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What is email blacklisting?

Being on a blacklist means that either your IP or email domain has been identified as one that typically sends spam emails. The purpose of blacklisting is to keep emails from being sent to people who did not agree to receive them. Spamhaus, a top email blacklisting operator, put together to an infographic to help us understand how email blacklisting works.

Basically, the receiver filters the email sender through their database to see if they can identify them. It runs the email IP addresses/domains through their list to see if they are identified as a spam center. The email is also checked against spam filters to see if any are triggered. If all tests are passed, the email gets sent to the inbox. 


How to tell if your email has been blacklisted

A good warning sign that you might be on a blacklist is if you see your open rates dropping, or if the open rates of your emails drop below 15%. If you think that you might have been blacklisted, there are a few different websites and tools you can use to confirm. These allow you to plug in your IP address or domain name and determine your email reputation, which can help lend some insight as to whether or not your email is blacklisted. These resources won’t specifically say “your domain name/IP address appears on 15 blacklists” but rather gives you a score to help you determine the perception of your trustworthiness.


Another option to find out if you’re blacklisted is to go directly to the blacklist sites and check their databases to see if you appear on their actual blacklists. Some of the top blacklist sites that you can check are:


How your email gets blacklisted

If you’re on an email blacklist, there has to be a reason why. You may have violated CAN-SPAM. Maybe people on your lists are marking your emails as spam. The more people who complain about your emails, the more likely you are to end up on a blacklist. You could also be put onto a blacklist if a lot of your emails are bouncing. Another way to end up on a blacklist is if your email list grows substantially overnight, which can indicate that you purchased an email list. 


Why having your email blacklisted is bad

Being blacklisted is not great, to say the very least. It means that the people who should be receiving your emails are not receiving them, which could result in the loss of a sale or even loss of a current customer. Being identified as a spammy sender is not a great way to establish yourself as a thought leader or resource to your clients. If you’re putting lots of thought, energy, and resources into emails that aren’t getting delivered, that’s a problem that should be fixed ASAP. 


How to get your email unblacklisted / how to stay off of email blacklists

A good rule of thumb is to build out your email plain to ensure the least likelihood of your domain ending up on a blacklist. Be sure to be sending emails that add value to your customers, and do so in the least spammy way possible. Some further tips to avoid being blacklisted in the first place are:

  • Monitor your reputation using the reputation checking tools listed above. Keep track of your email open rates and click rates. If your emails aren’t being opened and engaged with, you might need to change your strategy to better meet the needs of your subscribers.
  • Try to add value to your subscriber’s through your emails. Design your emails to be helpful, give subscribers the information they need, and be clear and concise. If your emails are consistently adding value, they will be less likely to be reported as spam.
  • Confirm opt-ins on your emails. Make sure that the people you are sending emails to want to receive them by confirming their subscription to your list. You can do this a couple of different ways: You can include a checkbox on your signup form that the subscriber has to check indicating “I would like to receive promotional emails”. You can also prompt an email to send to people who fill out your form to click a button and confirm that they agree to be added to your mailing list. This way people are 100% agreeing to receive your emails and are more likely to enjoy reading and engaging with them.
  • Refrain from buying email lists. Buying a list of subscribers to send emails to is a surefire way to land your domain on a blacklist. All of those people who didn’t opt in to receive emails from you? They’re probably going to mark your emails as spam. Because that’s what it will be to them.
  • Actively filter out emails who aren’t engaging with your content. This means, go in and check who all is opening your emails and clicking on your links. Remove the people who consistently ignore/don’t convert on your emails. This will improve your open and CTRs.


If you do end up on an email blacklist, your first response should be to evaluate your email marketing plan. Is there something wrong with it? Are you, in fact, sending spammy emails? From there, you need to make an action plan for improving your email strategy. You will likely need to reach out to the blacklist server that you appear on to be removed. Let them know your plans to fix the issues you have been having. Be nice, sincere, and show them that you’re going to do better and be less spammy. If you were placed on the list by accident, kindly let them know that a mistake has been made and explain what happened. Ultimately, keep in mind that blacklists exist to prevent spam, and are generally good to have. They aren’t maliciously trying to prevent you from emailing customers, so be mindful of that when reaching out to them.


If you’re interested in receiving assistance strategizing and implementing an email marketing plan in the mindset of not being blacklisted, reach out to our team! We would love to work with you on your email strategy to help your business achieve success online.

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