There are a variety of reasons why your emails may not make it to your subscribers’ inboxes, but the one with the most far reaching consequences is if your IP address or domain has been blacklisted. Now that word on its own is pretty scary, but when you don’t understand what email blacklisting is then it can be terrifying! But once you know what it is, and know which blacklists you are on, it is time to start thinking about how you’re going to get yourself removed.
Most blacklist databases have their own criteria for flagging a certain IP address or domain as a source of spam, and often the trigger that got you onto one blacklist is the same one that got you onto another. However, there is no single foolproof method that is guaranteed to get you off every blacklist you’ve ended up on and so you are going to need to do some investigation and find out each blacklisting organizations removal policy.
But before you start approaching blacklisting organizations and asking them to take you off their blacklists, there are a few things you should take the time to do.
- Make sure your mail servers are properly configured for sending bulk mail, if you’re not sure how to do this then contact your ISP and get step by step instructions from them
- Scan every computer and device on your network for viruses as they may be the source of the unsolicited mail being sent from your servers
- Check and make sure that your operating system is completely up to date and has all the most current ‘patches’ installed
- Configure your routers more securely as they can be hijacked by spammers who then send hundreds if not thousands of unsolicited mails from your IP address
- Create and enforce stronger passwords for all your staffs email accounts, at every internet access point and for any device that may be connecting to your network
Now that you’ve taken these steps it is time to start finding out how you can get your IP address or domain removed from any blacklists that you may have ended up on. For some of these, it will be a simple case of hurry up and wait as the delisting is automatic (so long as you don’t continue to offend!), for others there is absolutely nothing you can do to get removed, and then there are dozens that fall somewhere between these two options.
Get help from a professional
No matter the size of your enterprise, the odds are that you are going to end up on a private or public blacklist at some point. As much as you like to believe that your emails are so interesting that everyone in your database can’t wait to hear from you, the sad truth is that you’re going to send an email to someone who is having a bad day and will report your beautifully crafted message as spam – just because they can!
And if you’ve never had to deal with a major blacklisting before then it would be best if you got help from a professional who understands blacklists and knows exactly what to say or do to get you removed, and also how to keep you from ending up back on that list in the future (repeat offenders will be more heavily penalized and it will be more difficult to get unlisted!).
Don’t buy mailing lists – EVER
When you’re just starting out with your marketing efforts it can be very tempting to instantaneously grow your prospect pool by buying a list of email addresses, no matter how that list came to be in the first place.
But buying an email list is unethical, and it can be dangerous as there may or may not be spamtraps on it as well as email addresses that were simply pulled out of thin air and may or may not actually exist (resulting in bounce backs which can get you flagged as well).
Dozens of those emails have been scraped from other sites, sometimes they’ve been stolen when a legitimate site was hacked, and at other times people signed up for one site and didn’t realise it’s owner would share their information with anyone and everyone!
And because none of the people on these bought lists signed up for YOUR newsletters, any mail you send them is unsolicited – and therefore guaranteed to get you into the deepest kind of trouble!
Send email in smaller batches
Bulk email platforms such as MailChimp, SendGrid, HubSpot, Constant Contact, Campaign Monitor and others have contacted blacklisting organizations and gotten special permission for the quantities of mail they’re sending out. So if you’re sending out dozens or hundreds of emails at once, then using these platforms means your bulk campaigns won’t set off any warning bells.
However if you’re sending smaller quantities of mail at a time, or using different email campaigns for different groups of subscribers it will reduce the number of spam complaints for each campaign. Smaller batches make it easier to identify where spam complaints are coming from, and targeted messages increase your subscribers engagement.
Maintain the hygiene of your email lists
No matter how many email addresses are on your list, or where your list actually came from it is a good idea to run it through a list cleaning service like the one offered by correct.email. These services will scan your entire list of emails and pick out all the ones that are known spam traps, identify duplicates, remove incomplete, temporary or nonexistent addresses and more – improving your lists hygiene and leaving you with valid, and useable addresses.
The bigger your list and the faster it grows, the more often you’ll need to do this. But if you only have a small list of less than a hundred subscribers and only get about 10 new subscribers every few months then scrubbing your subscriber database every three to six months is more than enough.
Don’t make demands or threaten the blacklisting organization
Blacklists exist for a very good reason, and generally an IP address that has ended up on it is guilty of ‘spammy’ behaviour – whether it is on purpose or because it was hacked. However demanding to be removed from a blacklist or threatening a lawsuit if you’re not removed, even though you haven’t taken steps to ensure you won’t end up on it again, is not going to end well. In fact, you may find yourself on that blacklist for longer than you would have been, or even get yourself promoted to a lifetime blacklist that you will thwart your marketing efforts until eternity!
So learn to eat some humble pie, be prepared to face some degree of frustration and make sure that there is nothing precious or breakable within reach while communicating with them. Remember that manners are free, and it will be a lot easier to get your IP address or domain off a list if you are polite and you comply with the organizations removal policy.
Keep plenty of data on your email lists
You should at the very least be keeping a detailed record of who opted in to your email campaigns, when they opted in and how they opted in. If they opted in offline (via a comment card, or competition entry etc.), then scan in the document showing they did so. That way, when you end up on a blacklist you can send all this neatly captured data in a single email and show the blacklisting organisation that everyone who is on your email list chose to be there.
It is also a good idea to provide info about where your lists came from, any recent changes you’ve made to your email database and details about your list management practices (such as how often you clean them, who has access to them, where they’re stored and where people can change their email preferences). The more evidence that you can send in a single email, the easier it will be to prove you aren’t sending unsolicited mail.
Keep it short and sweet
When you email a blacklisting organization to find out how to get your IP address or domain removed from their list, remember that they don’t really care what you do, what you’re marketing and how unbelievably amazing and revolutionary your product or service is. In other words, leave out the sales pitch and focus on how to get yourself off their blacklist.
All they care about is the fact that you did something to end up on their blacklist – whether you are the guilty party, were simply sharing a server with an offender or were the victim of a spam hack. They want to know how you were managing your email lists and campaigns before you got listed, and they’re interested in what you’ve done to make sure that you won’t end up on their list again.
Most email blacklist organisations have made the information about their specific removal procedures available on their site, so if you send a single email showing that you’ve complied with all the requirements (attach a read receipt to make sure they’ve received it) then you can rest assured that you’ll be removed. A follow up email is only necessary if you’re sure something has gone wrong!
Be CAN-SPAM compliant, but don’t mention it
Being CAN-SPAM compliant will ensure that your email marketing efforts are legal. However, even a spammer can be CAN-SPAM compliant so this is just not good enough in the eyes of a blacklisting organization. In fact, if you mention that you’re CAN-SPAM compliant, all they hear is that the law says what you’re doing is okay, so that means you can send as much unsolicited mail as you like – which they obviously don’t agree with!
Email marketing has one of the best returns on investment, and it is far too important a marketing channel for you to not be able to use it for any length of time. So if you discover that you have been blacklisted, then get it sorted out as soon as you possibly can. And most importantly – do everything you possibly can to avoid ending up on any blacklist ever again. Because the more often you end up on a blacklist, the less likely it will be that you’ll get off it!