10 min

A quick intro: Is it better to send emails on a dedicated IP?

A common question from our customers is if it’s better to send emails from a shared IP address or to have to a dedicated IP address. We usually take them to our user guide on deliverability, which contains all the information needed to make an informed decision. As a rule of thumb, from a recent Return Path blog post, you should consider a dedicated IP address only when your email sending volumes are high enough (e.g. more than 50,000 emails per month) and can afford the additional costs of having a dedicated IP address. The reality for the majority of companies, especially small and medium companies, is that they’ll use a shared IP address of their email service provider (ESP). In this blog post, I’ll be going over in some detail what shared IPs mean for ESPs and a few tips to keep in mind on how to improve your deliverability on shared IPs.

An ESP point of view: IP addresses are the bread and butter!

IP addresses are the bread and butter for email service providers. Keeping the IP reputation and deliverability high is a paramount focus point for ESPs: it’s a time- and resource-intensive and sometimes complex process in an effort to promote quality email marketing and fight against email spam.

You might be asking “are shared IPs to blame?” The answer is no, not exactly. Many believe that shared IPs are the culprit for a lower IP reputation and lower deliverability, but this is not always the case. The reasoning some people have is that, because shared IPs include more than one sender, some senders cause higher spam complaints than others and your deliverability may go down. This negative result in deliverability does not always happen as ESPs put a lot of effort and sophistication in outbound email traffic, and shared IPs are always monitored dynamically, …but one thing to mention is that not all ESPs are alike in how they enforce email deliverability best pratices and procedures.

At MailUp, we manage a small but consistent and adequate numeber of IPs dynamically to accommodate our customers’ sending volumes. We have various shared IP pools, segmented based on a number of parameters such as the type of email communications our customers send, the sending volume distribution, open and click rates, bounce rates, spam complaints, content “fingerprinting”, and last but not least, the opt-in method.

Don’t underestimate the bounce rate and spam complaints of your email campaigns. We monitor them closely and a spam complaint rate higher than 0.1%, for example, is a red flag for us. If you exceed our anti-spam thresholds your MailUp account will be blocked and our compliance team will start looking into your recent email activity. For this reason, I believe that if your ESP is diligent in deliverability, then the negative risks in using a shared IP are minuscule and using a shared IP can actually be beneficial to your overall deliverability by maintaining a steady email send volume.

Comparing opinions on a dedicated IP

I regret that very (too) easily are offered dedicated IPs to improve deliverability as the first solution, without worrying about the rest.

In fact if this proposal is not linked to a stronger motivation (as it could be, for example, the Return Path certification) or does not come from a careful analysis of client’s email streams, it might be seen more as a discharge of responsibilities, from the ESP to the client, especially for those hoping to isolate bad practices of their customers in this way.

I personally do not agree with this line. The responsibility of the ESP remains unchanged, both for shared and dedicated IPs.
It is the very same ESP, indeed, that onboarded the customer and suggested a solution rather than another and configured that dedicated send channel.

Based on my experience, I also disagree with the idea that segregating bad traffic on dedicated IPs it is not an issue, as long as you keep that traffic only on dedicated IPs, and it does not to affect your global ESP reputation.
Internet service providers (ISPs), such as Gmail, can decide (and have the authority) to block your email communications from an IP address, subnets, or worse domains/PTR, if they deem it as email spam or not relevant for their users. The reputation of the ESP as a whole is determined by the sum of the reputations of all its clients, bad or good.

In recent years, as pointed out by the email deliverability community including from Laura Atkins in this blog post, the overall reputation of senders is becoming less and less dependent on the IP reputation. Subscriber engagement and domain reputation (following the adoption of SPF, DKIM, and DMARC) are gaining a bigger weight in the sender reputation equation.

Permission marketing first, all else follows

Permission marketing and adopting opt-in best practices is the best strategy to follow. This will pay dividends for your sender reputation in the long term. For the rest, choose a email service provider with a good reputation and experience in deliverability. Permission marketing lets you focus on your main objective as a marketer: to send relevant, engaging content that your subscribers want!

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