Email Marketing Tips: Conquer Email Blacklists

Complete these seven to-dos and get your IP removed from email blacklists

Last week we talked about whitelisting, but today we’re going to cover how to get off those nasty email blacklists once you’re already on them.

Being blacklisted refers to the ISP that your readers are using (like AOL, Yahoo!, etc.). One person marking you as spam in their email inbox won’t get you blacklisted, but many spam complaints will. Once you are blacklisted, no one using that ISP will get your emails. This is very troublesome for B2C publishing companies because their users are more likely to use an AOL or Yahoo! account than B2B users.

ISPs are making it very easy for people to just hit a button that says “junk” or “spam” in their email client. The problem with this is that even though you are providing an unsubscribe link (you are, aren’t you?) many users think that by hitting that button, they’ll be automagically removed from your list. The more users hitting that button of email delivery doom, the more likely you are to be a part of email blacklists. This means that EVERYONE using that ISP will no longer receive your emails. That’s a BIG problem.

Getting whitelisted by ISPs is a much more direct approach than getting whitelisted individually by your readers. It’s not fool-proof, as getting off of a blacklist doesn’t mean that you’re automatically delivered. Some users have their own rules set and you can’t possibly adhere to them all. What you can guarantee though is that getting whitelisted at AOL, Gmail and Hotmail means that your users will see HTML-coded emails and graphics. Getting whitelisted in Hotmail will also put you on their safe-senders list, while getting whitelisted on Yahoo! will make sure you skip the bulk folder.

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Here are some ways that you can get your domain off the email blacklist and back in business:

Check your email blacklist reputation: You’ve got to love Web 2.0, where your information is everyone’s information. Our friend Jeanne S. Jennings, an email-marketing consultant recommends as a free resource for checking on your domain or IP reputation. “It’s not terribly detailed, but it’s a good starting point to see if you are being blacklisted,” she told us.yea

Pay for a SafeSender certification: There are a few companies online that you can use to build relationships with the top ISPs to increase your delivery rates and get you off of their email blacklists.  Habeas, GoodMail and Surety Mail are examples of these services. We have an upcoming research article comparing all three.

Subscribe to email feedback loops: An email feedback loop (FBL) is a service that many ISPs will provide to companies who send bulk mailings. On their end, it’s beneficial because it identifies pro-active companies and reduces the amount of spam sent to their users. On your end, this is very beneficial because the #1 reason for poor deliverability is spam complaints. By subscribing to an email feedback loop, you will know who is marking you as such so that you can remove them from your list and get your domain whitelisted with the top ISPs. For more information on this, read 10 Email Feedback Loop Lists.

Call the ISP and apologize: You know the saying “Do it first, apologize later”? Well you have a few apology credits at many of the top ISPs. You’ll find that your first time around, you’ll likely be able to get whitelisted fairly easy, like a “get out of jail free” card. AOL has an online whitelist application you can fill out. Yahoo! also offers a bulk sender form that can help you get onto their whitelist. Microsoft’s Sender ID program can help you get whitelisted for Hotmail addresses. If the ISP you wish to contact doesn’t have a web form (such as a non-major ISP or business domain), you should be able to find contact information on their website to work out the problem directly.

Conform to standard whitelist guidelines: Every ISP is different, but here are some of the most common whitelist guidelines for AOL from By the way, pleasing AOL usually means pleasing the other ISPs (they’re like the Google of email delivery).

  • Your list must be clean.  Attempting to send to bad addresses will get you blocked.  You should immediately unsubscribe any addresses that bounce.
  • The IP address of your sending server must have a reverse DNS record pointing back to the Fully Qualified Domain Name of the computer.
  • Your server must have a fixed IP address.
  • Clearly identify your company in all email messages, provide an opt-out method, and immediately remove people who opt-out.

Contact email blacklist administrators: A very popular service for manually tracking your blacklist status is BlackList Monitor. When you’re blacklisted, they send you an email that includes who blacklisted you and how to contact them. It’s $149 a year, but they offer a 14-day free trial.

Get off of spam filter lists: Many companies use spam filters to determine whether or not you get to a users inbox. Getting off these lists will certainly help you with ISP blocking as well. To do this, you should first make sure you conform to their guidelines. SpamAssassin, SpamCop, Spamhaus are all popular spam filters and offer guidelines to follow in order to get your emails delivered through them.

Let’s be honest, it’s not a walk in the park to get off of email blacklists, but it’s well worth the trouble.


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