Have you ever bought a house? Or a car? And your credit score was part of the equation that determined whether or not the sale would go through and at what rate? Officially known as a FICO score, that credit rating can be a make-or-break number for some consumers, and I know people who fret over that number and how high or low it is.
In our world as email marketers, we have something similar to the credit score of the consumer world: We have the sender score. And even though it has nothing to do with debt, it has a lot to do with getting what we as marketers want: to improve email deliverability.
About your credit score
Your credit score is basically like a trustworthy score (although Dave Ramsey calls it an “I love debt” score). Based on your payment history, amount of debt, how long you’ve had a credit score, new debt you’ve taken on, types of debt and possibly other factors, your credit score tells lenders as well as landlords, service providers and insurance companies how dependable you are. Are you responsible? Do you pay back your loans? Do you make payments on time? In short, can you be trusted and to what degree?
Your credit score not only determines whether or not you can get that loan, but what kind of interest rate you’ll pay as well. The more trustworthy you appear to be, the lower the interest rate you’ll be charged.
About your sender score
Technically the term “Sender Score” refers to Return Path’s reputation measurement tool, and really we are talking about that: your reputation as a sender.
Like your credit score, your sender score is based on past behavior and—like your credit score—your sender score is an indicator of your trustworthiness. It’s based in part on spam complaints made about you, the blacklists and/or whitelists you’re on, whether you’re emailing unknown users or spam traps, and your degree of subscriber engagement.
Most of those causes for concern are obvious signs of good or bad email marketing behavior and it’s easy to understand that they’d influence your reputation. A low engagement rate—indicated by a low rate of opens or a high rate of emails being deleted without being opened—lowers your email sender reputation in the opinion of the ISPs because it tells them you’re sending emails to people who don’t want to hear from you.
Your email sender reputation affects your deliverability rate because the better the reputation, the more likely it is that your emails will be delivered to your users by the ISPs or corporate networks. The lower your score, on the other hand, the lower your deliverability and inbox placement rates will be, as you get filtered out.
Your sender reputation can’t be left to chance
If you’re assuming you haven’t done anything wrong, so your sender reputation must be fine, hang on. It’s not that simple. For example, you could have a brand new IP address with zero sending history and be considered spam by the ISPs. Why? No reputation. And no reputation is the same as having a bad reputation. Sure, this is a case of being guilty before being proven innocent, but consider it through the eyes of the ISPs: They know nothing about you, so they assume the worst. (Would you let your teenaged daughter go out on a date with a boy you’d never met or even heard of? Same principle: In some cases we do have to assume the worst of people—and email marketers.)
You can’t know how your emails are viewed by the ISPs or corporate networks unless you’re paying attention to your sender reputation and working to improve it. That means you can’t stay ignorant of your sender reputation.
Improve email deliverability and inbox placement rate both
Worldwide, only 79% of emails ever get to the inbox, according to Return Path’s 2015 Deliverability Benchmark Report. That means one out of every five emails does not get to a recipient’s inbox. If that number seems low, that might be because email deliverability does not guarantee inbox placement. Let me explain…
You can strive to improve email deliverability (and you should), but that metric only means the emails got past filters at the ISP level and went somewhere. However, they might not necessarily go where you want them to go: Those emails can end up in a spam or junk folder, never to be seen by the recipient, and still count as “delivered.”
That’s why Return Path reports on the number of emails that get to the inbox, not the number of emails that get delivered—because those numbers might differ, but bother of those numbers matter, a lot.
You can find out your sender score using Return Path’s tool, and make sure you also have a conversation with your email service provider if you have concerns. Your ESP’s deliverability rate will affect yours, for one thing, and they should have people on board to help you improve email deliverability for another.
Why your sender score matters more than your credit score
Back to the title of this post: why your sender score matters more than your credit score. Whether or not you should worry about your credit score is debatable. If you’re only paying cash and not taking on debt, your credit score has no meaning whatsoever. In fact, the more financially secure you are, the lower your credit score might be or you might not have one at all.
On the other hand, concerns about your sender reputation are 100% justified. If you can’t get your emails delivered, you can’t get in front of your customers—and you can’t generate revenue. Fretting over your credit score might not do you any good, but fretting over your email sender reputation and doing all you can to improve it might do you and your email marketing ROI a whole lot of good!