Marketing / Email Marketing

Dedicated IP vs. shared IP for email marketing

James Thompson

Updated: Sep 20, 2022 · 4 min read

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If you're sending marketing emails, you, of course, want your customers to receive them. Does that mean you need your own IP to ensure email deliverability? Not necessarily.

With a dedicated IP (internet protocol) address, a company's emails are the only emails routed through that address. A shared IP is typically used by a larger group of senders in an effort to pool resources and email reputations together.

On paper, a dedicated IP may sound better. You may think that with a dedicated IP, you don't have to worry about someone else's poor marketing habits negatively effecting you. But while that assumption was true years ago, this isn’t nearly as valid today. These days, a shared IP—offered by an email service provider like Keap works well for many small businesses. Here's a look at why a shared IP can be a better choice.

Spam prevention has evolved

Many years ago, systems administrators who manage inbound email servers became smart about preventing spam. They realized that it’s relatively easy for spammers to simply burn an IP address with spam, then move to a different IP address and resume their illicit activities through that. And once that IP was blacklisted, they would move to another. Rinse and repeat.

Eventually, these system admins realized that these abused IPs were usually owned by a single hosting service, company or email service provider. Instead of just blocking each IP they see abuse from, a system admin can simply block every IP in a given range from sending mail to their network. This is a profound change for those using a dedicated IP. If a neighboring IP—one you don't own—is abusive, your IP can be impacted if the recipient decides to blacklist the entire range of IP addresses. 

Maintaining a strong email volume consistently builds the reputation of email senders

Email servers look for spikes in email traffic volumes coming from a single IP address. This is an indicator that an IP may have been compromised or that a spammer is likely “blasting” out of the IP before it gets shut down. That means small businesses that don't send emails consistently can easily be viewed as a compromised IP address and get blacklisted or throttled accordingly, even if you aren’t a spammer.

To learn more about how to ensure the emails you send hit customers' inboxes, read our free e-book, Maximize Your Email Deliverability.

Mistakes are much tougher to correct in a dedicated IP environment

With dedicated IPs, an email marketing mistake is much more costly to the sender in the long run. When you send from shared IP addresses, you cumulatively pool email volumes and reputations. Due to the simple fact that there is generally more email volume sending through shared IPs, an erroneous email broadcast that went to the wrong segment at the wrong time will be a much smaller blip on the receiver’s radar. The overall volume of good emails from that same shared IP offsets that small mistake.

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A responsible email service provider (like Keap) will monitor for these email mistakes and educate senders to make sure the mistake is not repeated in the future. To protect the reputation of the all emails sent through shared IP addresses, we strongly enforce our Acceptable Use Policy while being helpful, kind and respectful to users who unintentionally make mistakes with their email marketing program. This unfortunately cannot be said for a dedicated IP. Because the volume is much lower, the same kind of mistake can cause long-term reputation damage, which can then cause the receiving ESP to take permanent measures to prevent emails from the offending IP.

Dedicated IPs work well when you have the need and the resources to maintain it

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule for dedicated IP senders. Successful companies that use a dedicated IP are usually very mature in their business operations and marketing approach. These companies have a lot of experience with email marketing and compliance. They also usually have a small team dedicated just to this part of the business, with staff members who are knowledgeable about email compliance and have the know-how to quickly and appropriately respond to abuse situations.

Why small businesses choose a shared IP

Most small businesses don’t have the time or staff to properly manage the duties in maintaining a dedicated IP.  This is why most small businesses choose to choose a trustworthy email marketing service to send email to their customers and prospects. If you’re looking to send from a dedicated IP, be sure to discuss these topics with your ESP. As with most things in life, there is no magic bullet for deliverability. But as long as you respect the needs of your audience and observe email marketing best practices, you'll get your messages to the inbox quickly.  

A final thought

Email is an effective channel for small businesses to generate revenue, nurture leads, close business or keep your customers in the know. Keap can help you take your email to the next level.

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