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IP reputation and the bulk folder

I’ve spent much of today talking to various people about IP reputation and bulk foldering. It’s an interesting topic, and one that has changed quite a bit in the past few months. Here are a few of the things I said on the topic.
Generally IPs that the ISP has not seen traffic from before starts out with a slight negative reputation. If you think about all the new IPs that an ISP will see mail from on a daily basis, 99 out of 100 of those will be bot infected windows boxes. So they’re going to treat that mail very suspiciously. And, in the grand scheme of things, that mail is going to be spam a lot more than it’s not going to be spam.
Some ISPs put mail in the inbox and bulk foldering during the whitelisting process. Basically they’re looking to see if your recipients care enough about your mail to look for it in the bulk folder. This then feeds back to create the reputation of the IP address. There is another fairly major ISP that told me that when they’re seeing erratic data for an particular sender they will put some mail in bulk and some mail in the inbox and let the recipients tell the system which is more correct.
That’s what happens while you’re establishing a reputation on an IP. Once there is some history on the IP, things get a little different. At that point, IP reputation becomes unimportant in terms of bulk foldering. The ISP knows an IP has a certain level of reputation, and *all* their mail has that level of reputation. So bulk foldering is more related to content and reputation of the domains and URLs in the message.
The other reason IP reputation isn’t trumping domain / content reputation as much as it did in the past is that spammers stomped all over that. Affiliates, snowshoers, botnets, all those methods of sending spam made IP reputation less important and the ISPs had to find new ways to determine spam / not spam.
So if you’re seeing a lot of bulk foldering of mail, it’s unlikely there’s anything IP reputation based to do. Instead of worrying about IP reputation, focus instead on the content of the mail and see what you may need to do to improve the reputation of the domains and URLs (or landing pages) in the emails. While the content may not appear that different, the mere mention of “domain.com” where domain.com is seen in a lot of spam can trigger bulking.
 

6 comments

  1. Sridhar says

    Agree…and to add – your mailing list/customers matter a lot. Many inactive vs active users will lead to less mail from junk folder to inbox. And you will never get your mail to Inbox 🙂

  2. Derek Harding says

    There have been almost no responses to this. Don’t others think this is a pretty big deal? ISPs moving away from IP reputation and back towards content and URIs with the new addition of domain rep seems like a big deal to me.

  3. laura says

    This post has been tweeted quite a bit, but there are so many people that have put all their eggs into the IP reputation basket that they’d rather assume I’m wrong.

  4. Karen Balle says

    But Lauraaaa, how can WHAT you send be as important as where you send it from? Surely your customers don’t really care what you send them as long as they know it’s from you? Right? Right? I can’t control what my partners do. Why should I be responsible for them? It’s so hard for me to check every link in my email. It’s hard and expensive to write good, engaging content that customers want to read. I have other priorities. Do you know how long it takes to test email? This is my business I’m talking about! What do you mean I have to invest more into email marketing?

  5. Andrew Kordek says

    Laura,
    Can you define what you mean by erratic data that these ISP’s are seeing.
    Andrew Kordek

  6. Looking towards the future – Word to the Wise says

    […] something I’ve been thinking about more and more recently. I wrote a little bit about it recently, but have focused more on the whole realm of content filtering rather than just domain […]

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