News and tips from the industry leaders in email compliance.

A vital part of any email marketing program that employs marketing partners (affiliates, performance agencies, or any other type of mailing partner) is being able to effectively track performance at the campaign and partner level (if not even further). Knowing how your partners are performing across different offers, campaigns, creatives, domains, and other elements is a key driver of your overall email marketing strategy and its success. As email marketers, we tend to love analytics in general, since we use data to optimize all of our campaigns. 

However, a comprehensive tracking program extends beyond KPIs like click rate, conversion rate, or ROI. It’s important to also keep an eye on metrics like opt-out rate, spam complaints, and even blacklisting issues. Monitoring these types of metrics not only helps with overall campaign optimization but also helps you address potential issues quickly and efficiently when they arise.

One issue that comes up occasionally is having an Opt-Out Domain flagged by a blacklist compiler. 

Why are Domains Blacklisted?

There are a number of blacklist organizations that monitor email marketing initiatives and occasionally flag the Opt-Out Domain used within a campaign as being connected to simply unsolicited or potentially questionable email activity. When they make this identification, they may add the Opt-Out Domain to their proprietary blacklist. The systems, rules, and processes they use to make this decision are typically proprietary and not discussed publicly. So, it isn’t always possible to know why a specific domain appears on a blacklist. 

Sometimes, they may appear on a blacklist erroneously, or without any specific cause. In these cases, advertisers may have success in reaching out to the blacklist provider and requesting it to be removed from the list. Domains also may be removed from a blacklist by the blacklist organization without any request from the advertiser. 

What is the Impact of Having an Opt-Out Domain Appear on a Blacklist?

Various ESPs and inbox providers use one or more of these blacklist organizations as a part of their process for validating emails that are being processed by their system, to identify potentially problematic emails. It could mean that emails that include an Opt-Out Domain that appears on a blacklist are more likely to be delivered to the spam folder, or in a worst-case scenario, not be delivered at all. 

Whether a blacklisted Opt-Out Domain would have such a significant impact on email deliverability is questionable (largely because the ESPs, inbox providers, and blacklist organizations are careful not to share their specific processes around delivery decisions). However, there is a common belief among some email marketers that it can cause these issues, so various mailers are reluctant to send out email campaigns that include an Opt-Out Domain that appears on a blacklist. 

Opt-Out Domain Segmentation

With this being the case, it is a common best practice to use multiple Opt-Out Domains within your email program. There are two main benefits of taking this type of Segmentation approach.

1 – By limiting the number of mailers using a particular Opt-Out Domain, the impact of having it appear on a blacklist is limited to only the mailer or mailers using that particular domain. 

2 – Having very few (or even just one) mailers associated with a particular Opt-Out Domain makes it much easier to identify which partner may have been flagged by a blacklist organization. 

We recommend that every mailer be assigned a unique Opt-Out Domain within SUPPRESS, in order to deliver the most security and quality-conscious solution, along with the greatest transparency into mailer activity. 

What to do if an Opt-Out Domain is Flagged?

If you learn that one or more of your Opt-Out Domains have been flagged on a blacklist, either through an alert from OPTIZMO or your own internal monitoring, you have a few options.

  1. You can wait to see if the issue clears itself up. Sometimes, an Opt-Out Domain appears on and later disappears from a blacklist with no action taken on your part. In these cases, it is likely that it was flagged erroneously and that a review by the blacklisting organization identified no actual issues with the email that initiated the flag. But, you can’t really count on this being the outcome.
  2. You can reach out to the blacklist organization and request that the domain is removed from the list. This can be successful, but the decision remains with the blacklist organization.
  3. You can remove the flagged Opt-Out Domain(s) and replace them with new ones. 

We find that many companies choose to replace any impacted Opt-Out Domains, regardless of whether they are later removed from a blacklist. This allows them to take the initiative to resolve the issues, rather than leaving the decision up to an outside organization.

Replacing an impacted Opt-Out Domain is fairly straightforward, but does require a number of steps. OPTIZMO clients have the choice of replacing the Opt-Out Domain themselves or having our team take care of all the heavy lifting.  

Process Comparison

Client-Initiated Process

An Opt-Out Domain is Flagged…

  1. Log in to a domain registrar
  2. Search for an available domain of your choosing
  3. Purchase the new domain 
  4. Set up the DNS on your new domain to meet your requirements
  5. Arrange for any domain security you prefer
  6. Log in to SUPPRESS and set up a new Custom Domain
  7. Assign the new Custom Domain to replace the one that was flagged with all impacted Mailers.

OPTIZMO Managed Domain Process

An Opt-Out Domain is Flagged…

  1. Log in to SUPPRESS and request a new Managed Domain
  2. OPTIZMO takes care of the registration, security, DNS setup, and any other provisioning necessary
  3. The new domain becomes available in your account within 24 hours
  4. You assign the new Managed Domain to replace the one that was flagged with all impacted Mailers.

Whichever approach you take, this blog post outlines a good process for both setting up your Opt-Out Domain strategy and how to address potential blacklist issues when they arise. You can learn more about various strategies and best practices around Opt-Out Domain management in our Opt-Out Domain and IP Address Best Practices guide.   

If you have any questions about Opt-Out Domain strategy or OPTIZMO’s Managed Domain Services please reach out to your account manager or  

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