The sender reputation in Smart.pr
This blogpost gives you all the ins and outs on the sender reputation in Smart.pr. We explain what it is and how and why we measure it. And of course we share how you can improve it. For those interested, there’s a longer article at the bottom of this post to provide more context and in-depth understanding of the concept.
WHAT IS THE SENDER REPUTATION?
The sender reputation is an indication of whether the emails you send with Smart.pr are appreciated by their recipients: the journalists and influencers you reach out to by sending press releases with our application.
WHY IS THE SENDER REPUTATION IMPORTANT?
We believe good PR is about sending the right message to the right person. The sender reputation is an indicator that helps you understand whether you’re succeeding to do this.
WHAT CAN I DO TO IMPROVE MY SENDER REPUTATION?
When your sender reputation is low, the answer is simple: please clean up your lists and contact book. A low sender reputation can have several causes:
- Too many people are unsubscribing to your messages.
- People are reporting your emails as spam.
- Too many emails are not reaching the inboxes of their recipients.
- Too few people are opening, clicking links, or downloading attachments from your emails.
- A combination of the reasons above.
Here’s what you can do to get to an good or even excellent reputation:
- Check out your campaigns in the last three months. Which ones performed badly? In other words: which campaigns had many fails, unsunscribes and/or spam reports? What campaigns were not opened or clicked like you would have expected? Find out which contacts lists in your address book were used for these campaigns and see whether these lists are still accurate, or perhaps are in need of an update.
- In the table in the sender reputation popup you can also see how your colleagues are performing. If a particular colleague is regularly collecting more than the average number of unsubscribes and fails, you can suggest to go through their contact lists.
- In general, doing specific research on the journalists you’re reaching out to, helps a lot. Also the technical setting of your email domain are a step you can take to increase the general deliverability of all the emails you send through Smart.pr (more about that later, look for “white labeling”).
Alright, now that you have the basics, let’s dig deeper into the details of the sender reputation
Since we started Smart.pr in 2008, literally millions of press releases have been sent through our application. In this era of big data, we felt it was about time we let these numbers speak. This blogpost explains why we believe that monitoring sender reputation is important, how this reputation is calculated in Smart.pr and therefore: how you might be able to improve yours. And although there is power in numbers, data is nothing without human insight. Enjoy.
What is the sender reputation in Smart.pr?
When we talk about sender reputation, we focus on numbers only. The numbers in this case are the aggregate click rates of your emails’ recipients: the percentages of your emails that have been clicked, opened, plainly sent, have failed, that have been unsubscribed to, or that have been reported as spam by their recipients. Together and measured relative to the total amount of emails you send, these figures determine your sender reputation. Its calculation is explained later on.
What sender reputation is not
Of all the press releases sent through Smart.pr, some are great, others no doubt have ample room for improvement. Much of this obviously is driven by the content of these press releases. This is something we need to leave out of the equation here, as we do not automatically index, track or label your press releases regarding what is written in them. Obviously this is too bad, as content determines a great deal. But as long as we are not willing or able to track this and as long as you send stuff that people actually want, we should all be good.
Another thing that the sender reputation is not about, are your email settings. For example, the white labeling of your email domain’s DNS records is a technical angle you may take to improve your generic email deliverability. This is because after white labeling, you send email from your own domain and IP. Although we can assist you in taking the steps to carry out this procedure (please email us at email@example.com), this strategy is out of the scope of this blog post.
So in everything that follows: please leave out PR content and white labeling options.
Why monitor sender reputation?
When calculated right, the aggregate click rates and thus your sender reputation can give you huge insights. This hopefully helps you improve your colleague’s and company’s PR efforts over time. Because as a Smart.pr user you probably want your press releases to be delivered. And not only delivered, but opened, read and clicked. This is why we monitor it. To help you improve. Now that is the positive side of the sender reputation.
Obviously, there’s also a more negative side to it. Generally speaking, this relates to spamming. Everybody is familiar with spam and we all know how annoying a stuffed inbox is. Luckily, worldwide spamming policies are tightening. Internet moguls like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft all take a firm stand regarding spam. And their policies should make sure our inboxes stay clean.
As a recipient of email (and spam): hooray! As a sender within the Smart.pr platform: something to always be aware of. The fact that worldwide policies are tightening basically means there’s no escape: in case you want to keep ending up in peoples inboxes (and that is what you want), your sender reputation needs to be solid. Fair deal, we think!
