Ready to send a bulk email to your list?  Well, before you press send, we need to have “the talk.”

The internet is actually just like high school. Your reputation always precedes you – and it means everything.  Sure, you may be a straight-A student taking the right extracurriculars.  But as soon as you sit at the wrong lunch table or go to the wrong party, your status takes a hit.  It doesn’t take long for crummy associations to stick, damaging your sterling reputation for the rest of your high school career.

It’s not always fair, but that’s how it works.  Spam filters are like that, too.

You may have the best intention of sending helpful, informative correspondence to your contacts.  But if it starts to resemble the profile of spam in anyway (even accidentally), your email reputation takes a hit.

Here’s How Email Works

Your email resides on an email server.  For example, if you have a gmail email address, then your email resides on gmail’s servers.  When you send an email, your email server delivers your message to the recipient’s email server.  It is the recipient’s email server that decides whether to deliver the email to their inbox, stick it in the junk folder, or not even deliver it at all.  

Email servers are picky – only about 80% of email actually makes it to the inbox.  Now, when you send one-off emails from your personal or business email account, they will most likely make it to the inbox.  

It becomes more tricky when you send a single email to multiple contacts, such as an update to your list of customers.  Email servers take a closer look at bulk email, because spammers send in bulk.  It’s back to high school – uncool by association.  When you send email in any volume, it becomes more difficult to get 100% into the inbox.

Building Your Sender Reputation

As you send email, you will build an online reputation for the quality of your email.  Email service providers track everything when you send email:

  • How many of your emails bounce, meaning they cannot be delivered because the email address is faulty or does not exist.

  • How many recipients complain about spam

  • How many recipients open your email

  • How many recipients click a link in your email

  • How many recipients quickly delete your email

Red flags such as a high bounce rate or a high spam complaint rate will make you resemble a spammer, damaging your reputation and causing the email service providers route your email right to the spam folder.  

Getting a Bad Rep

Just like in high school, problems usually start with the company you keep.  In this case, that’s your contact list.  In an ideal world, your email list is made up of people who share interest in your business and have signed up, or opted-in, to receive email from you.  Because opt-ins want to hear from you, they will open your emails and won’t flag you as spam – keeping your sender reputation clean as a whistle.

Unfortunately, lists can expire over time.  Contacts who opted-in a long time ago may have had a change of heart and no longer open your emails, decreasing your open rates.  Older email addresses may not exist anymore (especially if you have a list of business emails that tend to turnover more often) affecting your bounce rate.  Also, if you don’t stay in touch frequently, old contacts may be wondering, “how do I know you?” and send you into the spam folder.

Cleaning Up Your Reputation

Cleaning up your sender reputation is as easy as keeping a clean email list.  After all, what is the point of sending out lots of email to a huge list if no one reads it, or it doesn’t even reach the inbox?  

  • Remove people from your list who have not opened an email from you in a while.

  • Send a re-engagement email to old contacts, re-opting them into your list to decrease spam complaints.

  • Remove any bad or faulty email addresses from your list.

Trim down your list to your best contacts, and you’ll see a boost in your engagement rate, getting more email delivered to the inbox and keeping your sender reputation clean.