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What is a “Whitelist” and why do I want to work with a “Whitelisted” Mail Distributor?

What is a Whitelist and why do I want to work with a Whitelisted Mail Distributor?
Since the very first days of the internet users have tried to abuse its functionality for commercial purposes. On the early internet, called “Arpanet”, commercial use of the medium was prohibited entirely, but this didn’t stop the beginning of what we would later call “Spammers.”

Since then Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and mail clients have worked as hard to prevent unsolicited emails from plaguing their customers’ inboxes as Spammers have worked to get into them.

Spam is any unsolicited email sent via the internet. This abusive and intrusive form of mass mailing practice actually predates legitimate commercial email marketing, and as you might expect, it has made navigating the waters of spam filters and blacklists difficult for legitimate companies who want to reach “opt-in” members and customers who have requested to receive the email.

Most ISPs and spam filters get suspicious with any mail that comes as part of a mass mailing or contains HTML or graphics. Unfortunately, these are the very characteristics of legitimate email marketing companies as well.

In response to this, ISPs have “whitelists” that commercial businesses sending advertisements and newsletters to legitimately interested customers can add themselves to. This puts the risk entirely on the business doing the mailing, as the ISP charges a base fee for being on the list, and incremental fines for every complaint received from their users concerning the email.

In other words, whitelisted email delivery companies are willing to make themselves vulnerable to what can become very expensive fines, and ISPs are willing to allow their bulk emails through based on this.

When working with email delivery companies, the statistics you get back about the success of the mailing can often be misconstrued. While not being untruthful a report can still be completely misleading. Typical reports show then number of emails sent minus those bounced by servers, the result being the success rate.

This completely ignores the number of emails that fell in to ISP or users spam filters and sandboxes, either because they were flagged as spam or are already on the blacklist of ISPs.

Whitelisted companies’ email campaigns have greater success rates, getting into more users inboxes as a result of the green light given to them by the ISPs. In other words, they will not bounce the email from the server or filter it into the spam box as part of their agreement with the mailer.

This means that a much lower percentage of emails sent end up in spam boxes than the 20-40% of emails trapped by spam filters from a non-whitelisted company.

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