How Recipient Actions Affect Your Sender Reputation


Earlier this week I received an email from someone recommending his latest blog post. It wasn't an email campaign or a marketing message, just an email from one person to another recommending content. Seems harmless enough, right? Wrong. I never gave this person my email address nor permission to email me. If you received unsolicited mail from someone you didn't know, what would you do? Like most of us, you would probably immediately delete the email and/or mark it as junk.

Fortunately for this sender's reputation, I responded and asked him where he got my email address and permission to send to me.

He apologized profusely. "This isn't spam, I personally saw your tweet and thought you'd like my article as it was similar to what you tweeted about in the past."

While his intent wasn't to "spam" me, ISPs don't care about intentions when determining if you are a good sender or a bad sender. Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL, and others measure your sender reputation based on the recipients' actions taken after your message hits their inbox. Had I deleted his email and marked it as "junk", his sender reputation with Gmail would have been negatively impacted. It only takes a few people marking your email as spam to get blocked from your ESP. (It's even more dangerous if you aren't using an ESP.)

Certain recipient actions significantly enhance your sender reputation, while other actions can quickly destroy your reputation.

Positive Subscriber Actions

  • Clicking through links: The most beneficial action a recipient can take is clicking through the links in an email. This is the #1 engagement metric that ISPs rely on because it shows a definitive action by the email recipient.
  • Opening the email: The open-rate shows definitive engagement, but doesn't hold as much weight as clicking through links. There are also potential inaccuracies with open-rate reporting due to image caching and suppression as well as preview pane issues.
  • Adding your address to their contacts or address book
  • Enabling images
  • Scrolling through the message
  • Starring the message
  • Moving the message over from the junk folder to the inbox
  • Moving a message from the promotions tab into the primary tab in Gmail

Negative Subscriber Actions

  • Reporting the message as SPAM: Without a doubt, a recipient marking an email as "spam" or "junk" is the worst thing that can happen to your sender reputation. It only takes a few complaints to do permanent damage.
  • Deleting the message
  • Moving the message to trash
  • Marking messages as read
  • Ignoring messages
  • Not engaging with multiple messages over long periods of time

ISPs target high-volume senders (usually in excess of one million) and will junk-folder emails sent from brands with low engagement rates. In previous posts, we've discussed the dangers associated with constantly mailing to inactive email subscribers on your list.

Decreasing the frequency at which inactive subscribers are emailed is a defensive tactic used to boost the level of engagement seen by ISPs. The first step to preventing negative subscriber actions is ensuring you have received permission to email the subscribers on your list.


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