We mentioned IP address reputation in multiple blog posts. Together with domain health, it’s a vital component of your sender reputation. Set it up properly - and it will secure top deliverability for you. Mess it up - and it will topple your campaigns. However, while you know the factors that are responsible for domain reputation, the ways of controlling IP address reputation seem...non-existent. You can’t register an IP address - it’s assigned to you and there is nothing you can do about it. Therefore, it seems that a reputation-boosting IP address is a matter of luck, not effort.
Luckily, this assumption is wrong. You can control your IP address - and you can even choose it.
Let’s see how you can do it - and why you absolutely must do it.
What do you need IP addresses for?
The IP address stands short for "internet protocol address". Basically, it's a set of unique numbers assigned to your computer. Thanks to the IP address, your computer gets identified in the internet network, so it can receive and send information. Essentially, it's the "name" that the system knows you by.
Internet protocol addresses are used for tracking online activity, answering information inquiries, and search queries - this is how you know that the email sent to you would appear in your inbox and not your neighbor Steve's.
Yes, we said "email". Aside from PCs, IP addresses are assigned servers, so every website and every email domain has an IP address of its own.
However, this is where things get tricky. Lots of hosting providers and servers can provide you with two types of IP addresses - a shared IP address and a dedicated IP address.
What is a shared IP address?
A shared IP address is the default internet protocol address that is assigned to your server by your hosting manager from a range of addresses at its disposal. For example, when you register a Gmail account, you’re given an IP address from the Gmail roster - and you share it with the thousands of other users in your area. It means that all activities of all users contribute to the reputation of the shared IP address.
Therefore, if other users in your region are exemplary senders and have a solid status, you get to shine as well - internet service providers trust you by association. Accordingly, if you’ve made a name for yourself in email marketing, users who share an address with you benefit from your behavior.
What is a dedicated IP address?
A dedicated IP address is an address that is assigned exclusively to your server. It belongs to you and you alone and tracks your actions on the internet. Unlike shared internet protocol addresses, dedicated addresses aren't given out by a hosting provider - they're purchased by users.
Which one is better?
So, you have a choice of not paying for an IP address and participating in building a reputation for multiple email users and domains or getting an exclusive IP address and being the only one responsible for your actions and decisions. Given how important it is to keep your Sender Score high, a dedicated IP address seems like a go-to option. You’re not wrong, but let’s dive into details.
Dedicated IP: pros and cons
Now that we’ve touched on what a dedicated IP is and how it works, let’s dive into the advantages and disadvantages of using one.
You are the master of your sending reputation
No third party can affect your reputation if you’re the only user of your domain. Your practice for sending emails is the only one that can affect your status. This is how you can earn credibility and build an image that appeals to internet service providers and fits your idea of representing your brand in email marketing.
You can send large amounts of email
When high-volume emails are your goal, you want your reputation to be impeccable. This is why you must have full control over it. A dedicated IP address is the best way of managing your sending behavior and making sure that no other users can interfere with your large-scale campaigns.
Your growth is more predictable
Being a sole user of the IP address means that you don’t have to worry about other users giving your domain a bad name or messing with your deliverability. You get clear stats and know what impacts your email marketing without playing a guessing game. When you need accurate data and a firm grip on sending behavior, a dedicated IP address will help you out.
Sounds like the dedicated IP address is the perfect option for you. But not so fast: this type of IP address also has its downsides, and you should know about them in advance.
You’ll have to run warm-up campaigns
When you purchase a dedicated IP address, a good sending reputation isn’t included. You have to work your way to the top by starting with warming your IP up for email marketing. That means (yes, you’ve guessed it!) launching warm-up campaigns before you can talk shop with your potential buyers. This is a time-consuming process that requires you to monitor, analyze and make adjustments - in addition to all other marketing and sales development activities at your company.
If you’re a low-volume sender, you get hurt
A dedicated address doesn't just assist you with a high volume of emails - it depends on a large volume (you have to send at least 300 000 emails regularly) and consistent outreach. If email marketing isn't your primary sales channel and you only send messages from time to time, you won't be able to maintain your dedicated IP address the right way. Instead, you'll run into a wide range of reputation-building problems and start experiencing deliverability issues.
In some cases, when you interact with organizations that are very serious about their security or want to enable an option to whitelist the email addresses within your network, a dedicated IP address would fit you best.
You pay for each mistake
Being the master of your IP address means being responsible for every email marketing mistake that you make. Mess up the links in the templates? Your reputation goes down. You didn't clean your sending list and sent messages to lots of invalid email addresses and spam traps? Your reputation goes down.
Too many spam trigger words in your emails? Your mail goes to spam folders now. And there is nobody else to blame but you. Meanwhile, shared IPs make each user take collective responsibility, so the outcome is minimized, meaning that even if you mess up, the good behavior of other senders keeps email service providers lenient to you. Therefore, you can keep your deliverability high, avoid spam folders and fix your issues without any pressure.
Shared IP address: pros and cons
So, we highlighted the best and the worst parts of owning a dedicated IP. Now let’s dissect the shared IP address and see how it can benefit you (or disadvantage you in the long run).
You don’t have to warm up your IP address
The most obvious advantage of using a shared IP address is that you can start sending emails from the get-go without having to introduce yourself to email service providers. After all, you're not using a new IP address - you've joined the address that already has a reputation and is known by internet service providers and email services. Just write an email and hit send - it will land where it's supposed to. This is why casual users have no issues with deliverability - they merely contribute to the existing reputation instead of building it from ground zero.
So, if you never intended to sell a massive volume of emails and instead use your business mailbox for messaging people you met at webinars, online conferences, and other events, a shared IP address will work for you.