Let’s give a brief example here. Your sender reputation in the end determines the deliverability of all email you send. This means that in case your IP address was linked to a lot of unsubscribes last month, this month all of your email traffic will be marked as more likely to contain spam for its recipients. And therefore will not be delivered as much as it used to. When you do this a few months in a row, you run a risk that your IP address will be blacklisted. This would make it impossible to deliver email for a longer period. With plenty of PR- and marketing efforts and even business processes leaning heavily on email, this is a company risk that you want to mitigate.
Right. Both from a positive and from a more negative perspective, all the more reason to be aware of your sender reputation.
The sender reputation is optimized continuously
How we calculate the sender reputation holds for both individual Smart.pr senders as for your company as a whole (comprised of all senders). Beware that in this article we only describe the general dynamics. Because the reputation formulas are continuously optimised, we do not share a finite version here (as there is none). Upon request a more detailed version is available, with the very latest adaptations.
Calculating the sender reputation
Let’s go about these calculations point by point. First of all, The sender reputation should be up-to-date: this is why we calculate a running metric for a client or sender over the past 90 days. Also, you will only see a sender reputation in case you and your team have sent more than 100 emails in these past 90 days. This is because we need a little mass to make the metrics work.
Second, note that 4 factors are weighed in the overall reputation score:
- a click (e.g. to download an attachment)
- an open (to read the email)
- a fail (when your email cannot be delivered at all)
- an opt-out (your email was indeed delivered and opened, but the recipient actively chose to unsubscribe from your news).
We believe these factors best reflect a recipient’s behaviour upon receiving an email.
Third, we calculate each of these metrics individually. For each separate metric we determined thresholds to qualify what is considered excellent, good, fair and poor performance. This is based on industry standards and our own experience (i.e. the aggregate click rates and reputations of Smart.pr clients over time). Depending on where the metric falls within the defined thresholds, to each metric (click, open, fail, opt-out) a score is given between 0.0 and 1.0. So this step leaves us with 4 individual scores, one for each metric.
Lastly, these scores earned for each metric are aggregated into the final overall sender reputation. This is a weighted average mean of the individual scores. A general explanation for the weights is as follows: clicks are a conscious recipient action and thus are a good indicator that someone likes your news. Due to inbox settings (auto-opens e.g.), opens are a less reliable indicator and have a lower positive weight. Fails are an indicator of wrong or outdated email addresses and are therefore weighed negatively. Lastly, opt-outs are also a conscious action by the recipient and form a strong indicator of irrelevance or spam. Just as Google and the other parties mentioned before, we dislike spam, period. It hurts the PR/journalist relationship and so it should be weighed the heaviest.
Together, these metrics form your final reputation score on a scale from 0% to 100%. In the app, you can always see your overall sender reputation (the average for all your senders combined) in the top right corner. The screenshot below shows a sender reputation of 93% for example.
Please look for pointers: the devil is in the detail
In this final reputation score you might miss out on some details, so after opening the menu with your reputation, please take a look at the table with specific figures per metric too. Here you’ll find a breakdown of your click rates for each sender. Also you see your team’s totals. Look for discrepancies. Together, this should give you plenty of ideas on how to improve your sender reputation. Because in the final score, compensation of course takes place: a ton of clicks may blur a fail rate that is actually not all too well. We constructed the overall formula in such a way that you should not miss a beat, but always beware that the devil is in the detail…
In the screenshot below for example, San Corp’s average sender reputation is 91%, which is good. Nevertheless, a brief chat with Peter and Garrett might be fruitful. Peter sent emails to 34 recipients, collecting an average unsubscribe rate of almost 6%. This is way too high. He should strive for 1% or less.. And Garrett, although he didn’t send many press releases yet, collected 2 unsubscribes out of the 2 emails he sent. Maybe they could learn something from Claire. She is on fire, boasting a sender reputation of 100% after having reached out to 26 recipients. As you could derive from the table, 92,3% of all her press releases are either opened or clicked, so that’s quite impressive.
Two brief examples to wrap up: should your sender reputation be poor, please look at the table in the app and look for signals. In case your general metrics seem fine, but many of your emails fail to be delivered, then these fails most likely are the reason for your poor reputation. Opt-outs are an even harder indicator that something is not right. You most likely could improve by doing more research on the journalists you reach out to – plus your address book could be in need of an update.
On the other hand, in case your sender reputation is good, but you want to strive for excellence: please dig in! It might be the case that you can lower your unsubscribe rates even more, do more research to optimize your press lists (and minimize those fail rates), or make your content so incredibly attractive that your click rates will go through the roof!
Whatever the case: we hope to give you insight in your PR efforts and help you mitigate spamming risks by sharing the sender reputation. Please let us know what you think by reaching out to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re happy to hear your thoughts!