Marketers often ask themselves whether they should use a dedicated or a shared IP address to send emails. IP reputation plays a big role in the deliverability of your emails, so it’s a very important question. There’s no universal answer; it depends on what you need.
Dedicated and shared IPs each have their pros and cons. This article will discuss the main differences between dedicated and shared IP scenarios, their benefits, and when to choose one over the other.
What is an IP address, and how does it relate to email sending?
An Internet Protocol (IP) address is a unique number that identifies every device communicating over the net. The initial specification, Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4), defines an IP address as a 32-bit value. It can be represented as a string of numbers separated by dots, such as 123.45.567.890. Each number can be anything from 0 to 255.
Later, due to the increasing number of Internet devices and users, IPv6 was introduced which uses 128-bit values, allowing for a much greater number of possible addresses. A human-readable representation of an IPv6 address may look like 2001:db8:0:1234:0:567:8:1.
Every email service provider uses mail servers to route your messages to the intended recipients. A mail server may use one or more IP addresses, depending on its setup. The norm is that multiple users share one IP address. But you can request a dedicated IP address to be used for your mailings, instead of a shared one.
What are the differences between dedicated and shared IPs?
A shared IP is used by many people simultaneously, while only one person uses a dedicated IP. The main appeal of having a dedicated IP address is that you can retain full control of your sender IP reputation. Because you’re the only one sending emails from that address, you won’t be blacklisted or take a hit on your reputation due to the actions of other people.
- When you send an email from a dedicated IP address, the messages originate from an exclusive IP assigned to you. It gives you total control over your sending reputation, as only your activities affect it.
- When you send emails from a shared IP, you don’t have full control over your sending reputation. The activities of other people sharing the IP address affect the reputation. If one or a few of them use it for malicious purposes, it’ll weigh down the reputation of everyone sharing the IP.
Sender reputation correlates with email deliverability. If reputation services assign a high score to an IP, then messages from that IP will be more likely to get to their intended recipients. Conversely, IP addresses with low reputations will see a significant percentage of their messages getting bounced or being tagged as spam.
Most email service providers allow customers to request a dedicated IP for sending emails. UniOne can provide one and help you monitor its performance and reputation. A dedicated IP means you’ll likely enjoy higher deliverability rates than using a shared one.
IP reputation, however, is not the only factor influencing deliverability. Another major factor is your domain name’s reputation. If you’re just starting your email marketing activities for a new domain, you will benefit from using a shared IP with an already established reputation.
What are the benefits of each IP?
- Better email deliverability: Your messages generally have a higher chance of landing in the recipients’ primary inboxes if they come from a dedicated address. This benefit is more pronounced if you send bulk emails. Popular email providers like Gmail and Yahoo Mail trust massive campaigns from dedicated IPs more than those from shared IPs.
- Lower risk of blacklisting: You won’t be blacklisted because of the activities of other users if you’re using an exclusive IP address. In contrast, on a shared IP, there is a higher chance of being blacklisted due to the malicious acts of another user you don’t even know.
- Faster email sends: With a dedicated IP, your email traffic may be processed using separate queues. Your emails will be sent to their intended recipients faster and more smoothly. However, this may not always be the case, depending on actual server setup.
- Cost-effective: They are a more cost-effective solution, especially for people with a low email volume. An exclusive IP can cost you up to hundreds of dollars monthly, while email service providers offer shared IPs as part of their standard plans. It’s the more financially sound option if you’re just starting and sending a low amount of emails.
- Easier to maintain a reputation: You can benefit from the good reputation of other users sharing an IP address. If other users are interested in upholding a good reputation, then you don’t have to spend much time and effort trying to build a reputation from scratch as it is with an exclusive IP.
- Easier to monitor: Monitoring the IP reputation to ensure it’s good is teamwork. With a dedicated IP, that’ll be your job and yours alone.
Which type of IP should you use for sending emails?
Now that we’ve covered the basics of the different types of IPs and their benefits, it’s time to know when to choose one over the other.
When should you use a dedicated IP?
- When you send high-volume emails. If you send many emails, it’ll be easy to build a reputation for your dedicated IP. It’s also ideal because email clients tend to flag shared IPs sending bulk messages as spam sources.
- Your shared IP users are fostering a bad reputation. It can be challenging to recover from a bad sending reputation. If other users on the same address are using it for malicious purposes, like spam, it’ll drag down the reputation of everyone. Your efforts alone won’t be able to counter them, so it’s advisable to use a dedicated IP.
