Whitelists or Blacklists: Which Are You On This Holiday Season?
Just like Santa, mailbox providers have their own "Naughty" and "Nice" lists: blacklists and whitelists. As we head into the holiday shopping season, email marketers should begin the process to ensure that they make it to the right list and stay off the other.
Most major mailbox providers as well as email marketing analytics companies have a whitelist that senders can apply for to help ensure that their email reaches subscribers who want it. The requirements to get on the list differs by provider, and those accepted receive a variety of benefits ranging from better inbox placement, auto-enabled images, being allowed to bypass certain filters, higher volume thresholds and reduced throttling.
One thing to keep in mind is that acceptance to these lists isn't forever. Providers closely monitor the mail they receive from whitelisted senders, as well as their users' engagement with those senders' messages. If they see signs that your list hygiene is poor or your subscribers frequently complain, your whitelisted status — and all the benefits that go with it — will be revoked. Your ability to reach your customers, and your program performance and revenue, will drop until you correct the problems and regain your whitelist eligibility.
You don't need to apply to get on blacklists — just to get off them. These lists are meant to flag true spammers, not email marketers. Legitimate commercial senders that find themselves on these "naughty" lists are usually not intentionally following poor practices. More typically their list acquisition or list hygiene practices are the cause, either by adding unknown users to their files, or worse, spam traps — email addresses that blacklist providers know senders can't have gotten permission to mail to. Providers also take into account low or negative engagement (ignoring or complaining about messages) and poor sender reputations to make blacklisting decisions.