Is your email marketing IP on a blacklist? Here’s how to fix it

Something isn’t right.

Did you get an email telling you that you are on a blacklist? Or maybe your email deliverability metrics are plummeting suddenly.

As much as 85% of all email that goes out is considered spam. That likely includes lots of brands and businesses.

You might have ended up on the dreaded email blacklist. What does that mean?

What is an email blacklist?

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have real-time databases of IP addresses that send email messages that could be considered spam.

Blacklists are the filters that ISPs use to prevent spam messages from hitting email inboxes. Unfortunately, sometimes legitimate, non-spam marketing messages can get you put on one of these lists. It’s more than likely you’re on one of these lists. You want to attempt to keep that number low. Ideally, your marketing strategy doesn’t land you on one of these lists often

How does an email blacklist work?

Here is a graphic we didn’t make to show you precisely how email blacklists work (Source: Spamhaus).

What are the symptoms/signs of being on a blacklist? 

There are several ways you can tell if you’re on an email blacklist:

  • High bounce rates – typically a high rate of hard bounces means that you’re being blocked before your emails ever reach the inbox
  • Received a report that you’re on a blacklist from an organization that tracks them

If suddenly, your email deliverability plummets, your bounce rates skyrocket, or your opens are nonexistent very suddenly, you may be on a blacklist.

Who creates blacklists?

Very large ISPs and even email service providers (ESPs) create blacklists of their own, but there are also some organizations that specialize in creating and maintaining blacklists. Some of these organizations include:

  • Spamhaus– this organization operates one of the largest spam lists in the world using a combination of several different lists. Email marketers will likely use the SBL Spamhaus Block List
  • Spamcop – this organization uses spamtrap addresses and spam reports to create its list
  • Invalument – this organization uses a combination of three different blacklists to create the master list
  • Barracuda– this company sells data and online software. Its list mostly contains addresses that spam their system

How do you get blacklisted?

There are so many actions that contribute to your IP being listed as a spam IP. Some are:

  • Negative actions – spam complaints, deleted emails, unopened emails, blocked sender, etc.
  • Low engagement – a lack of positive action like opens, clicks, etc.
  • Someone filing your domain and IP on a blacklist website

Some are reliant on determiners you control, while some factors might be entirely out of your control.

Let’s start with the factors you don’t necessarily control:

  • The person who had your IP address was a spammer (DHCP IP)
  • You have a virus sending out emails on your IP
  • The actions of your contacts

Here are the factors you can control:

  • Email content – Compelling content converts, and it also can be the difference between landing on a blacklist or getting a clickthrough.
  • Identification – Registering your IP through identification services. This helps keep your IP off lists.
  • Sending volume – Segment your audiences. 2020 is a great time to practice true, action-trigger and interest-based personalization. That keeps you from sending out massive batches of emails that get you spam complaints.
  • Sender reputation – This is a combination of the factors listed above and a domain with a good sender reputation is likely not going to have to worry about being on many blacklists
  • Ask to be whitelisted – If you are sending out content that is truly valuable to your audience, then you deserve to be whitelisted. Actions that can constitute whitelisting might be moving the emails to a primary inbox. If you know that you email is landing in the spam box of a recipients’ inbox, ask them to go move it during the opt-in process.
  • Data hygiene – Keep your data clean and up to date. If you don’t, you’ll end up with a decaying list that will continuously land you on a blacklist.

How do you know if you’re on a blacklist?

You must look up if you’re on blacklists. There are countless tools that do this. Some of them are:

  1. Pepipost’s All-In-One Email Blacklist Checker
  2. Whatismyip’s Email Blocklist Checker
  3. MXToolbox’s Blacklist Check
  4. DNSBL Blocklist Check
  5. DNSChecker IP Blocklist Checker Tool
  6. MultiRBL Blacklist/Blocklist Lookup Tool
  7. Spamhaus IP Blocklist Checker
  8. Spamcop Blocklist Checker Tool

You’ll notice the various blacklist companies have tools to check if you’re on their lists. You’ll want to run your IP on a handful of these tools. I recommend using Spamhaus and maybe 2 to 3 other checkers to find out your current blacklist status.

How likely is it that you are on a blacklist?

You’re probably on a blacklist if you send out emails with consistency. You want to always try to get yourself off the list and attempt to avoid being on more than one.

How do you get off a blacklist?

The answer is it depends.

It depends on which blacklist you’ve been placed on. Each has their own manner of appealing. Send emails, call phone numbers.

It’s worth the time and energy to get your brand off the blacklist. Then you need to consider what got you on the list in the first place. Some blacklist organizations might require remediation in their appeals process.

Figure out what caused you to get blacklist, make sure to tweak your strategy accordingly, or you’ll just end up on the list again.


Let us know what you think:

  • Have you ever found your email IP on a blacklist?
  • How did you find out? 
  • How did you remedy the situation?



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