Email Marketing Reputation. Explained. Part 5

Getting on a Deny List

(A deny list is otherwise known in the past as a blacklist)

In previous articles we’ve looked at Email Reputation Management and what you can do about things. What we’re going to look at now is what happens when you get on a deny list.

It should be obvious by now that Email Marketing is a numbers game. Back in the day you used to be able to apply the old adage of throw enough of the dark stuff against the wall and some of it will stick. However, in this day and age, the smart money is on smart sending – targeting those whose interests align with the messages you’re sending them. The corollary to this is that the larger your target audience, the more likely it is that you will get flagged on a deny list (particularly if you’re not being smart and targeting people based on their behaviours).


Well, if you’ve been doing List Hygiene and you’ve been following best practices, it’s almost impossible. However, the assumption here is not that you have been failing in your diligence on this matter. What is clear from our experience of getting on deny lists is that this almost always happens when you’re looking the other way (for want of a better phrase). The New Guy in Sales has a bunch of people that always came through for him before; when clearing out some old files a disk was found with a spreadsheet that used to be used way back when for marketing, and that data got uploaded. These are terrible examples but they’ve happened in the past.

These days with GDPR in play, explicit permission is an absolute necessity. So tread carefully with data, and ensure that you know how and where it’s being collated. Also see the previous blog post about list hygiene – it’s got other useful stuff there too. And if you’re following all of those pieces of advice you should be just fine. 

If, somehow, you manage to get yourself on just one of the leading deny lists, it is enough to get you blocked by some ISPs, although it should be said that the larger ISPs tend to have their own “secret formula” which may or may not make reference to deny lists.. That having been said, if you behave yourself and receive very few complaints, and you don’t hit spam traps, and you target email consistently, you should not get deny listed. 

If you do get deny listed, and you’ve been following this set of guidelines, you should have a good sending reputation. This behaviour will ensure that you get off of a blocklist quicker, because, after all is said and done, you’re behaving yourself, right?

What happens when you’re on a deny list?

The first thing you’ll notice is that your normal statistics for Open rates, Click-throughs, CTORs etc all look a bit odd. That doesn’t mean that if your Open rates, etc all look odd that you are on a deny list. The one does not drive the other.

In fact, it’s likely that you wouldn’t notice it for a campaign or two (if it even lasted that long) because of the changing nature of human behaviour. But we will notice it. And we’ll notice it straight away. We monitor these things, you see. It’s in our interests to do so. And for the most part we can get the issue resolved before the bad things start happening. 

Most of the time the owners of the deny lists listen to us, and accept evidence we present to them to explain what has happened. At that point, they will de-list the sending IP and things can go back to normal. 

However, it has to be said that sometimes they do not listen, or they do not accept the evidence presented. Does this mean that things are now irreparable? No, far from it. We have many avenues that we can pursue, from re-opening a case with them, to moving you to a new managed IP with a good reputation. 

It should be clear that whilst being listed on a deny list is a bad thing, it’s a temporary situation for you (and of course for us as well), because we take measures to ensure that these matters are dealt with promptly. It’s in everyone’s interest to ensure that these things take as little time as possible to get resolved. 

In the final part of this series we’ll summarise everything covered thus far and leave you with an overall set of guiding instructions to help you stay a good sender and ensure you’re delivering wanted email to your recipients’ Inboxes.

Meet the author

Marcus Webb

Senior Technical Services Executive