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Understanding Domain and IP Reputation in Email Deliverability
by: Shay Paris of Lawmatics  -  
Sunday, October 15, 2023

If you’re in the legal field, you’re well acquainted with the ways in which a good (or bad!) reputation can have an enormous impact on your practice’s success. Email deliverability is no different; mailbox providers (MBPs) use a variety of factors to determine what kind of reputation should be associated with your emails. Let’s break it down:

IP Reputation

An IP address is like a home address for your computer on the internet or local network, ensuring data sent from your computer reaches the correct destination and that data sent to you arrives at your computer.

When it comes to email, the IP address from which it originates is not just a technical detail—it carries a distinct reputation with it, much like a credit score. Just as lenders use credit scores to gauge the financial reliability of a person, MBPs evaluate an IP's history to determine its trustworthiness. This reputation is shaped by different variables including:

  • Email volume and its consistency (or lack thereof)
  • Frequency of those emails being marked as spam
  • Bounce rates

If an IP address consistently sends out high-quality, relevant emails that recipients engage with, it’s much more likely to enjoy a positive reputation. On the flip side, its reputation can quickly plummet if it becomes associated with behaviors such as:

  • Sending large quantities of unsolicited email
  • High bounce rates
  • High frequency of spam complaints

A damaged IP reputation can have significant consequences that lead Email Service Providers (ESPs) to filter or block emails from that IP. This affects the sender's ability to reach their intended audience effectively.

Domain Reputation

A domain, often recognized as a website or the web address, is a unique name that identifies a website or email address on the internet.

Every domain that sends email carries its own reputation, akin to a business's standing in the community. This reputation is shaped by various behaviors and practices associated with the email you send:

  • Engagement
    • Mailbox providers want to see that your subscribers are engaged
    • They rely on hundreds of different signals to filter email, but engagement is heavily weighted.
    • Any time your subscribers show strong interest or engagement in your content, it’s a big win for your overall deliverability
  • Permission
    • Sending unsolicited email is a surefire way to harm your domain's reputation
    • Unsolicited email is highly likely to result in spam complaints or even a spamtrap hit
    • Any domain associated with large numbers of spam complaints raises serious alarms for mailbox providers
  • Bounces
    • Large numbers of bounces can decrease trust in your domain
    • Because of this, it’s important to regularly curate and update your email lists Sending emails to old, unengaged, or invalid addresses often results in high bounce rates
    • List hygiene practices such as removing inactive subscribers or those who haven't engaged in a long time are an effective preventative measure
  • History
    • Your domain's email-sending history plays a significant role in its reputation
    • A consistent track record of sending high-quality, engaging emails can enhance your domain's standing while any past transgressions, like sending to purchased lists or being flagged by spam traps, can linger and affect future deliverability
    • MBPs have a long memory, so it’s important to avoid these problems wherever possible
  • Authentication
    • Many inbox providers won’t accept your mail if it isn’t able to pass email authentication protocols like SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail)
    • If you have a sending domain validated within Lawmatics, SPF and DKIM are automatically implemented when you add our CNAME records to your domain
    • However, if you remove or alter those records, there’s a good chance that authentication will fail and your mail will bounce
  • Blocklists
    • Having your domain listed on a blocklist can have a major effect on your deliverability
    • That being said, it’s worth noting that anyone can create a blocklist and not all of them are reputable or affect your email delivery

Ultimately, you and your firm play a major role in your domain’s reputation. Being mindful of the content you send, maintaining updated email lists, and engaging with your subscribers in a meaningful way aren’t just strategies to maintain a strong domain reputation; they’re essential steps to elevate your firm's credibility. They also serve to enhance client engagement and secure consistent deliverability for your communications.

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