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5 Questions That Can Keep You Off Email Blacklists

In business, reputation matters. And never more so than when it comes to email marketing. There are few words that can strike fear into a marketer’s heart like “Spamhaus” — and not without reason. Email is at the center of your online marketing efforts, and ending up on a blacklist can halt these efforts in their tracks.

The good news is this: unlike some reputations that have to be earned, your email marketing reputation starts off fresh, and it’s not too hard to keep it that way. But there are a few ways
that you can damage your reputation even if you’re careful to avoid spamming. Here are five questions to ask yourself to keep your email reputation clean and your IP address off blacklists.

Did you warm up your IP address?

You just acquired your new IP address, and you’re anxious to kick off your email marketing with the perfect campaign. But don’t get overzealous: if you send out an email to every prospect in your database right off the bat, you’re going to raise some major red flags for spam monitors and your IP address could end up on a blacklist before you even have a chance to get started.

All IP addresses start out “cold,” and need to be warmed up by gradually increasing sending volume, usually over the course of two to six weeks. Start off with only your best lists to build up your reputation, and try to keep it under 5,000 emails a day for the first week. Starting out at this rate allows you to monitor for issues that arise from initial sends on cold IPs without having all your emails bounce. From here, plan out a gradual and steady ramp up to final sending volume numbers.

Are you using active opt-ins?

Sure, you want to reach as many people as possible, but if you’re sending emails to people who have not explicitly requested communication, the danger of a few recipients hitting the “Report as Spam” button far outweighs the potential benefits of roping in a few new prospects.

When it comes to obtaining permission, it’s a good idea to go beyond CAN-SPAM laws — meaning passive opt-in doesn’t cut it. Whenever you’re collecting information for the purpose of sending email, include a checkbox and clearly outline what type of communication can be expected. Also make sure your opt-outs are easy and fast — you’re not accomplishing anything by continuing to send emails to people who don’t want to receive them, and frustrated recipients may very well turn to the dreaded spam button.

What about double opt-ins?

To thoroughly cover your bases, consider using a double opt-in process, where recipients confirm the opt-in via email after the initial form submission or contact. Double opt-ins confirm that email addresses are valid, keeping bounce rates low and safeguarding against spamtraps being added to your permanent lists. They also serve as solid proof that your emails were not unsolicited in the event that your IP address does end up blacklisted. Double opt-ins are easy to set up with marketing automation: just set the opt-in email as a completion action for the appropriate form.

Are you sending emails to a large number of people in the same domain name?

There aren’t many instances in email marketing where you would need to send the same email to hundreds of recipients with the same domain name, so this serves as another red flag for spam monitors. Particularly with the new generation of cloud email filtering products that allow organizations to easily maintain their own local blacklists, a single offense of this nature could be enough to get you locked out of all inboxes on that company’s mail system, permanently.

Are your lists clean?

High bounce rates caused by invalid or misspelled email addresses can hurt your email reputation, so make sure you’re regularly maintaining your lists (check out How to Keep Your Email Lists Sparkling Clean for help). And if you’re buying lists, stop. Even if these lists aren’t chock-full of invalid email — or spam trap — addresses, they’re likely to end up in a high number of spam complaints (check out Buying Lists — The Alternatives, if you’re fighting temptation).

What are some other ways to keep deliverability scores up and stay off email blacklists? We’d love to hear from you in our comments section.

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