How to Get on a Whitelist

Loren McDonald – Oct 26, 2005

Even though the email industry is moving toward authentication and certification to separate spammers and phishers from legitimate senders, “whitelists” and “blacklists” are still the first line of defense for many ISPs and individual users.

They use both lists to determine whether your email gets delivered as you intend, to the inbox instead of the junk folder and with images intact instead of blocked.

Essentially, the whitelist allows your email in, and the blacklist keeps it out.

This month, we’ll show you how to get on a whitelist. Check back next month to learn how to stay off or get off a blacklist.

How to Seek ISP Whitelisting

ISP whitelists usually include these kinds of data:

  1. Email addresses listed on their users’ personal whitelists
  2. IP addresses, domain names or email addresses from senders certified by third-party agencies such as Bonded Sender, Habeas or Goodmail
  3. Senders who apply and qualify for a whitelist after following a set of instructions or protocols

Desktop clients such as Outlook and Eudora rely on individual users to compile whitelists. However, Web clients AOL and Yahoo! Mail allow you to apply for whitelisting status. MSN/Hotmail uses Bonded Sender data to determine whether and where to filter email.

For other ISPs, look on their corporate Web sites for “postmaster” or bulk-email information and see if they offer whitelisting. Whitelisting doesn’t guarantee that your email will be delivered the way you want, but it improves the odds.

Yahoo! Mail:

In addition to individual whitelists based on the user’s address book, Yahoo! Mail operates a general whitelist.

  1. Go to the Delivery Problems page in Yahoo! Mail’s online support. Fill out the form and submit it.
  2. In about 15 minutes or so, you will receive a detailed questionnaire that asks you about your sending policies, procedures, etc. It could reveal some gaps in your email program. Fill out the form as best you can and submit it.
  3. You might or might not hear back from Yahoo! about whether you have been whitelisted. Open a free account and send a test message to it from the address you normally use to send bulk email. Did the test go to your bulk folder? If so, use the form on the Delivery Problems page again to ask about your whitelisting status.

AOL

Like Yahoo!, AOL has a systemwide whitelist. It doesn’t guarantee that whitelisted senders will always get their messages delivered to the inbox instead of the junk folder. But, whitelisted senders who meet stricter volume and complain criteria might qualify for AOL’s enhanced whitelist. Email messages from those senders show up with hotlinks and images enabled instead of blocked.

  1. Read the Conditions to Bulk Sender Status page first. Check the box indicating you accept AOL’s guidelines, and press the Accept Guidelines button.
  2. You will be taken to a form asking for contact information and the IP addresses you use to send bulk mail. Fill out the form and submit it. This will also set up a feedback loop that will send spam complaints to you for action.

Note: You can’t apply for the enhanced whitelist. AOL adds only a small percentage of senders who meet limits on volume — how many messages sent at one time to its servers — and spam complaints in a rolling 30 -day period. You could be on it one day and off it the next.  Keep monitoring volume and complaints, though.

How to Get on Individual Whitelists

You probably have a line in your email message near the top, asking the recipient to add your sending address to his or her address book or contact/safe-sender list. But, that’s almost too late in the process.

Also, putting the line at the top means readers who read only a portion of your message in the preview pane are not getting the information they need to decide whether to open your email to full size or even scroll through the preview pane.

  1. Include a whitelisting request right at sign-up, on your subscription or site-registration page. You need to get into that address book even before you send out the subscription confirmation.
  2. Move the whitelisting-reminder email in your email message to your email-administration center farther down in the message.

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