In today’s world where so many businesses large and small exist and operate in a virtual world, perhaps no scenario is scarier than to have the vital lines of communication between you and your customers come to a screeching halt. And yet, according to website monitoring service StatusCake, it happens to thousands of companies every day as a result of being “blacklisted” by mail servers, browsers and complex filtering systems and corporate firewalls.
What is blacklisting, and how do so many companies find themselves in this predicament? Essentially, blacklisting is an anti-spam measure designed to help email and Internet service providers curb unsolicited junk mail and other communications from suspect websites. However, problems occur when the anti-spam measures put in place are overly aggressive and actually block legitimate messages and contacts. So just like it sounds, blacklisting is a list, in electronic form, that providers make available to ISP and email servers of addresses and domain names that are deemed to be spam or otherwise malicious and unwanted.
There are a number of ways businesses can find themselves being blacklisted: if someone in your company is sending out monthly newsletters to a large number of recipients and not being attentive to those recipients that want to “unsubscribe” or “opt out” from said newsletter, getting blacklisted is a common occurrence. Likewise if you have an email account that has an easy-to-guess password, it’s easy for someone to hack that account and send out a large volume of junk emails. Other reasons for getting blacklisted include having your PC infected by a remote access virus or “rootkit” that has hijacked your network; your website’s contact form has a security flaw that allows someone to steal your service; another business on your shared hosting server has sent out a flood of emails and therefore your entire IP address gets flagged; or your email address gets “spoofed,” messages begin to bounce back to you and an annoyed subscriber reports the messages as spam.
So what should you do if you suddenly find your company has been placed on a blacklist? To begin, contact your Internet service provider and inform them of the situation. Often they can easily get your IP address delisted, however some experts report that the larger companies (such as Google and Yahoo) take more time to remedy the situation. You can also approach the blacklist provider directly and ask to have your IP address removed from their list—some will do it for free and others, such as backscatter.org, require a fee.
What’s most important is to take steps to ensure you never get placed on a blacklist. Industry experts recommend that, if you plan on sending out regular newsletters or engage in serious email marketing and your list of addresses is more than 500 strong, use a list server or email marketing service. These platforms are designed to handle large volumes of email and, in many cases, will deal with the list of unsubscribers for you automatically. Additionally, they can provide comprehensive statistics on how many people are reading your emails, click-through and pass-on rates and so on.
In short, blacklisting can be a serious problem and can certainly affect your business’ ability to reach out to your vital customer base. However, by taking some simple in-house precautions or signing up with a professional company that can monitor the dozen or so blacklists, avoiding this ugly situation is relatively easy.