Why should I care what black lists such as Spamhaus think of me?

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Answer: Contrary to popular belief, black lists are not the enemy. They are developed to stop spam and make e-mail work better—something most marketers want. Spamhaus runs one of the biggest and most widely used black lists available. ISPs and corporate administrators use it to identify and block spam.

Spamhaus runs various lists: A largely human-researched list that indicates you have shown patterns of bad behavior that are indicative of spamming; a largely automated list that indicates that you are hitting spam trap addresses and have some characteristics of being an insecure server; and a list of “residential” IP addresses that mail should not be coming from, according to the ISPs that control that IP space.

Each of these lists tells you something useful about your e-mail performance and should be used as a diagnostic guide.

While it is never fun to find your IP addresses on black lists, remember: black lists are not the problem. The onus is on e-mail senders to make sure they are doing all they can to stay off black lists in the first place. The easiest way to do that is to always send permissioned, relevant communications, at an expected frequency. One sure way to land on a black list is to generate high complaint rates or hit spam trap addresses, so make sure you don’t entice subscribers to complain about you.

In addition, be careful when sourcing new data. It is also important to set up the proper e-mail infrastructure so receivers can identify you. (Using the appropriate authentication protocols makes it harder for your e-mail program to become a fraud victim, as well.)

If you do find yourself on a black list, you can sometimes rectify the situation by improving the problems that got you listed in the first place, or by proving why the listing was erroneous. Working with your ESP or deliverability firm can also help the negotiation process.

George Bilbrey is VP-general manager of delivery assurance at Return Path.

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