- You can afford it. Exclusive IPs offer a lot of benefits but are expensive. If you’re a big brand that can easily afford the expense, then it’s advisable to get one. The cost will be worth it by giving you a higher deliverability rate and enabling you to interact with customers more easily.
When should you use a shared IP?
- You have a small budget. If you’re just starting and have a relatively small budget, then it’s advisable to stick to a shared IP address. A dedicated one can eat deep into your budget and leave you with little money for other expenses.
- Your shared IP has a solid reputation. If you start with a shared address and observe that other users have maintained a solid reputation, you can stick with it and enjoy a high deliverability rate.
- You send a low volume of emails. If you send a relatively small number of emails, then the cost of a dedicated IP may not be justifiable. In addition, without regularly sending a substantial number of emails, your dedicated IP’s reputation will gradually decline.
Important things to know about dedicated IP addresses
It’s better for your sending reputation
Sending reputation is the score that internet service providers (ISPs) or dedicated reputation services assign to a specific IP address. The higher the score, the more likely email servers will let emails originating from that IP get to a recipient’s inbox.
A dedicated IP gives you peace of mind regarding your sending reputation. Once you’ve reached good scores, you can be sure of maintaining it as long as you don’t perform any malicious activity. In contrast, there’s no guarantee with a shared IP. There’ll always be risks of another person abusing that shared address and weighing down the reputation for everyone.
Even if a shared IP has maintained a good reputation for a long time, email service providers regularly assign new customers to them. If a new customer turns out to be a malicious actor, their activities will affect everyone’s score.
You have to warm up your dedicated IP before sending bulk messages
If you purchased an exclusive IP to use, you cannot just start sending bulk messages immediately. If you use a new IP to send large volumes, you’ll likely be snagged by spam filters and ruin your reputation. Start by sending a small number of messages and increase it gradually for the duration of a few weeks. This process is known as IP warming, and some ESPs like UniOne offer an automatic schedule for it.
Start with a few hundred emails daily and slowly increase the number over the coming weeks and months. This way, mailbox providers and ISPs will have time to notice your activities and assign you a good reputation score.
Dedicated IPs require more maintenance
You must pay close attention to your dedicated IP’s reputation and constantly adjust when you notice flaws. You are the only one paying for it, so it’s primarily your responsibility.
Dedicated IPs are also expensive and can run up to hundreds of dollars each month. Fortunately, UniOne offers dedicated IPs at an affordable price.
They are less forgiving of mistakes
Mistakes are more costly if you’re using a dedicated IP address. A one-time error such as messaging too many invalid email addresses or sharing malicious links can land you on a blacklist. That's why you have to be more careful and cross-check everything you do when using this type of IP address.
Important things to know about shared IP addresses
You can start sending messages immediately
IP warming is not necessary when you choose a shared IP address. Other users have already warmed up the address by using it to send emails and built a reputation for it. So, you can start sending messages in any volume immediately after being assigned an address.
Alternatively, you may stop your campaigns for a substantial period of time and have no worries about keeping up the IP reputation. This can be vital for businesses that perform just a few large campaigns per year, usually associated with holiday seasons.
It’s more forgiving of mistakes
It's easier to recover from mistakes when using a shared IP because of the high volume of emails sent by different users. Of course, not following best practices will hurt your reputation over time, but single mistakes would not make a big dent in your reputation.
They are easier to maintain
Shared IPs are less costly and easier to maintain. You are sharing the service charges with every other user, so each of you chips in a small amount. Dedicated IPs are expensive because a single user has to cover all the service charges associated with maintaining the IP address.
Think of a shared IP like a restaurant sharing a delivery truck with other restaurants. It’s cheaper and more flexible compared to buying your own truck or renting one for exclusive use. However, owning your truck lets you guarantee delivery to customers and deliver items faster.
Your mailing habits do not matter much
It is not mandatory to send emails frequently to maintain your reputation when using a shared IP address. Other users are actively sending messages when you’re not and helping maintain the reputation. Similarly, other users may not be active when you send your own messages. The reputation is maintained by teamwork, so you don’t need to worry about your sending habits degrading the shared IP’s reputation.
Whenever you send messages from an email service provider, you’re either using a dedicated or a shared IP address. We have explained what an IP address is, the differences between a dedicated and a shared one, and when it’s best to use either. UniOne offers shared and dedicated IP addresses, so you’re free to choose which one you want and adjust to your needs at any time.