Riding the E-mail Highway
Every e-mail marketer knows about the existence of the dreaded blocklist or blacklist. While you may not understand the criteria for being listed on or delisted from such a file—few do—you surely know your e-mail won’t be delivered if you’re on a blocklist used by the domain to which you’re sending.
Is the reverse true when you’re whitelisted or accredited as a “good” sender? Do these lists and certifications confer a special status that ensures the delivery of your e-mail? The answer to these questions is a resounding “maybe.”
A Good Sender Record
Before we can answer the aforementioned questions, we first need to clarify the similarities and differences between whitelists and certification services.
Whitelist. A list of e-mail addresses, domain names or IP addresses maintained by some Internet service providers (ISPs) to identify qualified senders and exempt their e-mail from some or all anti-spam filters and rules. Whitelisting typically is a free service to those senders who qualify.
Certification. Certification is a service offered by third-party reputation service providers (RSPs) that warrants the e-mail from the domains or IP addresses of qualified senders. When recognized by a receiving ISP or domain, certification serves to identify senders and exempt their e-mail from some or all anti-spam filters or rules. In some cases, additional privileges may be extended, such as trust tokens, inbox placement and image/link rendering. RSPs typically charge a subscription or transactional fee to those senders who qualify for their service.
Some have suggested that e-mail authentication is akin to the license plate on your car. It indicates that you own the vehicle and that it’s authorized to be on the road, but says nothing about your driving record. Extending that analogy, being on a whitelist is somewhat like having a driver’s license. You have to pass a test to get it and maintain a good driving record to keep it, but it affords no assurance that you won’t be involved in an accident. Certification is like an insurance policy for good drivers. Depending on the issuer, you may enjoy certain privileges, but regardless of the premium you pay, your certification status can be revoked if you don’t maintain a good driving record.