Email is still one of the main ways that businesses keep in touch with their customers. So if you want to ensure that your important marketing and campaign messages are getting directly through to customers’ in-boxes, then you need to know all about whitelists.

What Are Whitelists?

A whitelist is a database of email addresses that the email provider or individual user has deemed are ‘safe’ and spam free. These senders are allowed through and are not blocked or blacklisted, regardless of whether the email has been solicited or not.

With the increasing problem of phishing and ransomware, it’s now more important than ever to ensure your company’s emails are not inadvertently placed in spam folders or blacklisted altogether.

How Are Whitelists Set Up?

All email service providers (think Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo and Hotmail) have their own whitelists and blacklists of domains and senders.

The providers use a variety of metrics to determine membership of these lists. It could be previous complaints of spam email from users, subscriber activity, whether recipients open the emails or simply delete them, as well as spam indicators such as text-only messages, spam words, long subject lines and attachments.

At the same time providers maintain whitelists of trusted domains which automatically bypass the spam and blacklist filters. When a user replies to an unsolicited email, for example, some providers’ systems will automatically add the domain to the user’s whitelist. And so you can easily have a situation where some of your campaign emails are getting through to customers while others are not.

As well as provider whitelists, the individual user can also set up their own whitelist of trusted sources usually simply by adding the email address to their list of contacts.  

How Do I Make Sure I’m On The Whitelist?

Unfortunately it’s not possible to make a direct request to an email provider to be included on their whitelist. Inclusion is based solely on a domain’s reputation. There are, however, a number of steps you can take to ensure you avoid ending up on the wrong list.

  1. Use a trusted email platform. If you use a third-party email platform to send out your emails then be sure to check out the platform’s reputation before using their services. Well-known platforms will already be on the trusted list for all the major providers.
  2. Avoid buying email lists. Instead draw up your own list of customers, clients and contacts.
  3. Ask users to reply to your initial sign-up email. As we’ve seen, this simple action is often all you need to avoid blacklists so make sure you have a call-to-action that encourages a reply – perhaps entry into a prize draw or a link to a discount.
  4. And finally, always include a prominent unsubscribe link. This helps to build trust with both email providers and users and ensures you comply with the law on unsolicited emails.