There Is No “Easy Button” for Mailers that Have Reputation Problems

Posted by George Bilbrey 

A lot of our clients are surprised when they have delivery problems at top ISPs. They are opt-in marketers. The people who they are sending mail to have asked to receive these messages. They comply with the CAN SPAM act. What’s the deal?

The answer is that ISPs (particularly larger ISPs that have invested a lot of effort in private reputation systems) care more about the trouble that a mailer is causing their subscribers than they do about the mailer’s permission practices. Reputation (as measured by mailers) matters.

There are four drivers that most frequently are reviewed by ISPs to determine a mailer’s reputations:

  1. Complaints: When clients hit the “report spam” button at a high rate for mail coming from you, this is the paramount measure for most ISPs.
  2. Unknown User Rates: If a high proportion of the mail that you are sending to does not actually exist at that ISP.
  3. Mailing to Spam Trap Addresses: A Spam Trap address is an email address that was created de novo and never signed up for any mailings.
  4. Sending Infrastructure – Since spammers are typically stealing access of the servers that they use to send email, they don’t have the control or time to configure the mail servers properly in many cases.

Most marketers would like to think there is an easy button for solving their delivery problems. A simple call to the ISP or a tweak to their copy will be enough to solve the delivery problem. Unfortunately, the easy button doesn’t exist if you have a problem with your reputation. Doing the hard work of lowering complaint rates, improving list quality and fixing sending infrastructure are what are required.

If you are curious about what your reputation is, Return Path is offering a free Reputation Assessment that covers the reputation drivers that we’ve listed above. Simply go to to enter in your information and we’ll get you back a report within 2 business days.

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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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