What’s Email Blacklist and How to Avoid Being Blacklisted?

Getting blacklisted is the last thing a company wants to deal with while executing email marketing campaigns. Getting blacklisted prevents the messages or emails of your company from reaching the target audience, which reduces the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns. To avoid such a situation, it is important to know about email blacklisting and ways to avoid getting blacklisted.  

What is an email blacklist?  

The purpose of an email blacklist is to barricade unreliable sources from sending spam content to tamper the inboxes. Email blacklisting is somewhat similar to blocking in social media – which means the blacklisted ones cannot reach out to you through the same email id or send any kind of content to you via email. In relation to the terms of the email, this barrier can harm the deliverability of your email.   

When email service providers suspect malicious or spam activities from one particular domain or IP, that IP gets added to the blacklist. This redirects irrelevant messages to a spam folder from the inbox of the receiver. Mainly there are 2 blacklists:  

  1. IP address blacklist – When the sender is suspected of sending spam emails or other abusive emails, it gets blacklisted. 
  2. Domain blacklist – This is a group of all domains that send spam and mislead users.  

Once an email address is blacklisted, such emails cannot fall into the primary inbox.   

How to find out if you’re on an email blacklist?  

There are many factors that can get you blacklisted. Below listed are some of such factors:  

  • Spam complaints – The email service providers may trigger to blacklist the emails in case of a large number of spam complaints. 
  • Email content – Certain email servers use the keyword to filter emails. Therefore, the use of phrases such as “Money-Back Guarantee”, “Free”, and the use of multiple exclamation marks, capital letters, etc. can blacklist your emails.  
  • Poor email list management – Poor email list management can make the unsubscribe request go unnoticed. This may lead to sending emails to the recipients even after they unsubscribe, which in turn results in getting blacklisted or being tagged as spam.  

Similarly, there are some steps to follow to help you find out if you are on an email blacklist. Let’s go through the steps:  

  1. Run Test – There are online tools that let you find out if your domain or IP has been added to any blacklists.  
    Such tools will ask you to send an email to their email id. They will analyze and let you know how spammy the email is, once they receive the email. You are required to make the suggested changes for better deliverability of your emails. 
  2. Check through blacklists – If you find a low rate while tracking the engagement of the mails, you have to manually check different blacklists to find out the reason for the reduced rate of engagement. Since the blacklists are available for the public, you can check them through your own domain name. For this purpose, you can use certain websites including;  
    • Spamhaus  
    • Spamcop  
    • MXToolBox  
    • MultiRBL  
    • SURBL  
    • Invaluement  

If you are found to be blacklisted, you will need to confirm that you are not a spammer and request removal from the recipient. You will be taken out of the blacklist once they find your claim to be legit. This whole process requires about 24 hours.  

How to avoid being blacklisted?  

One of the possible things that you could do to avoid getting blacklisted while doing your email marketing is to ‘avoid being blacklisted’. Since we know that the primary causes of getting blacklisted are the content of emails and the lists, here are some ways to stay out of blacklists:  

Use double opt-in for the email subscribers

Double opt-ins ask the users to sign up for the mailing list where they need to do a two-step verification and then receive a confirmation email of their subscription with a link. This provides an extra security measure to barricade fake emails, thus make sure that the subscribers are real users and not bots. The extra signup step assures that your subscribers are interested in receiving your emails, when you create a newsletter, send promotional offers, or inform them about new offers.

This lessens the number of complaints about email spamming against your business and reduces the risk of people unsubscribing from your list of emails. Using double opt-ins will get you more qualified leads, establish stronger relationships with new subscribers, and enhances the delivery of your emails.  

Attach an unsubscribe link

Not including an unsubscribe link indicates a violation of anti-spam laws, and this can get your domain blacklisted. Adding an unsubscribe list not only keeps you adhered to the laws and regulations but also increases the experience of the subscribers. This ensures the emails are being sent to the interested subscribers only.

It is very important to be familiar with the anti-spam laws if you do not want your emails to get blacklisted. Moreover, displaying an unsubscribe link is way more important than anything else because the subscribers should feel the right to unsubscribe from any emails which they are not interested in.   

Clean the email lists routinely

Executing proper management of the email list and assessing it to detect latent spam traps can help avoid getting placed on a blacklist. It is better to update the email list by removing non-responsive subscribers to filter out spam traps. Checking the email address of the subscribers can help in avoiding junk like spelling errors and invalid email ids.

Email checker tools and email validation in sign-up forms can also prevent such errors. Keeping a healthy contact list may help in avoiding spam traps and increasing email deliverability.  

Optimize email content

Delivering email blasts and collective junk messages may lead to increasing complaints against your company and can also get your emails to the blacklist. You can personalize the email content by working with leading email marketing software. You can also customize using a drag and drop email editor to personalize the layout and design of the email, insert images, text, buttons, calendar invites, HTML snippets, and polls.

The advanced options allow you to include dynamic content and to exhibit different types of condition-based content such as a particular section or list. Customized content that can interest the subscribers will save your email from being flagged or blacklisted.  

Secure the server

To guard the email server against getting hijacked by bots and malware, it is essential to set up proper security measures and tools to verify IP addresses. These malicious programs can deliver hoax emails and blacklist you even if you follow appropriate methods of email marketing. You can use an IP search tool to determine if your IP address is being used by anyone else. Regularly updating the security protocols of the email server prevents blacklisting of your business emails and malware attacks.  

Avoid manual entry of email addresses into your database

Avoid manual addition of received contacts to your email list such as printed business cards, if they do not agree to receive your marketing emails. Instead, connect via their personal inbox and guide them to a specific form or landing page that allows you to select them to your email list. People who have not authorized you will often report your emails as spam and blacklist you.   


As long as you are familiar with the elements that can lead you to get flagged as spam, you can avoid being on a blacklist. Ways to not get blacklisted vary from industry to industry, and you may need to update yourself according to the changes in the email delivery rules. Blacklists do not aim to make your life more difficult but to make sure that nothing goes wrong when you send emails to people. So, be certain in facilitating valuable and healthy content to your subscribers, which is the best way to avoid getting blacklisted.