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Preparing Your Dedicated IP Address For Prime Time Part 1

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Our compliance and deliverability team is pretty busy dealing with the dark side of the Internet, but from time-to-time, they do find time to share their thoughts. These are their stories.

Preparing Your Dedicated IP Address For Prime Time Part 1

For organizations looking to take full control of their sending reputation, a dedicated IP address is a way to go. It basically means you are the only one sending online campaigns from that IP, so all the good or bad that comes, is on you.

If you send quality content to opt-in lists, your reputation will be high, leading to high deliverability. If you send content to lists that are full of hard and soft bounces, well, you know where we are going with this. This differs from a shared IP as the entire pool can be ruined by one sender.

However, after you purchase a dedicated IP, it is not like a fully loaded new car ready to hit the highway. You need to "warm" it up.

In order to realize the full potential of your shiny, new dedicated IP, you will want to plan your first few campaigns around the examples outlined over a series of three blog posts.

In this first post, we will get you started and then follow up with more next week.

IP Reputation Overview

One of the key pieces of information used by email recipients is an IP's Internet and Email reputation. An IP with a good reputation is more likely to have email sent to the inbox, while an IP with a poor reputation will typically have email blocked outright, without even being sent to Junk.

There are a number of websites who monitor information about an IP address's email reputation. Some of the more popular ones include:

Sender Score (https://senderscore.org/)

SenderBase (http://www.senderbase.org/)

WatchGuard (http://www.reputationauthority.org/)

Trusted Source (http://www.trustedsource.org/)

Each of these sites can provide some information about the IP you are sending email from, including what they believe the reputation score is.

Factors that determine an IP's reputation

Different reputation providers use different metrics to determine an IP addresses reputation. Exactly how a score is determined is kept secret, but there are a few key factors that will affect your reputation.

1. Volume

Average daily volume is used by service providers to try and identify possible sources of bad email. If an IP has never sent email to a domain before, and suddenly sends 100,000 messages at once, it will be treated as suspicious and can result in mail delivery being delayed, junked, or rejected. IP's with consistent volume, or with less erratic behavior (meaning extended periods of no mail sent, followed by sudden high volume campaigns), and a good reputation will have their messages delivered. We'll cover some best practices for getting a consistent volume started in the next post.

2. Hard Bounces

Hard bounces are email addresses which are not valid for some reason. Either the user has been inactive so long their account has been shut down, or the user never existed in the first place! This can also be caused by misspellings or typos of a users email address. When an IP address sends to a large volume of bad addresses at a domain, its treated as a suspicious sender. Either the data being sent too is too old, or was not confirmed, and is this often a sign that the IP might be sending spam. If you get too many hard bounces at a domain, your email might be rejected outright for a time.

Hard bounces should be removed from your list as soon as they happen. Our software takes care of this automatically, but if you bounce too much at once, you will negatively impact your delivery rates on future campaigns.

3. Spam Complaints

Users who use "report it as spam" with online email accounts, like Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL, and Gmail will also impact your delivery rates and reputation. High complaint rates are a strong indication that the email being sent is unsolicited SPAM. Generally, you want to have a complaint rate of less than 0.1% or one per thousand messages sent. Proper opt-in practices are required to achieve this goal.

4. Automatic Message Junk Boxing Rates

Messages being sent to the junk box can affect your IP reputation as well. If an email contains links or content that is common in spam or messages that have been flagged as spam, your reputation will go down. Following best practices when designing your email content, and avoiding trigger words will help reduce this.

5. Recycled Spam Trap Hits

Recycled Spam Traps are old, abandoned email addresses, re-purposed by providers to 'catch' senders who are not removing hard bounces. Generally, an email would have returned a hard bounce status to anyone who sent email to it for many months before it was re-purposed. One hit out of 100,000 emails sent won't do much harm, but too many trap hits can really hurt your reputation at that provider. Hotmail, AOL, and Yahoo are all known to employ Recycled spam traps.

This is only a start. Our next compliance post will continue this list.

Look for Part 2 next week which will focus more on building a reputation with your new dedicated IP.

For more tips and answers when it comes to compliance and deliverability, take a look at our FAQ or older blog posts.

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