November 4, 2016 | Rachel Vaughn

Bouncing Emails: What Does Blacklisted Mean?

Email is a vital component of your marketing strategy, whether it’s outbound or — our personal favorite (and specialty) — inbound focused. When trying to reach your ideal buyer personas directly, an email campaign can help to create the targeted appeal that will garner better opening and click rates for your efforts.

Sometimes, though, emails get “bounced back” to the sender, never quite making it into the recipient’s inbox. There are many possible reasons for this, but one of the most widespread is email blacklisting, which is often the result of aggressive spam filters or personal selection by your contact. 

How Email Blacklisting Works

Everybody hates getting spam, which is why any good email platform is going to come with its own spam blocking system. But of course, spammers are a relentless bunch. If their first effort at sending a salesy email gets bounced back, they’ll just try again. Subsequently, email filters don’t just block individual emails; often, they will actually block the entire server from which the email was sent.

What does this mean for you? Obviously, if you send a spammy email, it’ll likely get bounced back to you, unseen by your intended recipient. But on top of that, your email server will also set off red flags, ultimately ending up on a blacklist.

Long story short: All future emails sent from your server will be tagged as spam and bounce back to you, regardless of their contents.

Why Were You Blacklisted?

When you want to get out of the spam folder, it’s a good idea to try to figure out why you might’ve been blacklisted in the first place so you can improve your email deliverability. If you actually are a spammer and your business practices involve sending unsolicited mail to a large, indiscriminate group of recipients who have not signed up to receive them from you, then chances are you already know what you’ve done wrong. For shame.

You will be shamed for sending unsolicited email.Congratulations, you’ve ruined Thanksgiving.

But if you’re just a marketer or agency trying to get word of your services out to businesses and potential clients, it can be an unpleasant surprise to find you’ve been blacklisted. Recipients may want to block emails for all kinds of reasons. They might not remember signing up for your emails and don’t feel like unsubscribing (provided you’ve given them that option and a link to follow). Or they might think your emails read as “spammy,” not useful, or lacking information valuable to them. You can’t account for each thing your potential readers or their email filters will find block-worthy, but you can do your best to make sure that what you send will be something they’ll want to read and will represent your brand accurately.

Getting Off the List

Chances are, you’ve blacklisted an email sender before. Nearly everyone has dealt with unwanted communication clogging up their inbox. That’s why email providers offer blocking options and spam filtering. As an email user, you may think this all sounds pretty good—but as an email marketer, you may have some reservations. What if your company’s marketing emails land your server on a blacklist, for instance, and all company communiqués are automatically sorted into the spam folder?

When you get blacklisted, you should get an email explaining the situation to you. You will receive a notice that you’ve been flagged for spam, and the name of the responsible blacklisting organization. Often, you will also receive a link to a blacklist removal page, where you can submit a formal request for your email server to be delisted.

If this process gives you trouble or doesn’t yield fruit, contact your hosting provider and let them know what’s happened. Generally, the provider will be able to get you delisted. If all else fails, you can ask the provider to help you change your IP address, but this is only a temporary solution.

Taking prompt action is recommended, of course. After all, email is too important a marketing channel and you don’t want your time, effort, or money languishing in the spam folder.

Staying Off the Email Blacklist

It’s important not to fall into bad habits when it comes to your email marketing. The fact is, the majority of the email campaigns you send won’t be opened. According to HubSpot, an average open rate of 32.4% and 6.5% click rate at 16-30 campaigns per month is considered a success. The numbers vary somewhat, of course, depending on different factors – like the size of your company – but you don’t need to see huge numbers to reach this “sweet spot.”

To give yourself the best chances of not only keeping your emails off the blacklist, but having them opened consistently, take a strategic and thoughtful approach. Segment your lists. Don’t simply send to all your contacts en masse to flog your products or services, but provide offers tailored to specific groups of recipients. Know what aspects of your offerings will appeal to particular buyer personas and where they are on their buyer’s journey. Avoid getting shunted to the Social or Promotions tabs through short subject lines devoid of “salesy” buzzwords. Send emails that are personalized where appropriate, well-written, concise (this is key), and show clear value.

Fighting your way off the blacklist can be frustrating and at times disheartening. Try to ensure you don’t end up blocked in the first place by implementing marketing best practices.

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Note: A version of this post was originally published on 10/26/10 and has been updated to keep up with changes to email marketing.



Rachel Vaughn

Rachel Vaughn

As the content marketing manager for VIEO Design, Rachel Vaughn brought serious research chops and boatloads of personality to everything she wrote for VIEO and our clients. She recently relocated to Seattle on new adventures!

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