We are often asked “Do I really need a dedicated IP address?” So just what is a dedicated IP address, and why should you have one? In the context of email sending and email marketing, a dedicated IP address means an IP address through which you and only you send email. It means that nobody else can send email out from that IP address, just you. On the other hand, a “shared IP address” means that you are not the only one who is sending email out through the shared IP address, others are as well.
What being on a shared IP address means, and this is very important, is that your email reputation is at the mercy of whomever else uses that IP address. And email reputation is what determines whether you end up in the spam folder or the inbox. So it’s important to understand that when you are sending your email through a shared IP address that your own email reputation will only ever be as good as the reputation of the sender with the worst reputation who is also sending their email through that same shared IP address. This means that all it takes is one person who is sending through that same IP address that you are sharing with them to screw up and generate a lot of complaints about their email, or to send spam, and now your email is going to your recipients’ spam folders instead of their inboxes, because your email is coming from that same IP address. (Consider that lots of shared IP addresses are on blacklists because one or more of entities sending email out through that shared IP address is a spammer, or worse.)
Now some self-styled email marketing experts these days suggest that unless you send out a large amount of email regularly, you not only don’t need a dedicated IP address, but that it’s to your advantage and benefit to be on a shared IP address. They say that it’s difficult to create positive email reputation, and so by being on a shared IP address you are ‘borrowing’ the reputation of the other senders using that same IP address. The thing is, with a shared IP address you have no control over just whose email reputation you are borrowing. The other thing is that it’s not difficult to create positive email reputation for a dedicated IP address (especially if you are on our Good Senders List, which immediately confers “good sender” reputation on your dedicated IP address).
But even if you aren’t on our Good Senders List, a new dedicated IP address generally starts out with a neutral reputation, and inbox providers and spam filters don’t penalize for a neutral IP address reputation, only for a poor or bad IP address reputation. And when you get your own dedicated IP address, with a neutral reputation, there’s nowhere for that reputation to go but up (assuming you are a good sender and following best practices), because you have full control over the quality of the email going out from that IP address.
So how can you get your own dedicated IP address? Some email service providers (ESPs) will let you have a dedicated IP address, although they often place restrictions on who can have one, and how much extra it will cost you. For example, MailChimp and ConvertKit both require that you send a minimum of 50,000 messages at a time, and at least 150,000 messages a week. And the pricing for a dedicated IP address can differ wildly; MailChimp charges just $29.95 a month for a dedicated IP address; ConvertKit charges $250 a month for a dedicated IP address (nearly 10x what MailChimp charges!)
The two primary reasons that some ESPs put up such high barriers to getting a dedicated IP address are a) the ESP itself has a limited number of IP addresses, and b) they want their good email senders, who are following best practices, to be on a shared IP address so that their sketchier customers can ‘borrow’ the reputation from the good email senders. It’s important to understand that at the end of the day the ESP needs to generate a good email reputation for themselves in order to get their customers’ email accepted by the inbox providers. (You can read more about ESP reputation here.) Of course this is to the detriment of their good, best-practice following customers, because their reputation is being tarnished by the other customers who are sending out through the same IP address.
And the primary reasons that (some) ESPs charge such exorbitant rates for a dedicated IP address are because 1) they can, 2) they have a limited number of IP addresses and whenever there is scarcity in the market the seller gets to set the price, 3) they want to discourage good customers from leaving the shared IP address pool and taking their reputation with them, and/or 4) because their customers are a semi-captive audience (see #1).
As of the time of this writing, MailerLite is the only ESP of which we are aware that doesn’t impose a volume sending requirement in order to get a dedicated IP address, and also charges a fairly reasonable fee for having a dedicated IP address ($50/month).
Once you get your dedicated IP address it’s important to follow a brief warmup schedule (don’t just suddenly blast millions of emails out through a brand new IP address, or your neutral reputation will quickly become tarnished, and worse than neutral). You can go here to see our recommended IP address warmup schedule.
And of course, once you have your own IP address, no matter from where you obtained it, you can apply to have your IP address placed on the Good Senders List.