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Email Blacklists Explained!


You know how a lot of your emails end up in your spam folder, even if you didn’t actually mark those emails as spam? If you’ve ever taken a look inside your spam folder, you should be thankful that you don’t have to sift through the mountain of junk mail sent to your email address every day. Your email provider (Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo Mail, etc.) does the work for you, and it’s pretty uncommon that emails you actually want to receive end up in your spam folder.

Email blacklist providers handle this filtration of spam and non-spam emails. Email blacklists are real-time databases that ultimately decide whether an email makes it into a person’s inbox or not. 85% of emails are junk mail. Without blacklists, your inbox would overflow with a glut of annoying spam messages for you to deal with. Trust us. Email blacklists are a good thing, but you definitely don’t want to end up on one.

If you are a reputable business trying to market to your consumers using email newsletters and promos and such, the last thing you want is for your email address or, worse, your business’s domain or IP address to end up on a blacklist. You’ll essentially waste all the time, hard work, and money you’ve poured into your email marketing campaigns if those emails don’t even make it to your audience’s inboxes.

If you use a trusted email service provider (ESP), like Mailchimp, you likely won’t have to deal with your email address or domain ending up on the blacklist. However, it can happen, and if it does happen, it sucks. Thankfully, there are ways to avoid getting blacklisted and ways to get your address or domain off a blacklist if it does end up there.

What Is it Like to Have Your Email Blacklisted?

If your email address is blacklisted, any emails you send will be disregarded by the email providers using that particular blacklist. Your emails will either end up in spam, delete altogether, or bounce back to you. If the latter is the case, you may receive a message informing you that your email bounced. The email provider might even block your email address.

However, the severity of being placed on a blacklist varies. If the blacklist flags your entire domain, this affects every one of your employees, as their business email addresses will be blacklisted, as well. Having your business’s IP address blacklisted is even worse. If your IP address ends up on a blacklist, anyone using or associated with that IP address will be blacklisted too.

How Do Blacklists Detect Junk Mail?

One of the most effective ways of identifying and catching spam emails is the use of spam traps. Spam traps are essentially fake email addresses that blacklists use to lure spammers. No rational person would ever send an email to one of these fake addresses. Only robots that send out thousands of spam emails simultaneously would target these spam traps.

Unless you buy or borrow an email list from another person or business (which we do not recommend you do), it is unlikely that you will accidentally send an email to one of these fake addresses. However, if you do, your email address might end up on a blacklist.

You should always develop your own list of email addresses to use in your email campaigns. Gather these emails from current or former customers or ask your website visitors if they want to subscribe to your newsletter.

Blacklist providers also look for telltale signs when determining if an email is spam. These signs include excessive typos, repetitive content, and other spam clichés. You can avoid having your emails marked as spam by putting time and effort into your email design. Don’t send out shoddy emails. Nobody wants those. Have a reputable digital marketing agency run your email marketing for you if you can’t devote the time or resources.

What Do You Do if Your Address Is Blacklisted?

There are ways to check if your email address is blacklisted. MXToolBox is a service provider that helps users determine if they are blacklisted. Other names lending a helpful hand include MultiRBL, SenderScore, and Barracuda Reputation Block List. These platforms are quite effective at informing you where you stand.

So, what happens if you do end up on a blacklist? Should you shut down? Is all hope lost? Absolutely not. Blacklists are nothing but databases, and humans run databases. Sometimes, people have to tame their virtual hounds.

Simply reach out to the blacklist provider and request to have your email address removed from the list. Most spammers won’t do this, so as long as you explain the situation, they should grant your request without much issue. If an ISP owns the blacklist you are on, a direct email should do the trick. Comply with the exact procedure they disclose to you. Most ISPs have a form for you to fill out if you want to get off the blacklist.

How Can You Avoid the Blacklist?

If you adhere to the following advice, you should have no trouble staying off email blacklists.

  • Don’t send your emails to people without their consent
  • Update and monitor your email list regularly
  • Put time and effort into your content and assure its quality
  • Verify the email addresses in your email list
  • Don’t engage in shady practices

Don’t Send without Permission!

You don’t want blacklist providers to treat your emails as spam? Then, don’t act like a spammer! Refrain from sending emails to a person’s email address if you don’t have their consent. This will help you maintain your brand’s integrity and image. Ask previous and current customers and visitors to your website if they want to join your newsletter.

Update Your Email List Regularly

If one of your emails bounces back from a particular email address, remove that address from your email list. The more emails you send to void or unused email addresses, the more likely you will end up on a blacklist. Monitor the performance of your emails, update your email list regularly, and consider removing very old emails from your list

Put Time and Effort into Your Content

Make sure to send your audience quality content. Users are more likely to engage with content that had effort put into it. If it looks like someone who didn’t care created the email, the reader probably won’t care either. Before you click the “SEND” button, make sure you check and double-check your content. Only send out emails that you would like to receive.

Use Verification Tools

Email verification tools will ensure that you don’t send emails to fake IDs or dormant addresses. Kickbox and ZeroBounce are handy software programs that will help you determine if the addresses in your email list are relevant or not. 

Refrain from Shady Practices

Don’t buy or borrow emails or email lists from other people or businesses. Blacklists target those who buy emails, regardless of whether the addresses are genuine or false. The practice also violates General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) guidelines, so don’t be surprised if buying a couple hundred addresses lands you on the blacklist.

Keep Your Emails Out of the Spam Folder!

Email blacklist companies provide a service to people by preventing their inboxes from growing oversaturated with spammy and crummy emails. You also provide a service to your customers and target audience by sending them emails that they actually want to receive. If you let email blacklist companies do their jobs and take measures to avoid landing on one of their lists, they will leave you alone too.

It is easy to avoid being placed on an email blacklist, and it is fairly easy to remove yourself from one, as well. Email marketing is one of the most powerful tools in the digital marketing utility belt, and you don’t want your efforts wasted because blacklists treat your emails as spam. RSM Marketing knows a thing or two about email campaigns and blacklists, and we will make sure that your emails end up where they belong: your target audience’s inboxes!

Put a meeting on our calendar, and we’ll dream up a creative email marketing campaign that resonates with your customers and stays away from the dark side of email.

Paige Faris is an Email Marketing Strategist at RSM Marketing. She graduated with an Integrated Marketing Communications degree from Wichita State University. Outside of work, Paige likes to lift weights, play with her five pet rats, cuddle with her two dogs, go to concerts, and watch scary movies with her husband.

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