Q&A: 7 Tips to Improve Your Sender Reputation

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When SendGrid email experts Carly Brantz and Paul Kincaid-Smith hosted a webinar offering tips on how to improve sender reputation the conversation was so great that they didn’t have a chance to get …

When SendGrid email experts Carly Brantz and Paul Kincaid-Smith hosted a webinar offering tips on how to improve sender reputation the conversation was so great that they didn’t have a chance to get to everything. Afterwards they took the time to answer some of those questions here.

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  • 1. 7 Tips to Improve your SenderReputationWebcast Q&A with Carly and Paul
  • 2. When SendGrid email experts Carly Brantz andPaul Kincaid-Smith hosted a webinar offering tipson how to improve sender reputation theconversation was so great that they didn’t have achance to get to everything. Afterwards they tookthe time to answer some of those questions here. If you missed the webinar you can access arecording here.
  • 3. Q: How do outlook users complain that a message is spam? A: They complain through the junk email reporting tool plugin thatworks to improve the Microsoft Outlook spam filter. They also use athird party Outlook plugin like Cloudmark to report spam.
  • 4. Q: What is an ESP? A: An ESP is an email service provider. They are organizations thatprovide email servers to send, receive and store email for organizationsand/or end users. They can also be a company which offers emailmarketing or bulk email services.
  • 5. Q: I am having a very bad problem with my emails. I have amembership site and my sign-up confirmation emails are beingblocked because my IP is one several blacklists. If I get adedicated IP will this solve the problem? A: Yes, your transactional emails (like sign-up confirmations) aremore likely to be delivered if you send them from a dedicated IP. If youalso plan to send marketing emails (which are more likely to bereported as spam), we suggest you send those from a sub-account witha separate dedicated IP address.
  • 6. Q: RE: Hard bounces… what would be the best practice to resolvepermanent errors that are the result of anti-spam filters rejectingemails to a certain address? Should I remove the address entirely,or try again later after identifying the problem? A: If a spam filter issues 5xx permanent errors, you may wish tomove that recipient’s address from your list and add it to a separate listto try again (cautiously, in small amounts) at a later date once yoursending reputation improves.
  • 7. Q: SPF can be tricky to get right, especially with other senders.Your thoughts on using and sending SPF? A: I’d say it is considered best practice to implement SPF alongwith SenderID and DKIM, especially if you are a high volume sender. Inthe absence of authentication of all your emails, it is very difficult for anISP to confirm that you are in fact a legitimate sender. Learn how toauthenticate your email in 5 easy steps here.
  • 8. Q: Is there a big/market leading spam filter that all the emailservers work with, like Google is for search for instance? A: There is no one single spam filter used by all receiving mailservers. Many solutions incorporate a multi-layered approach with filtertechnology from multiple sources. Filter popularity varies by geographicregion and by receiver type. Small businesses will use a different typeof protection then a large ISP, for example. In North America, manyISPs use Cloudmark Authority as part of their multi-layered inboundfiltering solution. Other popular filters include SpamAssassin, Ironport,along with many others. Most large receivers also use RBLs (realtimeblock lists) like Spamhaus’s SBL as a first line of defense. Many largewebmail providers also layer on their own homegrown filtering logic.
  • 9. Q: Should I permanently remove “quote exceeded” emailaddresses from legitimate recipients? A: I think a good rule of thumb is to remove an email address thathas soft bounced three times without any trackable activity.
  • 10. Q: I have a CRM web app that has many users with very limitedemail capability through SendGrid. I am thinking of having a“mass email” function to allow my users to send emails to theircontacts list. How can I avoid one user ruining it for everyoneelse. Emails will be “from” each user’s email address- does thathelp? A: Currently, many receivers will block by IP, so if one of your userssends a large spam run, other users sharing that IP are at risk of beingblocked. You could minimize the risk of this collateral damage severalways:1) Check all outbound mail with a spam filter, like SpamAssassin before you submit to SendGrid.2) Split your users across multiple IPs (your SendGrid account can utilize multiple dedicated IPs). New, untrusted users could be assigned to a different IP .3) If each of your users is a distinct SendGrid sub-account, you can track their complaints, open rates, etc. to identify the troublemakers. SendGrid’s event API will help you monitor the health of these sub-accounts in real time. Bottom line, you need to have to the people, policies (terms of service), processes and tools in place to prevent and identify bad behavior.
