So you’re blacklisted. Now what?

Posted on by in Editorial Musings

Are you blacklisted? Do you even know if you are? It might not be the end of the world at the Yacht Club, but in today’s business environment, if you get your domain blacklisted your business has a major problem! This weekend, a colleague was discussing an issue he was having with his email service and the very real threat that he may be blacklisted. So, what do you do?

First, let’s get the definitions set. Email provider will mean the company or means you use to send and receive email—gmail, POP3, Hotmail, Yahoo, Comcast, etc. Email service will mean the company or service you use to send out promotional emails and newsletters on your behalf—Constant Contact, A Weber, Mail Chimp, etc. Now that we have that out of the way, here are a few pointers to keep you on the straight and narrow.

Never buy a list. Lists are unreliable. Lists are outdated. Lists are against the terms of service of all email services. But more importantly, lists may be populated with roadside bombs. The email services and the other superheroes who fight spam create “trap addresses.” These addresses are known to the superheroes and if your list contains one of them, there is a good chance you will get flagged or possibly blacklisted.

Educate your readers. Most all email programs have a feature to mark a message as spam. Most consumers do not really understand this and feel it might be a one click method to opt-out of your mailings. They are wrong. What this does is report your address (remember your email service sends out under your name) to the email provider as a possible spammer. This information is then passed on along to the originator (email service) who will take action if necessary. The service I use is A Weber and they have a threshold of .10%. If less than that reports me as spam, I am golden. More than that, I begin to walk on thin ice. It is somewhat subjective based on list size and frequency. Recently I sent a segmented message to 2730 people. Three reported me as a spammer which pushed me just over the threshold. A Weber highlighted that broadcast with yellow so I was aware. Repeated broadcasts or extremely high rates will get me a phone call or worse. Periodically, I will remind my readers that I honor opt-outs and to not use the “mark as spam” function.

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Consider a double opt-in program. Many programs are single opt-in programs—enter your email address into a form (or in the back end of the email service) and you are done. The problem there is that I may not have the permission of the email address to do so. Many agencies assume that they are allowed to market to a client if they signed up for a giveaway at a consumer show. Unless you specifically told them that they were going to be receiving your newsletter and other promotional mailings, it is illegal. A double opt in program requires the subscriber to confirm that he does want your information by clicking on another link. It is an extra step, but one that will result in a cleaner list, and offer greater compliance with the law. I utilize a company called A Weber and they insist on a double opt in under all circumstances. I can collect names at a show and put them in the system, but the program will require me to send them a confirmation to be sure.

Our businesses rely on email to a significant degree. While this might be a stretch, imagine your competitor sitting in a Starbucks sucking up the free Wifi and entering bogus emails into your newsletter list. Now imagine you getting blacklisted. Who stands to gain? And you can be sure that your email service will react. After all their business is not travel—it is delivering spam free content and they will do whatever it takes to protect their business. You likely have fired a non-profitable or problematic client in the past. Don’t think that the email service will cut you a break—play by the rules.

Do you think you are blacklisted? It is always a good thing to check as it will affect not only your promotional emails but the standard business ones you send as well.  The MX Toolbox is a good tool to see if you are listed. MX Toolbox offers a paid service to remove you from blacklists, but I can’t say how effective it is. If you have some time, contact the owners of the blacklists and explain why you should not be on the list and they will usually remove you. Also keep in mind that while these blacklists are shared with the email providers, many of them (AOL, Gmail, etc.) maintain their own unpublished lists, so it makes sense to contact the big ones if you find yourself on a blacklist.

The best solution is to play by the rules and get your prospects in an ethical manner. And in the end, a list of true prospects and clients is much more valuable than a list of email addresses. In this case, size doesn’t matter!

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