Tips To Keep Off (and Stay Off) Email Blacklists

In an ideal world the only email marketers that would end up on email blacklists would be spammers; unfortunately, as careful and well-intended as you might be, you can still end up getting blacklisted. According to Return Path, a surprising 20% of businesses in the U.S. have been blacklisted. These are “white hat” email marketers who are not intentionally spamming customers, rather they’re sending relevant content to an audience that has expressed interest in receiving communication.

Before we go into the “How To Keep Off” – let’s define blacklists. Blacklists generally refer to lists of email or IP addresses that are suspected to deliver spam emails, malware or other unwanted messages. While the exact number of blacklists is not known, the most reputable ones carry quite a bit of weight and can negatively impact email delivery. They are often used by mail servers for filtering incoming mail in order to reduce spam and enhance security and reliability.

There are two types of blacklists: IP blacklists and domain blacklists. IP blacklists are concerned with the source of the message (the sending IP), while domain blacklists are concerned with the source of the links inside the message. There are several main blacklists you should be concerned about staying off of, as a sender, including Spamhaus and SpamCop. Learn more about them and the other key players here.

Here are some tips to avoid being added to an email blacklist:

1) Do not be a spammer!
Only send out email to people who actually subscribed to receive your message and be sure to include an unsubscribe link. This means do not use purchased email lists.

The best plan of attack to prevent being blacklisted is to ask customers to whitelist you. Having your customers add your sender address to their address book increases your deliverability since ISPs will see you as a personal contact of this individual customer. An added benefit is that this is a way to get your emails out of the Promotions tab and into the main inbox.

2) Manage your email list, message and frequency.
If you are bombarding your subscribers with emails, especially if the message is not very important or poorly crafted, you are more likely to be seen as a spammer. Choose your words carefully. Be aware of spammy words and make a conscious effort to avoid them. The most common reasons behind being listed are poor data quality and high complaints.

On the flipside, blacklisting is often triggered by sending emails to subscribers on a list that has been inactive for a long time – often around the Christmas holidays when marketers suddenly remember that they have a list.

Keep your list clean by removing unsubscribes and inactive email addresses to control bounce rates.

3) Watch your links and redirects.
The domain based blacklists are lists of domain names that appear within the email body. This blacklist will look for the URLs within the body of the email to see if it contains a domain that has been identified as a source of spam. These blacklists will not only look at the initial link, but those it redirects to as well to see if they contain the spammy domains. It is also recommended that you steer clear of link shorteners.

4) Monitor blacklist status and sender score
Use sites such as Return Path or to check your IP address against these databases and make sure that you aren’t blacklisted.

We would love to hear from the email marketers in our audience! Have you ever found yourself on a blacklist? Have you ever given this any thought before? Are you planning to make any changes to how you send email now that you have read this?


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