What Is Graymail? And How Is It Ruining Your Email Sender Score?

Have you ever been offered a discount at a retail store in exchange for your email address? Did you offer it up just to get the discount, thinking that you’d just unsubscribe later? And rather than unsubscribing, do you just delete all of the messages that come from said retail store?

Me too.

Well, sometimes.

But there are other times when I really do want to receive updates and offers from companies that I do business with. I look forward to their news, open their emails, and click on their offers – all the while having a positive impact on said company’s email sender reputation.

Email marketing can be an extremely successful marketing tool for both B2C (business to consumer) and B2B (business to business) companies. Some marketers get excited as their email databases grow in number. And data points, like open rates and click-through rates, are viewed and measured on a monthly basis. Email marketing visit-to-lead conversions over 10%? Wahoo!

But if you aren’t paying attention to what's known as graymail while sending out your daily, weekly and monthly emails, you could actually be hurting your email sending reputation. And, no, deleting contacts that have “bounced” is not enough to salvage it.

So what is graymail? How do you measure it?

In a nutshell, graymail is email that people have opted to receive from you (either via a form or a blog subscription or a tradeshow booth) that they really no longer want. You may not realize they no longer want your email, so you keep sending, ultimately having a negative impact on your email sender score.

Mailbox providers like Outlook, Yahoo, Google, etc. all have a filtering algorithm that weighs different elements of an email program to determine whether to accept messages and where to deliver them (i.e. Inbox, Junk Box, Spam Folder, Promotions Folder, etc.). Algorithms differ across platforms, but there are a couple of general categories that are taken into consideration when identifying graymail and determining an email sender score…

1. Sender Identity & Reputation

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will regularly evaluate your sending identity and reputation. They take into account whether you have a recognized sending domain and a recognized IP address. Some companies try to work around this by changing IP addresses frequently. Don’t do this! The ISP’s are too smart for that and if you are recognized as doing this, your graymail score will take a big hit. Also, if your emails are continuously marked as “junk,” this is an indication to the ISPs that your sender reputation is poor.

2. Subscriber Engagement

What does the engagement of your subscribers look like? How have recipients previously engaged with messages from you in the past? The algorithms look for positive factors such as:

  • Read rate
  • Reply rate
  • Forward rate
  • Messages tagged as “this is not junk”

If these rates are high, then your email sender score is also going to be high and positive. If these rates are low, well then, so is your sender score.

Other factors that have an automatic negative impact on your email:

  • Do your messages typically generate numerous complaints?
  • Are you a responsible sender whose messages are frequently opened?
  • Are your messages frequently deleted before reading?
  • Are your messages frequently marked as junk?

Get your emails delivered to the inbox, not the junk folder.

So what can you do about a potential graymail problem?

Make a plan to regularly evaluate the factors above to ensure you emails are being delivered by the ISPs to your recipients’ inbox and not their junk folder. Here’s how:

  • Clean up your database regularly. Remove email addresses for which sends are resulting in bounced emails.
  • Create unique messages based on the specific needs and wants of your segmented audiences.
  • Test your lists. Try sending the email to a small subset first (say 50 people) and analyze the data (opens, bounces, click-throughs, etc.) Then tweak the message. Tweak the subject line. Tweak the audience! You get the idea.

If you regularly monitor the health of your email database, you will decrease the amount of graymail you’re sending and increase the likelihood that your email sender score will be strong. If you are curious to know where you stand now, there are services that you can use to monitor your sender reputation such as senderscore.org.

If you need help cleaning up or segmenting your database to identify your most promising target audiences, give PMG a call. We’re big fans of high-quality email marketing campaigns, and we’d be happy to help!

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Ranae Mogensen
About the Author
Ranae Mogensen

Currently serving as Inbound Marketing Manager at aPriori Technologies, Ranae Mogensen is an adept campaign specialist and project manager with over 10 years of experience. A HubSpot certified marketing & sales professional whose worked with clients from numerous industries, Ranae is passionate about reaching prospects and customers with meaningful content that helps them solve their most pressing business problems.