ISPs use a series of reputation and engagement metrics to determine email deliverability. By understanding all of these factors, you can better influence the outcome of your email program. In this post, we’ll break down 3 factors that can affect your reputation and 5 behaviors that show engagement.

 Reputation Metrics

It’s important to know that each time you deploy messages to your email list, your reputation is impacted. While thresholds vary by ISP, these 3 factors will definitely make an impact:

1. Spam Complaint Rate

This is the percentage of subscribers who have reported your email as spam. A high complaint rate is the number one factor used by ISPs to determine whether or not to deliver your email messages. If too many people are flagging your mail as spam, ISPs will take action to block your messages.

2.Unknown Users

This is the number of emails on your list that are non-existent email addresses, which bounce back messages. Common reasons for this include misspelled emails and full inboxes. In order to prevent sending to misspelled emails, implement a double opt-in and send confirmation emails.

 3. Spam Traps

This is the number of messages sent to email addresses set up specifically to catch spammers. Spam traps (or “honey pots”) often appear if you have poor email acquisition practices or if your email list is too old. ISPs set up specific accounts or often reclaim accounts with no activity and monitor the messages that are sent to those inboxes. Since these addresses will never open or click on your messages, it’s important to practice good list hygiene and proactively remove non-engaging addresses.

Engagement Metrics

Many ISPs now look at customer activity to determine whether or not to deliver email. ISPs often use custom algorithms to measure engagement, but common metrics may include the following:

1. Open Rate

This measures how many subscribers “looked at” your email. However, the only way this metric is counted is if the images included in the message are downloaded. However, many subscribers have images automatically turned off, so despite viewing your message, they will not be counted in the open rate.

2. Clicks

This is the number of subscribers who clicked on one or more links in your email message. (SendGrid’s Event Webhook helps provide detailed data from your email campaigns including clicks, opens, delivered, bounces, and more.)

3. TiNs Data

This is collected when users actively click a button that says “This is Not Spam.” It shows that users want your email and will help improve your reputation.

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4. Saving to Folders

Retaining email by moving it from the inbox to another primary folder is a sign of engagement. Negative engagement would be mass deleting or a user taking no action.

5. Panel Data

A panel of users who determine whether email messages have been correctly marked as spam based on criteria specified by the email providers.

By monitoring your engagement data and keeping your lists clean you can help build and maintain your reputation to ensure better email deliverability. For 3 more engagement metrics to watch and much more detail around email compliance and delivery, check out our guide The ABCs of ISPs, available here.



Jillian Wohlfarth
As SendGrid's Director of Content, Jillian is responsible for ensuring that SendGrid provides valuable thought leadership content through the blog, whitepapers, webcasts, and more. When not writing and editing, you can find Jillian frequenting Denver restaurants in search of the best queso.