  • 11. Q: How does DMARC fit into this, or into SendGrid’s solution? A: Great question! We have an entire blog post addressing thisissue here.
  • 12. Q: Are blacklists shared/centralized among MTA’s, or are theyalways separate ones maintained by each MTA? A: Many big receivers subscribe to shared third party blacklists (likeSpamhaus, SBL, or SURBL), and some also maintain their own localblacklist.
  • 13. Q: How do domains affect spam, it seems like a lot of spam now(e.g. SEO) is sent from Gmail versus a corporate domain. A: You’re right, spammers try to bypass spam filters by usingdomains that have a good sending reputation. As you point out, somespammers try to piggy-back on Gmail’s sending reputation. They canbe caught if they forge the from address to be someone@gmail.com.(Some receivers check Gmail.com’s SPF record to detect that theforged mail is not coming from an authorized Gmail.com IP address.Gmail’s outbound spam detection team works hard to identify and lockreal Gmail accounts that send spam.)
  • 14. Q: Would you use SendGrid to replace a sending MTA and/orregular double opt-in corporate newsletters? A: Both. SendGrid helps you focus on your business without thecost and complexity of owning and maintaining email infrastructure. Ourtechnology, advanced analytics, and flexible APIs are designed to alltypes of email- from transactional messages generated by anapplication to double opt-in marketing campaigns.
  • 15. Q: Does it harm my reputation of I change the “From” name whenusing the same email address (even if it is beneficial to mycustomers)? A: Email addresses can be divided into two parts, the “FriendlyFrom” and the routable part. For example, “Franklin Fasteners”<franklin@fasteners.com >. We don’t think you’ll incur a reputation hit ifyou change the “friendly from” part (e.g. “Franklin Fasteners”) but youare more likely to incur a reputation hit if you change the routable party.Not all systems use the “from” address for reputation, but some do.They are more likely to associate your sending reputation to your IP oryou DKIM signature (inserted into your message headers) or acombination of both.
  • 16. Q: Can I send through the same email from a different domainname on a daily basis? A: You can send the same message content from a differentdomain on a daily basis, but many spam filters will recognize similarcontent from different domains, so if one domain gets a bad reputation,messages with the same format or content will probably be blocked too.
  • 17. Q: We have been on board with SG for a few weeks and we are constantlyimproving our practices, but for some reason our reputation has notimproved. A: Your sender reputation if affected by the number of spam complaints. Ifyou got off to a bad start and sent to a lot of recipients who didn’t want yourmessage, some of them may have marked the message as spam. Sometimespeople will mark messages as spam days or weeks (even months!) afterreceiving the message. If a steady (but hopefully declining) stream of spamcomplaints trickles in, then that will degrade your sending reputation. Thereputation is bound to improve after the complaints abate. Also ensure yourbounce rates are low. Have you checked to see if your sending IP or domain isin a blacklist? (Try multirbl.valli.org with both.) If you are blacklisted, sometimesyou’ll be able to discover the reason and reach out to get yourself delisted onceyou’ve made the necessary changes to your sending practices.
  • 18. Q: My list is past customers and people that signed up for emailspecials and promotions. Some of the names are 10 years old.How does SendGrid help in cleaning that up? What do I do, andwhat does SendGrid do? A: SendGrid delivers the mail you send. You are responsible foryour own list hygiene. That being said, a win-back campaign could be agreat way to clean up your list and outline exactly what they wouldreceive. This is a great way to take advantage of the names youalready have but ensure that are active and interested.
  • 19. Carly Brantzcarly.brantz@sendgrid.com@carlybrantzPaul Kincaid-Smithpaul@sendgrid.com@cyclingup