Your Email Marketing Journey and the Danger of Being Blacklisted (Infographic)

Cisco recently published the infographic “What’s Your Online Health and Reputation?”, discussing the email marketing journey and the key metrics that measure the health of your customer database. They created this infographic to inform their partner community about the different aspects relating to email marketing effectiveness. Cisco’s infographic presentation offers vast amounts of truly valuable information for partners. Yet it’s amazing to think it still skims the surface of the email marketing world and its many parts.

[Click here to skip to the Infographic below]

Being on this end of customer support services, I’ve seen many instances where a company runs the risk of suspension or blacklisting of their email domain. With this three-step remedy, you can keep your company’s sender reputation clean and avoid the dreaded blacklist.

Step 1: How to Stay in Compliance

There is a wealth of knowledge that relates to email marketing. First, make sure you understand all the essentials and familiarize yourself with who makes the rules for email marketers. Many partners aren’t aware of how email marketing is regulated on several layers. National governments, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and Email Service Providers (ESPs) all play vital roles in the regulation of the email marketing landscape.


Government agencies set national laws to establish the fundamental rules relating to commercial bulk emails. These entities regulate email marketing by establishing marketing laws, with the primary goal to protect its citizens.The good news is that reputable ESPs will have already built many features into their platforms to help marketers abide by these laws.

Internet Service Providers

ISPs such as Google and Verizon have created additional guidelines requiring higher standards where government laws may fall short regarding consumer privacy. From a traditional digital marketing perspective, emails are the most effective leading source for marketers to drive business to their sales team. Because of this, ISPs want to make sure that emails are legitimate and consumers are protected from unrequested email communication. The primary goal of ISPs is to correctly route these emails to their desired destination.

Email Service Providers

ESPs serve as a third layer of email marketing regulation. ESPs such as Zift Solutions are businesses that provide email service to clients that follow ISP guidelines. The primary goal of any ESP is to have the sent emails be accepted by destination email servers and provide platform functionality to minimize SPAM filter interference.

Partners must understand how each of these three regulatory entities contributes to oversight of the email marketing landscape. Cisco’s infographic states that “ESPs and ISPs are responding with stricter SPAM algorithms to increase consumer privacy”. In other words, these oversight organizations are now looking at several indicators to measure the quality of an email marketing database.

Step 2: Avoiding the SPAM filter

Now that we know who makes the rules, let’s discuss some of the rules we need to follow. Your sender reputation is heavily influenced by two important metrics:


Complaints indicate that the recipient of your email signified the message as SPAM. As seen in Cisco’s infographic, oversight organizations expect companies not to receive SPAM complaints. If your company’s SPAM complaint rate exceeds 0.1%, you may be at risk of suspension.

Hard Bounces

Hard bounces indicate that your email was sent to an address that no longer exists, deeming that email as undeliverable. Oversight organizations also expect low bounce rates, but they do leave some room for error in this category. Ideally, your company’s bounce rate should remain between 0%-1%. Yet again, you are at risk for suspension if your bounce rate exceeds 5%.

Exceeding these thresholds constitutes an unhealthy email marketing strategy, and further runs the risk that your company is blacklisted. Therefore, it is in your best interest to do everything you can to avoid complaints and bounces. Click here to see more best practices for contact lists.

Step 3: Maintaining the Health & Quality of Your Email Database

Your primary responsibilities for mitigating regulatory intervention are minimizing bounces and complaints to avoid suspension. Now that we understand the key performance indicators used by oversight entities, how can we make sure we maintain the health and quality of our email database to ensure low bounces and no complaints? Follow these points:

  • When comprising a contact list for your marketing campaign, it is essential that you only email people you know. Many email marketers make the mistake of acquiring (purchasing, renting or using) contact lists from a third party. These contact lists are guaranteed to be high bounce and high complaints because the recipients you are mailing do not know you. Sending emails to strangers labels you a ‘spammer’ in the eyes of ISPs, ESPs, and your target audience.
  • Only send emails to those who want to hear from you. Your email database should reflect a list of people who intentionally opted-in to your marketing process. Make sure to get permission from all your recipients before you begin sending them emails as this is a requirement of any other reputable email service provider (including Zift).
  • Make sure you are sending relevant content to your opt-in contacts. Assure that the content you are sending matches your audience needs, and the that these prospects are interested in what you have to offer. This is a guideline that must be followed if you want to get your emails into inboxes.

For more information on measuring your email campaign’s success, check out our previous blog Why Did My Email Campaign Fail?

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