You start out with a decent reputation
Since you share an IP address with other senders, you get to reap the benefits of their positive sending behavior. When all users assigned to a shared IP use only the best email marketing practices, you get faster growth, high delivery rates, better deliverability without breaking a sweat. You also contribute to that positive domain reputation by sticking to the guidelines of email outreach and sending only high-quality messages.
Many email providers make sure to create a system within which users can develop a shared stellar reputation with their actions and healthy approach to email outreach - they carefully question each new member before the registration and remove all suspicious senders that keep breaking the guidelines and don’t follow the email etiquette.
You get more flexibility
Even if something goes awry with your mailbox (an email verification mishap, a poorly written template, a misplaced link), email service providers are willing to give you the vote of confidence, meaning that they wouldn’t penalize you with lower deliverability and increased chances of landing in spam folders. Of course, it doesn’t mean that you can ignore your issues - you still have to sort them out.
But your delivery rates won’t suffer from your mistakes, thanks to thousands of other exemplary users upholding your reputation and proving that you’re a credible sender. You get just enough time to work through all the areas of improvement and ensure that all the trust doesn’t go in vain.
Does a shared IP have its pitfalls? Naturally, yes. However, it depends on you and your goals when it comes to figuring out how much harm a mismanaged shared IP can cause you.
You can’t be a high-volume sender
Sending large amounts of emails takes consistency and caution. You have to manage the behavior of every user to make sure that email service providers don't confuse you with a spam sender and approach you like one. However, with a shared IP, you have no way of knowing the sending schedule of every user and whether they follow the best practices for sending marketing emails. There are too many variables that you can't calculate - and they will take their toll on your results, your deliverability, and your Sender Score.
You share a bad reputation as well
A rotten apple can spoil the entire basket. This is a pretty accurate description of what happens when there is a bad or negligent sender in your midst. When you share an IP address with a spammer that deliberately breaks the CAN-SPAM act, spreads malware, dives into phishing activities, you, too, suffer from their actions because internet sender providers and email services mark the entire shared IP as compromised and scrutinize all users within it. As you can guess, they become less forgiving and tolerant of mistakes.
If you get your shared reputation compromised by a spammer, you will have to polish your email authentication protocols, comb through all your templates and sending lists in order to assure the system that you’re a credible sender and have nothing in common with the cybercriminal who wormed their way into your community.
You get lower security
Email outreach safety starts with your business mailbox. If you bought a Gmail domain for business and have a network of email mailboxes, you must protect your senders from spoofed emails and phishing attacks that have become quite sophisticated in the last few months.
The best way to secure your mailboxes from cybercriminals is to deny them any entrance: from enabling all email verification protocols and educating your users to protect your network with an exclusive IP address. Working with delicate financial information and sensitive user data while using a shared IP leaves you vulnerable to potential data thieves.
Shared IP vs. dedicated IP: the verdict
So, which type of internet protocol address will give you the best advantage in email marketing?
When it comes to building sender reputation fast, a shared IP address is an obvious winner - you're not alone, you're propelled by multiple other users who participate in healthy email outreach. So, internet service providers and email services would start trusting you quicker and let you join the community of email senders without any friction.
This is why if you are a common user, you have no problems with sending messages and getting them delivered. However, if you use a mailbox for business purposes, that’s an entirely different story.
B2B marketing or B2C marketing requires you to send around 300,000 emails per day (or even more). This is not the volume typical for a casual sender, so if you try to use a shared IP address, you’re guaranteed to encounter the following challenges:
- Different behavior patterns of other users. Consistency and stability are important for building sender reputation. But you won’t get those by using a shared IP address. When other users stick to low volumes and don’t adjust their email authentication protocols to meet the requirements of B2B email marketing, it may confuse the system and prompt it to treat your domain with suspicion.
- Sender score dropped by misbehaving users. If a spammer or an irresponsible user gets an account and your shaped IP address is assigned to them, you will bear the burden of the punishment by spam filters and email service providers. Since they don't see the difference between you and the cybercriminal, you will end up guilty by association, with reduced delivery rate, deteriorated deliverability, and blacklisted domain name.
- Slower reputation growth in the long run. A reputation boost thanks to shared users is short-lived. As soon as your sending volume increases, your growth will slow down, unable to keep up with the new number of emails. In the end, you will spend more time boosting your deliverability than it usually takes.
In the end, it all boils down to your endgame goals and choice of sales channels.
A dedicated IP address will suit your needs perfectly when you want to:
- talk business through email outreach;
- hire an outsourced team for generating cold leads via emails;
- outsource sending a large volume of marketing messages.
If you intend to work with a low volume of emails, a shared IP address will do just fine for you.
Shared IP and dedicated IP: the revelation
You should know another thing: a dedicated IP isn’t the magical cure for your deliverability problems. At least, this is not how things work right now.
The latest news shows that due to the shortage of IPv4 addresses and email services using IPv6 addresses more often, the internet service providers started paying less attention to IP addresses and prioritizing domain health when evaluating your sending reputation and making their ultimate decision.
Following that tendency, we can say that IP addresses are going to fade out of relevance in a decade or so.
After all, the current shift already makes them less reliable when it comes to judging the reputation of a certain sender, while domain health remains the most accurate depiction of your activities and your willingness to follow the best practices for sending emails.
So, we don’t suggest counting on a dedicated IP address as if it’s a miracle solution for boosting your status. It’s merely another measure to make your large-volume email outreach cleaner and more controllable. However, the trends change, and you better keep the key email guidelines in mind and have enough flexibility to adapt to the new strategies and approaches.
The best way to stay informed and ready for action is to have a reliable tool at hand. For example, how do you make sure that it works and that your warm-up campaigns perform as intended?
Folderly runs deliverability tests that evaluate your domain health, give you an approximate Sender Score, check your DNS records, and alert you about any issues with your progress.