September 5, 2014 | John Goethert

Keep Your Emails from Getting Blacklisted

How to Keep Your Emails from Getting Blacklisted

We all know it. Spam is a huge problem. According to the monitoring group Kaspersky Lab, 70.7% of all email in the third quarter of 2013 was spam.

I hope you enjoy math, because I’m about to pull out my calculator. reports that 182.9 billion email messages were sent EVERY DAY in 2013! Yes, billion with a “b.” If you apply the statistic above and take 70.7% of that number, it’s reasonable to assume that 129.3 billion spam emails tried reach peoples’ inboxes daily last year.

Now multiply that by 365 days in the year and we’re talking more than 47 TRILLION SPAM EMAILS last year!

Yikes. Just, yikes.

How Anti-Spam Software Works & How It Affects You

To combat this massive problem, anti-spam software searches for certain key words and phrases that are often used in spam. If spam still sneaks through these filters, there is a handy “Spam” button right there in the email window.

Clearly, these are a pretty naïve attempt attempts. As a result, blacklisting companies have popped up, promising to keep spam from getting anywhere near your computer.

These services watch email servers, and if large amounts of email are sent from a server, or if a large proportion of those emails are marked as spam by the recipients, the blacklisters tell email hosts not to accept anything from that server.

This method effectively weeds out large volumes of spam. When we say emails are blacklisted, we mean they’ve been flagged by one of these companies.

Blacklists are a great way to combat servers that are only used for spamming. But what happens if you end up on a list and you’re not actually a spammer?

Ideally, you need to avoid doing anything that might get you on a blacklist in the first place.

Here are a few tips to keep your emails from getting blacklisted:

1. Don’t send email from a server that is used by spammers.

If you have the bad luck of being on the same server as a spammer and the server has been blacklisted, you too will be blacklisted… you're guilty by association. Aside from changing your website hosting and crossing your fingers, there is not too much you can do about this. You can use to see other domains listed on the same server as yours, and use MX Toolbox (I talk about it more below) to see if you've been blacklisted.

2. Don’t create email that encourages people to hit the spam button.

Clearly, you are not a spammer. But if you send poorly designed and badly written emails, you will start getting spam complaints and end up on blacklists.

There are many email marketing best practices to keep you from getting lots of spam complaints (check out this Hubspot article), but two obvious ones are not using clever “bait-and-switch” subject lines or known spammy words that will trigger the spam alert.

Also, you can greatly reduce your chance of getting marked as spam by personalizing your emails (tools like HubSpot make this incredibly easy) and reminding the recipients of how they know you and why you’re getting in touch.

3. Don’t send bulk email right out of your mail client.

One very quick way to get blacklisted it to try to send out business quantities of email from a personal address – a classic red flag. Use an email service like Mail Chimp, Constant Contact or iContact, or best of all, closed-loop marketing software like HubSpot.

These companies register themselves with blacklisting companies and get “pre-approval” for the large amounts of email going out. Of course, these services have requirements for YOU. You will need to maintain low percentages of spam complaints, because your spam complaints are also their spam complaints, and could lead to the blacklisting of their servers.

4. Use a dedicated email address.

One classic spam trick is to have a legitimate-looking email address that forwards to a spammer’s personal email. This is one way they appear credible and lure the unsuspecting person in.

But many real businesses choose to forward emails for other reasons. For example, say your work email ( forwards to your personal email ( If is spammed, those spam messages will be forwarded on to Yahoo. Yahoo may assume that is the source of spam, and blacklist the @fakebusiness account, the domain, or even your IP address.

The spammer lives to spam another day, and you are left to try to clean up the mess.

Darn, you’ve been blacklisted!

So, you suspect you have been Blacklisted. Well, the first thing to do is confirm it. Use a blacklist check site like MX Toolbox to find out. MX Toolbox searches more than 100 blacklists for your website’s domain, and they’ll even offer you solutions for getting your site off the list.

I hope this article helps you stay off those evil lists!

If you want more email marketing help, download our free checklist for lots of easy tips.

Download our Email Marketing Checklist!


John Goethert

John Goethert

John Goethert served as VIEO’s senior inbound marketing project manager for many years and enjoyed using his varied expertise on behalf of our clients.

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