New Spam Techniques Make Reputation Key

Posted by George Bilbrey 

George Bilbrey
By George Bilbrey

Anyone with an email account doesn’t need to be told that spam volumes are up. Most people see it for themselves every time they open their inbox. This is straining the resources of major receivers (as we wrote about last month) and causing increased blocking – both temporary and permanent – for many commercial senders.

Yesterday’s article in the New York Times got the story only partially right. Yes, the spam volume is up and administrators are struggling. But the suggestion that reputation data is not helping them in the fight is just plain wrong.

The article claims that since spammers are able to switch servers frequently – often through infecting unsecured machines – the reputation filters cannot stay ahead of them.

The filters are accommodating this “switching” reality and making the complete lack of a sending reputation a slight negative. So, the email is considered suspect until it proves to be a reputable sender. Since the spammers will never gain a good reputation, these systems are very effective in both blocking the bad email and allowing in the good email.

Moreover, the new techniques that spammers are employing with images actually make content filtering less effective than it has ever been. While this might result in a tightening of content restrictions and more image blocking in the short term, in the long-term receivers are going to abandon this strategy. It’s simply ineffective and too easy for spammers to thwart.

Reputation, however, is much more difficult to fake.

What does this mean for senders? I hate to sound like a broken record, but a good reputation really is critical for inbox delivery. Frankly, a neutral reputation isn’t enough for delivery success as more administrators get aggressive with blocking. You need to be in the golden circle of senders to not be mistaken as a spammer.

How do you know what your reputation is, though? Ah, we’re glad you asked. Head over to and get your Sender Score. On a scale of 1 to 100 (higher is better) we’ll tell you how receivers view your email. Not sure how to interpret your score? There is information on the site to contact us and we can help you.

Oh, and I have to get one more little plug in here: if you are receiver struggling with the spam volume coming into your system, check out the solutions we have for you. We can show you how much better life can be when you use reputation data aggregated from your peers to help your email filtering management.

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About George Bilbrey

George Bilbrey is the founder of the industry’s first deliverability service provider, Assurance Systems, which merged with Return Path in 2003. He is a recognized expert on the subjects of email reputation and deliverability and is active in many industry organizations, including the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG) and the Online Trust Alliance (OTA). In his role as president of Return Path George is the driving force behind the ongoing innovation of our products and services. Prior to Return Path, George served as Director of Product Management at and as a partner in the telecommunications group at Mercer Management Consulting. He holds a B.A. in economics from Duke University, and an MBA from the Kenan-Flagler School of Business, University of North Carolina.

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