job.

MxToolBox can also be used for the same purpose.

Tip: Do note that these tools would work well when you are actually sending a trackable volume of emails(>100/week), the more the better.

Summary

Though domain reputation plays an important factor in deciding your inbox placement and deliverability, it's nothing to worry about unless you are sending "spammy" emails.

Remember to maintain inbox sanity and if you aren't seeing much data in these tools then keep working until you reach a good sender volume.

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Deliverability

Ankit Ghosh

Freelance content writer and organic marketing enthusiast.


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