In just the last few weeks, perhaps because we’re jumping into new political and marketing campaign seasons, a few articles have popped up on read and response rate. One common denominator in rate enhancement is the maintenance of a good sender reputation.

The most noticeable is probably Dmytro Spilka’s audaciously-titled “How I got 80% open rate in my email outreach campaign,” which lists factors like target identification, a masterful subject line, actually using preview snippets, solid sender reputation, and effective follow-ups. One thing the article could have included at the top of the list, though, is the maintenance of data or list hygiene–updates that correct your recipient addresses and remove “unwanted names, undeliverable addresses, or individuals who have chosen not to receive direct mail offers or who have unsubscribed from email lists.” Data append services like Accurate Append provide this.

But what I like about Dmytro’s post is that it emphasizes the dynamic at work in sender reputation assessment: Email platforms are committed to giving their users a good experience, and that means “whittling down any perceived junk automatically,” while senders want the emails to be seen and opened. Reputation score is the way you negotiate through those competing imperatives. Yannis Psarras at Moosend points out that a good reputation keeps emails out of the recipient’s spam folder. Psarras’s post also has a cute “periodic table of delivery score” that has to be seen for itself, with element-like abbreviations like Fc for fewer complaints, Bl for few bounces, Vo for consistent volume, and so on.

There are various reputation checks that guide deliverability. Consistency is one that a lot of new senders aren’t aware of. “A consistent volume of email campaigns, without major drops or spikes, plays a significant role in sender reputation,” Psarras says. “For example, if you send out an email to your list twice a week, switching to three times a week, will cause ripples. There will be times when you will want to send out more emails than normal. For example over the busy Christmas period. But aim for a regular, consistent schedule where possible.”

A particularly useful document that also posted during the last month is Return Path’s “Sending Best Practices,” a detailed PDF listing the top factors that impact sending reputation and deliverability. The document discusses complaints (you need complaint feedback loops to suppress complainers from future versions of that list), getting rid of “unknown users” after the first bounce, opt-in permission methods, and one often-neglected piece of the puzzle: giving subscribers good, relevant content when they indicate they want to receive messages from you.

2019 and 2020 should be heavy-rain years for voter- and consumer- directed emails. Systemic use of sending best practices and good data hygiene is going to be the key to recipient engagement rather than landing in the spam folder or, worse, finding yourself in email sender jail, unable to get your messages out.