Where and how do I get ‘white-listed’?

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There’s almost not a day that goes by where someone does not ask me about getting “white-listed.” The topic of white-listing often comes up with new mailers, who believe it is the answer to all our deliverability hopes and dreams.

Historically, white-listing was the correct path to successful e-mail delivery. ISPs would accept a marketer’s white-listing application, and e-mail would flow to recipients’ inboxes unless the sender caused a problem. But e-mail volume increased, and ISP postmaster staffing decreases made the scalability of this process unmanageable. The ISPs forced senders to prove recipients wanted the messages before allowing direct inbox delivery. The white-listing application is now a good faith declaration of the intent to send e-mail from your IP and e-mail address. This “guilty until proven innocent” model is now the reality we deal with when we begin sending e-mail from a new provider, IP address or brand. The goal is to quickly establish a strong sending reputation.

The upside to this evolution is that if you follow best practices and pay attention to what recipients are telling you with their actions, the system can and will work for you as a sender. But if you aren’t paying attention to complaints, bounces, list hygiene, frequency of your mailings and the relevancy of your content, there is no list in the world that will keep your messages from being rerouted to the spam folder or blocked.

The next time you are speaking to someone about your e-mail deliverability, don’t forget that the question isn’t where are you white-listed; rather, the question is what do you think about white-listing. The answer you should look for is that white-listing is just one piece of the deliverability best practices puzzle.

Kevin Senne is global director of deliverability and product services for e-marketing solutions at Premiere Global Services (

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