Using Sender Score to Avoid Being a Statistic

Posted by Tom Sather 

If you’ve read the Global Deliverability Benchmark Report, you now know that it’s more difficult than ever to reach the inbox with more commercial email landing in the spam folder than ever before.  If you’re not worried about your mails landing in the spam folder, you should be.  As DJ Waldow from Waldow Social recently asked, how often do people really check their spam folders for mail they were expecting?  In most case, it’s not often at all.  If you’re not making it to the inbox, you’re not getting a response, an impression, or even a conversion.  Simply put:  you’re wasting your time and money.  You don’t have to be the 1 in 4 statistic that never reaches the inbox.  I’ll explain how you can determine the reasons you’re not reaching the inbox, so you know what to focus your time and efforts on.

One the reasons we are seeing lower inbox placement rates is due to ISPs tightening their spam filtering algorithms.  Deliverability can also be a rather confusing topic due to its technical nature, so it can be difficult to determine the exact cause or reason for your mail being blocked or sent to the spam folder.  One way to track your email deliverability is through the use of a seed list.  If you’re not currently using a seed list-based or reputation-based monitoring system like Return Path’s Mailbox Monitor, you can use Sender Score, a free service, as a way to correlate your inbox placement rates and what issues could be causing it so you can buck the trend of declining inbox placement rates.

Your Sender Score, like a credit score, is a gauge of how your email will be viewed by an ISP and whether or not it should be classified as spam, or be delivered to the inbox.  There is clearly a correlation between one’s deliverability rates and Sender Score as you can see in the graphs below for Yahoo and Gmail for the past week.

Yahoo Delivery Trends per Sender Score Band

Gmail Delivery Trends by Sender Score band

Sender Scores in the upper segment (81 and greater), consistently have higher inbox rates than any other segment and have inbox placement rates around 80%.  Those with Sender Scores in the bottom segment (less than 20), consistently have the lowest inbox placement rates at Gmail and Yahoo which you can see is barely above 0%.

To find out what issues may be preventing you from reaching the inbox at almost any ISP, do the following:

  1. Log into Mailbox Monitor or Register at  If you’re creating an account at for the first time, don’t worry.  It’s free and all we ask for is your email address and name.
  2. Enter your IP address.  Type your IP address in the “IP lookup” box and click on “lookup.”  If we have enough data on your IP address you should be able to see your Sender Score.  How do you fare when compared to the charts?
  3. Examine your Reputation Measures.  If you scroll down a bit, you’ll see the factors that are influencing your Sender Score.  We give each reputation category a score as well with 0 being the worst and 100 being the best.  In the example below, you can see there are two main areas this IP address needs to focus on:  unknown users and spam traps.

Reputation Measures
These are individual measures of the reputation for X.X.X.X.

Measure Type Value
Complaints Score (0-100) 96
Volume Score (0-100) 100
Unknown Users Score (0-100) 51
Spam Trap Hits Count 1
Last Spam Trap Date Date 03/01/2012

4.  Fix it.  Now comes the hard part of trying to resolve the issues affecting your reputation.  If you’re using our tools, you can click on the fix it button in the interface for best practices on how to resolve.  If you’re in need of assistance, contact us and we’d be happy to help.

5.  Watch the money roll in.  If you’ve fixed the issue on your own, bravo!  Sit back, relax and watch your emails land in the inbox where they deserve to be.  Okay, so sometimes it’s not that easy and may require more help.  Feel free to contact us for help if that’s the case.

If you want to know more about Sender Score, our friends at HubSpot wrote a great article about Everything Email Marketers Need to Know about Sender Score.

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About Tom Sather

Email data and deliverability expert Tom Sather has worked with top-tier brands to diagnose and solve inbox placement and sender reputation issues as a strategic consultant with Return Path. As the company’s senior director of research, Tom is a frequent speaker and writer on email marketing trends and technology. His most recent analysis of new inbox applications’ effects on consumer behavior was widely cited across leading business media outlets including the Financial Times, Ad Age, and Media Post.

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