Beginners Guide

Lesson 8, Blacklists & Whitelists

One thing we need to avoid as an email marketer or a Deliverability expert are Blacklists, these are lists which can either block or limit your marketing campaigns. Blacklists are there to help police the email marketing world, and to ensure abusers are punished or held into account based on their activities. There are several types of Blacklists, such as domain blacklists, IP blacklists.

A good resource to use to see if your listed on any of the blacklists is another resource to use is MX tool box which can help you run these queries. In addition you can use is ‘whatismyipaddress


The major blacklists to be aware of are:

These are amongst the most reknown blacklists around, typically they will massively impact deliverability if you find yourself on one. The impact can range from a throttling of emails, to a hard block where no receipient will receive an email, you will need to take action immediately.

How to avoid a blacklist:

To avoid a blacklist in the first place you need to ensure you respect the rules of road, the rules of the RFC.
Follow best practices, don’t know what they are? nows the time become educated. For some specific tips in order to avoid a blacklisting see here for 15 tips and 3 tips here to steer clear of blacklists.

A word about Whitelists

Whereas Blacklists punish abusive senders, whitelists can help legimitate senders with good behaviour to find the Inbox, whitelists can help senders. As with Blacklists, there are different types of whitelists mainly domain and IP based whitelists. One thing that differentiate blacklists and whitelists is that whitelist can quiet often be local to certain regions, to name a few whitelists they are:

How do whitelists work?

How Certification Gets Your Mail Through Email senders and receivers both participate in the Return Path Certification program.
• The outgoing email IP addresses of program members are added to the Certified whitelist.
• When an email is sent, the receiving mailbox provider or corporation performs a standard DNS query on the sending IP address.
• If the IP is on the whitelist, the email receives preferential treatment and has a very high probability of being delivered to the inbox.

*Explanation taken from ReturnPath

what are the standards?

Typically whitelist will have prevention techniques in place to ensure they wont allow whitelisting of a spammer or a source that sends illegitmate emails. Before you apply be sure to read this clearly, otherwise your merely wasting time. ‘If you aint got it, you aint got it’, see here for some standards of Return Path, ps put the kettle on.

As well as some advantages as using global whitelists, some ISPs offer their very own solution.
Here i’d advise where possible to always get on board the ISPs very own ISP or at least educate yourself as to the advantages and to see if you are eligable to join their whitelisting program, to name a few major players, they are:

Summary of Blacklists and whitelists

As an email marketer its extremely important we ensure our practices take into account some of the traps we can fall into. Some times ‘innocent’ senders can find themselves blacklisted for no fault of their own….or so they say. It is always important to ensure the sender domains we use for our email marketing campaigns are not blacklisted, also that our IPs have a good reputation and are not on a blacklist. If you find yourself on a blacklist, that is for a reason and requires you to look at this and ensure you respect the rules of that said blacklist. It is no use in changing your IPs or to find a work around, this will only come back to haunt you.
If you have ensured you are not on a blacklist and you have good enough standards you should take the time to see if you are eligable for whitelisting your IPs, either as an ESP or if you are a bulk sender using an ESP dont hesitate to ask your deliverability team advice about this.
Whitelisting can have some great advantages but its only any use if you have good practices in the first place, you may also need to pay a fee based upon volume, take that also into account. Emailing is very much a game of cops and robbers, be aware of this before you do anything in order to stay ahead of the game.


We’ve now covered the advantages if you respect the rules and the disadvanategs when you don’t. There are certain things we can control, and other things our members will determine. Please proceed to Lesson 9, User Engagement.

By Anthony Mitchell

Anthony Mitchell is a Deliverability Consultant with ten years of experience in all areas of E-Mail Deliverability & Abuse Management.
A Blogger & Youtuber, discussing all things email

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.