If email is a fundamental part of your digital marketing, then you’ll know how much time and effort it takes. It’s soul-destroying then, when you find yourself on an email blacklist, especially when you’ve made sure to do things the right way.
Getting on an email blacklist can hurt your email deliverability, which can be tricky to turn around. That’s why it’s important to take precautions to avoid getting blacklisted in the first place.
What is an email blacklist?
A blacklist is a real-time list that pinpoints domains or IP addresses known to send spam. Internet service providers (ISPs), free mailbox providers (like Gmail or Hotmail), and anti-spam vendors use blacklists to stop spam from getting into their systems.
The primary purpose of an email blacklist is largely positive. It helps to filter out spam so that everyday email users only see the emails they’re expecting and wanting. Meanwhile, spam messages get stopped from entering users’ inboxes, usually winding up in the spam or junk folder. In fact, 85% of emails sent every day are considered spam, so blacklists serve a crucial purpose.
That said, if you’re in the business of sending lots of emails – perhaps a big part of your business is setting up email marketing campaigns, for example – then finding out your domain has gotten onto an email blacklist is more than just annoying. It will hurt your deliverability rating and result in your future messages going directly to your recipients’ junk folders, rather than to their inboxes.
Who runs email blacklists?
There are big companies that specialize in running email blacklists. Some of the most common are Spamhaus, SpamCop, Invalument, and Barracuda.
That said, not all blacklist companies are equal; the ones listed above are the most widely trusted. Others, like Lashback, NoSolicitado, and SpamCannibal are less so, which means that if you’re caught by them, you’re likely to suffer less of a mark on your reputation.
How you find yourself on an email blacklist
It doesn’t take much to land yourself on an email blacklist. It can be as simple as buying a “bad” email list or including some spammy-sounding content in your subject lines.
Bad contact lists
Many marketers go about purchasing email marketing lists because, let’s face it – it can take months, if not years, to build up a database of contacts organically. The temptation is to buy a list, but in doing so, you run the risk of receiving a bunch of third-party, obsolete email addresses. Blacklisters will easily sift out bad lists using spamtrap addresses to find spammers, which are a bit like email “moles” that can expose your list for being old or purchased.
When one of your recipients receives your email and hits the spam button, it sends the message to ISPs that your email list or email practice is bad. It’s beyond your control to some extent – even the cleanest email lists and the least-spammy messages will get the occasional spam complaint.
Of course, one single complaint won’t blacklist you. You just need to keep your chances of receiving a complaint as low as possible so you avoid building up too many.
A sudden list surge
When your email list suddenly grows exponentially, it signals to ISPs that you’ve purchased your list. It’s much better practice to gradually grow your list because it demonstrates that your audience has voluntarily opted in because they genuinely want to receive your emails.
How to check if you’re on an email blacklist
Your email service provider should notify you when you get blacklisted, although you may want to find out for yourself.
It would be impossible for you to keep tabs on all the blacklists, but a good start is to check that your IPs or domains aren’t on the most popular lists:
How to avoid getting blacklisted
Build your contact lists the right way
One of the best things you can do to avoid getting on a blacklist is to grow your list organically – that is, letting your audience subscribe and opt in to hear from you. Purchasing bulk email lists is something most marketers did in times gone by, but it’s becoming increasingly black hat to do so.
It’s estimated that only 4% of consumers believe that marketers practice integrity, and organizations like blacklisters are starting to call people out. By purchasing old, obsolete, and expired email lists, not only are you wasting money, but you also risk getting spam-trapped and penalized.
The best thing you can do is to invest time in building your list the hard way, which, in the end, will pay dividends.
Keep good contact list hygiene
Since you’ve gone to all the hard work of building an honest email list, the least you can do is keep it in good shape. People often opt-out or change their email addresses, quickly changing your once-pristine list into one full of errors.
If you’re lucky, then your email provider will monitor your reputation by looking out for any inactive email addresses that have been recycled and used as spam traps.
But to keep this from happening to you, it’s worth highlighting your inactive email addresses and running re-engagement campaigns so you can decide whether or not they can be recovered as trusted opt-ins, or strike them off your contact list.
Confirm new subscribers
One way to avoid any errors on your list is to ensure that you’ve properly welcomed your new email subscribers. It’s standard practice to send a confirmation email anyway, just to reassure your new opt-ins that their action has been successful. It also serves the purpose of sifting out those who’ve accidentally entered the wrong email address.
In fact, your chances of getting blacklisted are heightened by sending emails to addresses that don’t exist, so it’s good practice to ensure that only correct emails remain on your list.
The good news is that there are tools like Voila Norbert that can help you verify email addresses without leaving it to your audience to ensure they’ve entered their email address properly.
Pay attention to your content
When your followers signed up to receive your emails, they did so in good faith, expecting to see useful and engaging content in their inboxes. If you fail to deliver the kind of content they’re expecting – or sending generic blanket emails to your whole list – then you risk getting spam complaints.
As much as possible, personalize the subject lines and content of your emails. Be careful to keep your content relevant to your audience, and, where you can, segment your lists to ensure that the right content lands with the right recipients.
On top of this, be mindful of how often you send out emails. Too regularly and you’ll be taken as too spammy; too rarely, and your audience might forget who you are.
It’s good practice to spell out to your audience what they should expect from you at the point of signing up. Let them know how regularly they should expect to receive emails from you, and roughly what they’ll be about (news, offers, etc).
Email blacklisting is a helpful way of ensuring good email practice in today’s murky world of outreach marketing. It helps to prevent spam from cluttering inboxes and catching out black hat practices that damage good customer relations.
That said, it can be extremely annoying to find yourself getting blacklisted inadvertently.
But take the right steps and not only will you avoid getting doomed to the black list, you’ll also be carrying out the sort of trustworthy, transparent behavior that leads to excellent customer loyalty.
Do you have any other tips on how to avoid being blacklisted? Share in the comments below: