How to Avoid Email Blocklists: 7 Tips from Leading Blocklist Providers

If you’ve been sending marketing email for long enough, you know the significance blocklists have on the success of an email program. While they do a great job of keeping bad and malicious senders out of the inbox, they have been known to affect legitimate senders as well, even if you think you are doing everything right.  So then how can you avoid email blocklists? Lets find out!

SocketLabs recently moderated a panel discussion with representatives from well-respected blocklist providers including Proofpoint, Spamhaus, and SURBL during the 2021 ANA Email Evolution Conference. In this blog, we get a chance to share 7 tips from this discussion that will help you avoid blocklists and get more email to the inbox.  

Note: Are you finding yourself on an email blocklist? SocketLabs helps senders get their marketing and transactional emails to the inbox with our cloud and on-premises email software. Sign up for a trial today.

For those of you who don’t know, email blocklists are private, anti-abuse organizations who work closely with ISPs to monitor email quality and prevent spam. And while most of what they catch deserves to be blocked, sometimes even legitimate senders can find themselves on a blocklist. So here is what you can do to avoid getting stuck on a blocklist in the future: 

7 Tips to Avoid Email Blocklists

 1. Be Consistent

A general rule of thumb in email is to always be as consistent as possible. Not only will this help in the world of blocklists, it will also help with engagement from your recipients and sender reputation. You want to be predictable, that means using consistent IPs and domains, similar types of content and sending frequency. You want people to know what to expect from you and continue to follow that formula.  

2. Be Considerate

Create and send email with the end-user in mind. Recipients are people, not just metrics in a dashboard. Before sending, ask yourself, is this email necessary, and does it provide them value? The dormant list of recipients that have not engaged with your brand in 2 years is not a good place to start. 

3. Follow Best Practices

I get it, easier said than done. After all, there are so many “email best practices” out there. Here are a couple of the essentials to get you started: 

  • Always get consent from your recipients before hitting ‘Send’, and set the expectation of what type of emails they will be getting from you.  
  • Fully authenticate your sending domain, including SPF, DKIM, and DMARC. 
  • Provide clear, and easy-to-use unsubscribe options in every email 
  • Keep your lists clean, removing invalid addresses, unsubscribes and complaints. Also consider engagement targeting to email inactive recipients less often. 
  • Keep an eye on the data. Understand how recipients are reacting so you can adjust problematic tactics and double down on what’s working. 

4. Follow Protocol When Requesting Removal from a Blocklist

Most providers have established mechanisms in place that you can follow to get off of their blocklist. Look for these mechanisms before reaching out to that friend of a friend who knows a guy. It will save you time and likely relationships.  

5. Be Prepared

Blocklist providers help senders more who are adequately prepared. You should try to figure out what caused the issue, how you can avoid it in the future, and even try to remediate on your own before escalating. Do your legwork, then request delisting. 

6. Always Warm Up

When starting on a new domain or IP, or even introducing a new mailstream, it’s essential that you properly warm things up. Sending too much email, too fast from a new source is a sure-fire way to get blocked as providers will flag you as spam. To learn more about IP warming, read this blog we wrote on the topic 

7. Pay Attention to the Technical Bits

All of our blocklist friends agreed that configuration issues are among the most common reason good senders end up on a blocklist. If you don’t personally understand the workings of proper authentication or terms like rDNS and HELO mean nothing to you, that’s ok. Just make sure you get in contact with a professional who thoroughly understands these things. Most ESPs, including SocketLabs, have integration/migration/standup programs to help senders of all sizes get started off on the right foot. 

Creating a Successful Long-term Email Program 

While the 7 tips to avoid email blocklists above will certainly help in the long-run, email delivery is an ever-evolving science. If you have the technical aspects figured out or know someone who can help, you’re off to a good start. When it comes to creating and sending the mail, something that will never change is that people want honest and valuable marketing email. The more value you give to your recipients, the better off you will be, no matter how the industry evolves.  If you find yourself too far under water when it comes to blocklists and email deliverability, you can always consult the email experts at SocketLabs to help get you back on track quickly. 

As a follow-up to our panel discussion, Jaren Angerbauer from Proofpoint worked with us to put together a quick Q&A with some other common questions about Blocklists. 

Blocklist Q&A:  

1. What is the reason a spam trap opens and clicks on emails? Is there a place where one can find a list of spam traps to avoid?  

Jaren: (Not necessarily spam traps) there are automated systems that analyze message links to identify if they are malicious. Generally speaking, these systems are designed to not click actionable links (i.e. unsubscribe). By design, spam traps are not publicly available, and in many cases considered confidential / proprietary. 

2. When adding a new subdomain on a warm IP, should you throttle the volume of sending, or can you send full volume?   

Jaren: This can vary by provider, but generally speaking, if possible, I recommend still throttling, as this will introduce increased volume on the warmed IP. 

3. My company was looking to change its domain to match the recently changed brand name. Is this a bad idea?   

Jaren: Recommendation here is to use a domain that has been registered for a while. New domains will trigger warning flags. 

Lauren: Agree with Jaren regarding the use of new domains. That said, if your brand name has changed, you do want your emails to be very well aligned with that new brand. So plan to get your new domain registered well in advance of when you plan to send it. Also plan to alert your email recipients of the domain-change that is ‘happening soon’ as part of your rebranding effort because sending to existing recipients from a new/unknown domain may look like spam to them. 

4. I’m concerned about the issue with consistency with day of week / time of sends. We constantly try to find the best time to send according to the engagement. So what do you recommend in that area?  

Jaren: This is more a marketing strategy question, but ultimately, if the recipient is interested / engaged, they will open / click regardless of when the message was sent. 

Lauren: There is no one best time of day/week to hit ‘Send’. This is dependent on a lot of factors including the brand itself, the content being sent, and the appetite of each recipient. Consistency tends to be key, so focus more on delivering great content on as regular of a basis as possible. Interested recipients will find your email if they want to.