IP addresses do more than just allow us to connect to the internet. They also help track the origin of an online request. Is it a legitimate request? Is it suspicious? IP reputation can help us find the answer to this question.
Generally speaking, IP reputation measures the quality of an IP address. This helps determine whether the address is used for malicious or non-malicious activities.
For example, an address with a poor reputation is likely to be associated with spam, malware, hackers, dangerous domains, or bots. IP reputation allows us to separate such malicious addresses from genuine ones.
This is also very important for email marketing campaigns. Without reputable IP addresses, your emails will be less likely to reach your audience. This might go even to the point where your emails completely fail to land in your customers’ inboxes.
Let’s see how IP reputation is determined
Since your IP reputation is checked to see if you should keep sending and receiving requests, it is important to first know how the reputation is determined.
The past actions linked to your IP address will determine the quality and credibility of that address. For that, mailbox providers (like Gmail, Yahoo, or Outlook) will use specific metrics.
IP reputation is often determined using information based on aspects such as:
– Spam traps, also known as ‘honeypots’ (email addresses owned by ISPs or mailbox providers designed to catch the source of the spam;
– High bounce rates;
– Spam complaints (how many users flag the received emails as ‘spam’);
– Volume of emails (how many emails you send from an IP address);
– Frequency of emails (how often you send emails from an IP address).
The equation is easy to understand. For instance, the fewer spam complaints you have, the more positive reputation your IP will get. The more spam traps you hit with your emails, the less reputable your IP will get. This shows that you did not build an email list organically, but rather acquired it in bulk.
Similarly, if you send a lot of emails from a single IP address, spam filters pick up on high volumes, and the IP will likely get flagged. Eventually, emails sent from less reputable IPs will either fail to reach the customers or land in the spam folder. Naturally, this will make them useless.
Dedicated vs Shared IP reputation – Some mentions
You should also know that the reputation of dedicated IPs and shared IPs are determined differently.
A dedicated IP is yours and only yours to manage. Its reputation is based solely on how you use it. If you acquired your IP addresses from certain providers or IP brokers, it’s also important to know their reputation history. Unless you are working with trustworthy providers, it might be possible to get your hands on previously blacklisted addresses.
Shared IPs are a bit different when it comes to determining reputation. In this case, the reputation is based on the common activity of all users that are sharing that same address.
I am taking care of my IP. How come it got a negative score?
Sometimes, businesses and organizations might deal with IP reputation attacks. This happens when an attacker hijacks a website or server and affects its IP reputation. This can be done in various ways, such as:
– Hijacking the company’s website;
– Hijacking servers to send malicious emails;
– Launching DDoS (Denial Distribution of Service) attacks.
Such reputation attacks can happen even if a single device in a large network is compromised. The same goes for old, unpatched devices that are still allowed to connect to the organization’s network.
So, even if you did everything right with your email marketing campaigns, an attacker could quickly change a positive reputation to a bad one. This can have severe consequences. Your emails will no longer be deemed trustworthy. Not only that, but you will have a really hard time landing emails in your customers’ inboxes.
How to check your IP reputation?
Checking IP reputation can be done manually or using dedicated tools. There are a couple of popular and widely-used services and applications that can do that for you.
Before doing that, it is recommended to identify the IPs associated with your organization. To do that, you need to first check your SPF (Sender Policy Framework) records. SPF Specifies the servers and domains that are allowed to send an email on behalf of your organization.
Next, you can choose what kind of IP reputation tool you want to use. For that, it’s way easier and more useful to use a tool that provides real-time data. That is because static lists can quickly get outdated. Let’s list the most popular dedicated tools that provide real-time data:
A go-to for many organizations. Sender Score provides a straightforward score that ranks an IP reputation from 0 to 100. This falls into 3 categories: 0-70 (needs repair), 70-80 (needs optimization), and 80-100 (great reputation). On the website, every category will also provide you with useful information that will help you repair, improve, and maintain an IP reputation.
This is how Google views your IP reputation. It is reliable and widely used because Gmail has become the preferred mailbox for many companies and users. Postmaster Tools can show:
– Your IP address reputation;
– Domain reputation;
– Encryption usage;
– Email authentication success and failure rates;
– Spam rates.
The counterpart to Google’s Postmaster Tools, SNDS is suitable for organizations using Outlook. SNDS measures your IP reputation and also offers extra information about:
– Spam bots;
– Compromised servers.
This tool sends a summary of IP address data including:
– Reputation score and influences;
– Basic WHOIS information;
– Threat status and analysis;
– Geographic location;
– Virtually hosted domains on the IP address.
How can you improve your IP reputation?
Now that you know how to check your IP reputation, it’s time to know the basics about improving it. Especially if you just started or acquired an address with a less reputable record behind it.
Let’s discuss the key steps you can take right away to stay in good light with your IP address.
1. Check if your IP address is not blacklisted. Blacklists exist to prevent suspicious IPs from sending malicious requests. So, it’s important to know the status of your address.
2. Consider using different servers to separate the types of emails you send. This can help you protect and improve your IP reputation.
3. Start slow and warm up your IPs. If you have a brand new address, domain, and/or SMTP server, it’s advisable to warm up the IP. If you send huge amounts of emails right off the bat, spam filters will raise red flags. Build it slow and stay consistent afterward, without sudden spikes in sending volume.
4. Make sure your servers don’t have malware. This brings us to the risk of IP reputation attacks. You should also focus on boosting the security of your network and devices.
5. Trim your email list and send relevant emails. Don’t send emails to inactive or disengaged users. Instead, focus on personalizing them and reaching interested users. Engagement is more important than the size of your mailing list.
And lastly, make sure you don’t repeat the mistakes that got you into trouble in the first place. Cooperate with authorities in case you need to delist your IPs from a blacklist and acknowledge what you did to end up there. Adhere to good business practices and consider using standard email protocols like SPF, DKIM, and DMARC.
In the end, why does IP reputation matter?
IP address reputation determines the overall web reputation of specific IP addresses. This helps identify potential sources of spam and malware. Depending on the reputation score, an IP can get blacklisted or be allowed to send and receive online requests.
IP reputation is vital for organizations relying on email marketing. The better your IP reputation is, the higher the success rate of your campaigns. In addition, you also need to make sure your network stays secure.
No matter how reputable you keep your IPs, a cyber attack will likely turn your network into a spamming platform. If you don’t want your IP ranges to turn into malware nests, focus on security and reputation monitoring.
IP reputation is a reflection of your online behavior. It is this reputation that will dictate how well your business performs.