Getting Whitelisted

Dear Email Diva,

I have a permission-based, single opt-in email list of 50,000+ addresses. Recently I've turned my attention to getting whitelisted. A majority of our emails are corporate addresses, so there's an IT person somewhere I need to get in touch with to discuss getting through any filters they've set up and save our email from having to jump through too many hoops. Just how do I go about convincing someone my emails are worth letting through? So far I've had limited success: where the admin has heard of our company it goes well, but those that haven't question why they should allow us through. Do you have any foolproof methods for how to strike up the dialogue that will end with my name being up there in white on someone's very own copy of Spam Assassin?



Tristan Welch
Communications & Circulation Manager

Dear Tristan,

Of course the Email Diva has the answer to this question, but let me start by clearing up a misconception about your "name being up there in white on someone's very own copy of Spam Assassin." As I wrote in a previous article,Spam Assassin is an open source filter that calculates the likelihood that an email is spam based on content, layout and many other factors. It is not a white list per se, but if your sending IP is on the recipient's white list, or has been certified by a reputation vendor, you get negative points in the overall score. The lower your score, the less likely your email is to be spam.

With over 50,000 names on your list, you are reaching tens of thousands of companies. If you tried to contact each one and plead your case, it would be a never-ending, full-time job. What you should strive for, instead, is to get through the most commonly used email filters, like Spam Assassin and IronPort. You should also be concerned about your delivery through the major ISPs, since your B-to-C message is no doubt delivered to a large percentage of free email accounts.

Take the easy way out and let someone who knows the ropes do this for you: an email delivery service. For what is typically less than the cost of one campaign, you can get an audit of your program that tells you whether it was delivered or halted by leading email filters and ISPs, along with solutions to fix the problems you encounter. Marketing Sherpa publishes a guide to delivery audit services, to aid your selection.

Beyond the initial audit, these vendors will work with your program on an ongoing basis to monitor and fix delivery problems. The technical issues related to delivery will continue to change over time. Let the experts keep abreast of them so you can concentrate on providing value to your readers, not overcoming delivery obstacles.

The vendors begin with a vetting process that reviews your list building, maintenance and privacy practices. This gives them a credible basis to "convince someone my emails are worth letting through."

You may still have obstacles from companies that try to restrict personal activities on company time. Some gatekeepers will see your emails as productivity drains, regardless of your practices. Encourage customers to give you a back-up/secondary email address as a second stage in the subscription process. If you find that certain companies are blocking your emails, send a request to the secondary address to either allow you to send email there or plead your case to the gatekeepers.

Good Luck!

The Email Diva

Send your questions or submit your email for critique to Melinda Krueger, the Email Diva, at All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.

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