Rory Taylor, CTO, Concep

Professional Services Marketing technology firms like Concep work hard to achieve high levels of deliverability, yet blacklisting is always a risk.  Here we explain what blacklisting is, why it happens and outline what we do to prevent it from affecting our clients.

What is blacklisting?

We live in the age of consent and permission-led marketing where firms need to adhere to regulatory compliance and ‘good manners’ when it comes to emailing a contact.  Without it, the professional services sector cannot build trusted brands and strong relationships.  But that’s not always the case. There are still unscrupulous individuals or spammers who aim to distribute unwanted content that may be harmful – and that does not comply with anti-spam laws.  

Internet service providers (ISPs) and international blacklisting organisations such as Spamhaus, Barracuda, or Spamcop are constantly on the lookout to help identify the IPs and domains used to send out unsolicited mass email or spam and add them to a ‘blacklist'. If the sending IP appears on a blacklist, emails sent from that IP address will be blocked from being delivered to the recipients.

How does blacklisting happen?

Every time an email is marked as spam, either by a contact or by a spam filter, it triggers an action against the sender’s IP or the domain.  When there are a certain number of actions marked against an IP address, this IP is automatically added to the blacklist.

But it is not just being marked as spam that can result in an IP address being blacklisted. There are other factors which digital marketers need to be aware of.  One of these is having a high bounce rate.  This is because email service and internet providers monitor bounce rate as an indication of spamming activity.  So, if you have an old list with contacts who are no longer at a firm, for example, these are likely to be hard bounces.  If you have a consistent amount of high bounce rates, you could be blacklisted.  It’s a compelling reason to keep your marketing lists up to date!

In a similar way, email engagement also plays a part in your IP reputation.  If a contact chooses to delete an email before opening it, or there are no replies or click through rates, it could be that the recipient does not want to receive the email.  Consistent signs of low engagement levels are enough to flag that you may be breaking anti-spam law and – yes, you will end up on a blacklist!

What does Concep do to help prevent blacklisting?

Supported by humans

Concep’s Client Support Teams provide our clients with best-practice guidelines for high campaign deliverability. They do this via online client webinars, monthly knowledge emails and in articles on our online KnowledgeBase. 

This ensures our IP reputation – or sender score - remains consistently very high, reducing the risk of the sending domains or IP’s being added to any blacklists.

The team also actively review sent email campaign statistics to look for campaigns with high bounce rates and these are flagged daily enabling the team to contact the client and advise on best practices to improve their deliverability.

Spam Report technology

Concep’s email marketing platform has a built-in spam report which forms part of the pre-flight report that is compiled before a campaign is sent.  This enables the client to check they are following best-practice guidelines and will block the client from sending a campaign if the spam score is too high.

Active bounce management

Concep’s email marketing platform has active bounce management. This means that any contacts that have hard bounced are automatically withheld from sending future campaigns. If a hard bounce exists, it simply cannot  be added to a new sending list. This reduces the risk of repeat hard bounces being flagged as suspicious activity.  Users also have a quick Advanced Search functionality so they can pull up a report on a list's bounce status at any time.

Good practice tools 

Concep's platform has a selection of features and tools that ensure scheduled reports on email engagement and other significant metrics flag up any potential issues. That way users can easily keep their lists clean, targeted and relevant .

Active blacklist monitoring

Concep’s infrastructure team has an active monitoring system in place. This constantly checks and alerts the team if any of our sending IP’s or domains are added to a blacklist. This helps to ensure we can react quickly if for any reason an IP or a domain does get added to a blacklist.

A Professional Service vertical focus

As a specialist technology partner to the professional services sector, we focus on keeping tight control over our IP reputation ensuring highest possible deliverability rates for our clients. We pride ourselves on strong client relationships, procedures and policies, including our Acceptable Use Policy that outlines the good email practice and behaviours we expect from our clients.

What is Concep’s response plan to a potential blacklisting event?

In the unfortunate case of one of Concep’s sending IP’s being blacklisted, the Concep team follows a strict incident response process.

Clients that have their sending reputation intact will be moved quickly to a non-blacklisted IP to ensure they can continue to send out emails without being affected.  If, for any reason the blacklist is more widespread across IPs, we will let our clients know immediately, providing expected timeframes for when sending will be restored.

For the affected IP or domain, we will follow the necessary delisting procedures required by the blacklisting organisation to ensure a swift removal from the blacklist.  This involves giving guarantees that the reason for being blacklisted has been resolved satisfactorily. Removals are typically processed within 24 hours.