The Newest Return Path Study Explains Why I Keep Talking about Reputation

Posted by George Bilbrey 

I’ve been writing about reputation and why it’s so important on this blog for years (the first recorded instance is from back in 2006). I’ve explained why you need to pay attention to reputation, and I’ve even called reputation the  “King” (83% of the time).

Why do I think your reputation so important? Before I answer that question, let’s start with a more fundamental one – why is inbox placement important? If you have a million addresses and 20% of your emails are blocked (the historic industry average), you are missing 200,000 subscribers with every send. I feel like the downside to this is obvious, though the specifics can vary by industry. In my conversations with the clients who rely on our services to keep their email in the inboxes that matter, they cite lost revenue as a key problem when emails go missing. But they also talk about things like poor customer experience (especially from missing transactional emails), increased customer service costs (when customers call because their emails are not answered or the answer isn’t delivered), lost branding opportunities and the inability to advance a company’s message to the marketplace.

Which brings us to why reputation matters. Simply put, the reason emails don’t get delivered is because of poor reputation. By understanding the impact email reputation has on email programs, marketers can take immediate, corrective action to ensure higher inbox placement rates (IPR).

Which is why I’m very excited about our latest research study, “The Sender Reputation Report: Key Factors that Impact Email Deliverability.” The report examines how email reputation significantly impacts IPR.

When you review the results of the report, you’ll see why we urge email marketers to examine the critical factors impacting email marketing performance in order to ensure their emails are getting into the inbox.

Some of the key takeaways from this study are:

  • IPs with very poor reputations (as measured by a Sender Scores of 40—49) are rejected at the gateway at an extraordinarily high rate of 83.5%.
  • The average IPR for IPs with Sender Scores of 91 or greater is about 88%, which is significantly lower than the 99% “accepted” rate that many ESPs report.
  • Spam trap rate information shows that the best mailers – those with Sender Scores above 80 – have few, if any, spam traps on their list.
  • Senders with better reputation metrics have cleaner lists. When it comes to legitimate email, unknown user rates higher than 1% is problematic and should be addressed quickly.
  • Servers with good reputations are far more likely to pass checks for DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) than those with poor reputations. But even IPs with relatively high Sender Scores still struggle with authentication. Our study found only 55% of IPs with Sender Scores of 90 to 100 passed checks for DKIM.

For more interesting statistics that show why reputation matters, please download the study now.

Meanwhile, we’d love to hear what you’ve done to improve your email reputation in the comments below.

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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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