How to Get Off an Email Blacklist [For Over-Enthusiastic Marketers]

how to get off email blocklist

Today we have unprecedented direct access to our online audiences with email marketing. As our email lists grow, it can be tempting to want to share everything with our audience all the time. And while it’s not a good idea, we’ve all been there — we send one too many emails, or we include an extra email list in a campaign that maybe didn’t need to be included.

While making this mistake once or twice may ding us with a few extra unsubscribes and a lower open rate than we’d hoped, doing it consistently can have a worse effect. Specifically, it can land you on email blocklists, used by email providers to identify domains known for sending spam messages.

If you’ve ended up on an email blocklist, trust us — you’re not alone. The most important thing is to get it addressed quickly and learn from your missteps to avoid similar problems in the future.

The sections that follow will guide you through how to get off an email blocklist and steps you can take to avoid it ever happening again.

Quick Takeaways

  • Domains and IP addresses are placed on blocklists for sending emails identified as spam or containing malicious content.
  • Online tools like MxToolbox allow you to check your blocklist status with a single search.
  • Once you are placed on a blocklist, you will have to work with that blocklist operator to go through a removal process.
  • It’s critical to organically grow your own email lists and clean them up regularly to avoid spam traps and maintain high deliverability rates.
  • Adhering to CAN-SPAM guidelines is one of the surest ways to avoid blocklisting.

How do you end up on an email blocklist?

Your domain or IP address could end up on an email blocklist if it’s been identified as spam or as containing malicious content.

Yikes — not ideal.

The good news is that you don’t have to panic. It’s not actually uncommon for reputable brands to mistakenly end up on blocklists. Research by Litmus found that 15% of brands reported being blocklisted in the past 12 months.

The bad news is that it can severely impact the effectiveness of your email marketing efforts, and thus your overall marketing strategy. If you end up on an email blocklist, it’s critical that you resolve the issue right away.

The first step is to understand why it happened in the first place. Internet service providers (ISPs) like Gmail, AOL, Outlook, and Yahoo constantly work to prevent users from receiving unwanted emails. They have spam filters in place and often keep their own lists of unwanted domains and IP addresses.

They also use third-party blocklist operator lists like Spamhaus and SpamCop to help them maintain the most accurate and comprehensive list possible. The below graphic from Spamhaus shows the path an email takes through blocklist filters:

The path an email takes through Spamhaus blocklist filters.

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Some email missteps that can get you caught in spam filters include:

  • Too many capital letters, spam words, or emojis in the subject line
  • Non-compliance with the CAN-SPAM act (more on this in the next section)
  • No unsubscribe option for recipients
  • Spam trap email addresses (this often occurs from purchased email lists)
  • Consistent low engagement rates

The first sign that you might be on a blocklist is a significant increase in your bounce rate and/or a dip in your email open rate. The other (and clearer) signal is a direct message from a blocklist operator letting you know that you’ve been placed on their list. Fortunately, these messages also typically come with instructions for getting it resolved.

In the next section, we’ll walk through ways you can work to remove your domain or IP address from a blocklist before it becomes a bigger problem for your business.

How to get off an email blocklist

Check your email blocklist status

If you suspect you’ve been blocklisted, the first step to take is checking your status. There are several simple online search tools you can use to do it — MultiRBL and MxToolbox are two of the best. Simply enter your domain, and the tool will show you your status on all of the blocklists it covers.

MxToolbox email blocklist checker tool.

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Keep in mind that no tool encompasses every single blocklist in existence. Even if you monitor your status with these tools, pay attention to your bounce and open rates for potential blocklist red flags.

Work with blocklist operators

Most of the time, you’ll need to work directly with the blocklist operator to get your domain or IP address removed. Many blocklist operators will send you a notification that you’ve been added to the list and provide you with steps to begin the potential removal process. While the steps may differ, removal generally requires showing good email behavior for a period of time before being removed from the list.

Send a permission pass campaign

One common step requested by blocklist operators is a permission pass campaign. After identifying the list that triggered your blocklisting, you send an email to that list asking users to confirm that they’d still like to receive emails from you.

How to avoid blocklists in the first place

Adhere to CAN-SPAM

The CAN-SPAM act was passed in the early 2000s to set standards for email regulation and provide guidelines for the appropriate use of email marketing. CAN-SPAM standards are easy to follow, and it’s important to do so in order to avoid blocklisting.

CAN-SPAM Act guidelines to follow to avoid email blocklisting.

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Stick to true subscribers

Sometimes brands purchase email lists as an attempted short cut for growing their email lists. In general, this is a bad idea. These lists often include spam traps. They can lead to lower engagement since the users on the list did not actually subscribe to your brand’s emails. While it takes more time, the best way to grow your email list is organically.

Keep your email lists clean

Deliverability is one of the factors ISPs use to decide whether your emails should go to spam or eventually get blocklisted. To keep a high rate of deliverability, it’s critical to clean up your email lists on a regular basis. Nearly a quarter of email addresses naturally degrade every year, so even if your list started out with 100% validated emails, it will decay over time. A good way to keep your lists clean is to send periodic reengagement emails to your inactive subscribers.

Validate email addresses

Users inevitably make typos when entering their email addresses in subscription forms. You can avoid deliverability issues resulting from this problem by validating new email addresses when they’re added to your list. Tools like Zero Bounce make this process easy.

Don’t link to disreputable sites

One sure way to end up in spam folders and on blocklists is with careless content. As an email marketer, it’s your responsibility to make your emails relevant to your audience and include content that is reputable and trustworthy. Take measures to proof your emails well and check the sources you include so that users can trust your content.

Our outbound email software and lead generation services are custom-built for startups, consultancies, marketing agencies, and other B2B organizations. Schedule a quick call with us and find out how we can help you win more clients.