August 7, 2019
Email Mythbusters: Changing my IPs and/or domain will fix my reputation issues.
Imagine… You are welcoming guests into your home for a party. As people start to file in, you greet them with smiles and hugs, exchanging hellos and kind words. There is your best friend who, thankfully, brought wine and dessert. You greet your co-worker, too, and briefly chat about the weather. As you get ready to greet the next guest, you pause.
Who is this stranger? Is that a fake mustache? Do those glasses actually have no lenses? Then it hits you: you DO recognize this person. It’s your neighbor from down the street who you quietly decided not to invite to your next party. At your last party, this fellow took over as DJ and played only psych trance and, well, it wasn’t great.
Now here he is trying to sneak into your party with a ridiculous disguise and pretending nothing ever happened. This is what it’s like for mailbox providers (MBP) when you try to fix an email reputation issue by simply changing your IP or your domain. The psych trance-loving neighbor could have repaired his reputation by promising not to play awful music at parties and following through on that promise. In the same way, you as a sender can only repair your reputation after an email misstep by doing the work to fix it and consistently demonstrating behavior in line with best practices.
There are, of course, rare occasions when you might be forced to change your sending credentials, like if your brand changes or when you are moving to a new ESP. In cases like these, you will need to go through an arduous process of introducing your new identity by warming up your new IP or domain. But changing to a new IP or domain is never the answer to solving an email reputation issue.
Problematic behavior is still problematic on shiny new IPs/domains.
Only implementing superficial changes will not deliver long-term inbox improvements because MBPs are adept at identifying problematic behavior quickly. If you are running up against a reputation issue, it is likely related to sending behavior and list hygiene. Even if you were to change your IP or domain, you would eventually end up with the same deliverability challenges if nothing has changed about the way you collect new leads and/or filter out inactive leads. An MBP’s primary goal is to make sure their users are only seeing mail from guests they invited to their inbox party. It doesn’t matter if you knock on the door wearing a shiny new outfit. Mailbox providers will be quick to kick your new IP or domain out of the inbox party once again if the underlying problematic behavior has not changed.
This is a classic spam technique.
Another reason this tactic doesn’t work is that shifting IP and domain identities is a classic spammer trick of times past. Changing your mailing identity or spreading your mail across several IPs or domains in order to disguise it can result in you being labeled a snowshoe spammer by MBPs.
Postmasters spend much of their time identifying true spammers, so they have become increasingly skilled at identifying senders. Because snowshoeing was and remains such a popular strategy for spammers, MBPs aren’t just looking at IPs and domains to track senders. They have a variety of other ways to keep tabs on individual senders, including email signatures they assign to senders based on things like subject lines and other pieces of uniquely identifiable header information. Content fingerprinting is also used to track senders attempting to send the same emails across a variety of IPs or domains.
Additionally, traffic coming over new domains (especially those less than a year old) will be heavily throttled. In other words, pulling the old switcheroo will not only not work, but it may make matters worse at MBPs that are now wondering why you would try to obfuscate your identity.
To thine own self be true: the trend towards brand recognition
Another reason to steer clear of tactics involving changing sending credentials is that marketing trends are going in the opposite direction. Brand recognition has become increasingly important from both marketing and technical perspectives. Just as marketers are focusing more on “moral marketing” and brand character to strengthen brand identity, senders are being encouraged to strengthen authentication. An example is the introduction of Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI), which acts as “the carrot to the authentication stick,” incentivizing marketers to tighten their authentication by way of offering brand logo display in the inbox. If your strategy to fix reputation problems involves superficially changing your identity, this is one carrot you won’t be able to nibble on.
More and more, email marketing is about strengthening and owning your identity in all regards. That means when deliverability challenges arise, your best bet is to stick with your sending credentials and work to address the original source of the problem.
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