When should I use a shared IP address or a dedicated IP address?

An important decision that all email marketers must make is deciding when email should be sent from a dedicated or shared IP address. It is particularly tricky because the IP reputation situation is unique to each type. IP address reputation is one of the major factors when mailbox providers are determining which emails get blocked or are filtered into the spam folder.  

The following lists shows the advantages of having either a dedicated or shared IP address.

Dedicated IP address advantages
With a dedicated IP address, you can:

  • Establish and be accountable for your own IP reputation. Your emails do not get grouped with other less-diligent senders, which allows you to monitor and manage your own inbox placement. 
  • More easily troubleshoot the root cause of deliverability issues. Having a dedicated IP address allows you to measure and interpret IP address reputations in Return Path's tools.  
  • Be eligible for Return Path IP-based Certification, a tool that provides qualified senders with an average inbox placement increase of 27%.
  • Use multiple dedicated IP addresses to segment your list based on message type, engagement level, and more.  
  • Protect your critical mailstreams. 

Shared IP address advantages
With a shared IP address, you can:

  • Establish a reputation and history with mailbox providers if you are a low-volume sender.
  • Avoid the need to warm up your IP address. Seasonal mailers do not need to warm up dedicated IP addresses every year.
  • Realize decreased costs compared to dedicated IP addresses.

Best practices
As with buying any type of product or service, the decision to use a dedicated or shared IP address is made based on what you need in order to run your business. However, the best advice is to use a dedicated IP address when at all possible. A dedicated IP is best because you are responsible for your own email deliverability. Shared IP addresses typically suit seasonal mailers and low-volume senders best. 

Products affected, where to get data

  • Return Path's Certification is another way to empower the deliverability of your email program. Certification and its benefits are not available to those who used shared IP addresses. 
  • Return Path's products and services (such as Return Path Platform), Microsoft's Smart Network Data Services (SNDS), and AOL's IP reputation tool measure metrics around spam traps, complaints, and unknown users, and they can help you assess the overall success of the IP address. However, those numbers and grades say nothing about the success of your specific email program if you are on a shared IP address. 

Shared IP address recommendations
If dedicated IP addresses are not an option:

  • Ask your email service provider what types of senders share your IP addresses
  • Ask about the vetting process for adding new senders and email lists

Senders who share the IP address affect your inbox delivery, and you are only as good as the weakest sender. 

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