Many companies often come to Return Path with the unfortunate problem of having IP addresses or domains listed on one of the most important spam blocklists around — Spamhaus. Spamhaus’ mission is to track the Internet’s spam operations and sources and to provide real-time anti-spam protection for Internet networks. If Spamhaus listed your IP addresses or domains, it is because they see activity on their network that creates the perception that your IP or domain may be a source of spam or malware. While it is frustrating to see your inbox placement and revenue decline, there are steps that legitimate senders can take to help resolve the underlying cause of the problem and to get your IP addresses and domains delisted.
Step 1: Take immediate action
- Have a sense of urgency: Stop sending your campaigns as soon as possible and start methodically reviewing your email program.
- Determine the extent of the problem: Identify which IP addresses and or domains are listed by checking Reputation Monitor or by using the Spamhaus Blocklist Removal Center.
- Check your recent campaigns: Determine if there is anything out of the ordinary that may have contributed to the listing. Did you acquire email addresses from a high risk source (e.g. list purchase, list rental, email append)? Did you send email to your suppression list?
Step 2: Contact your Return Path Account Manager, your ESP and/or ISP
- Work with your Return Path Account Manager: If you have purchased the Return Path Platinum service level, contact your Account Manager for additional assistance and guidance.
- Be transparent and proactive: Let your ESP and/or ISP know what happened and that you are taking immediate steps to resolve the issue. Let them know that the Spamhaus Delisting Procedure at Spamhaus requires the ESP or ISP to contact them with information pertaining to the listing and the steps being taken to fix the problem.
Step 3: Review your infrastructure and sending practices for areas of improvement
- Review your infrastructure: Ensure that your bounce process is removing unknown users after one bounce and that your complaint feedback loops are working properly and suppressing complainers.
- Review your list acquisition practices: Identify and cease high risk list acquisition methods (e.g. list buying, list rental, email appends). Make sure you are only sending email to people who requested it and expect to receive it. Consider implementing a Confirmed-Opt-In permission method for all email address collected through a point-of-sale. Refer to Christine Borgia’s recent blog titled ‘Pitfalls of Point of Sale or Transactional Email Address Collection’ for additional detail.
- Remove inactive subscribers: If a subscriber hasn’t interacted with your email in the last 6 months, stop sending to them. Send a re-confirmation message to any subscriber that hasn’t interacted with your email between 0-6 months. If the subscriber does not confirm, do not send to them again. In the long term, determine when subscribers stop interacting with your email and either remove them from future mailings or send them a win-back message.
- Actively monitor the performance of all list sources and campaigns: If you see spikes in the unknown user rate, complaint rate, rejection rate and spam trap hits; stop the send and begin troubleshooting the cause.
Step 4: Create an action plan and send it to your ESP and/or ISP
- Work together: Your ESP or ISP should contact Spamhaus on your behalf and provide them a copy of the action plan.
- Be concise: Spamhaus reviews a large volume of delisting requests so be succinct and get to the point. Briefly summarize the events that led up to the listing and outline the work completed and work planned to fix the problem.
- If your ESP or ISP cannot contact Spamhaus on your behalf: Contact Spamhaus by using the link that is contained with the specific listing for your IP or domain. Send them your action plan and inform them that you understand the situation is serious and you are taking steps to fix the problem immediately.
Step 5: Put your plan into action
- Follow through: Your action plan alone will not help get your IP addresses or domains delisted. While it can help give Spamhaus more confidence that the problem is being resolved, they will not delist your IP addresses or domains until they see evidence that the problem has been resolved. You must complete any activities that you indicate you will do in order to fix the problem and avoid future listings. If you do not follow through, and your IP addresses or domains get relisted, it will be more difficult to get delisted again.
While there are no guarantees that following these steps will result in your IPs or domains being delisted, it will improve your chances dramatically. Of course, prevention is the best medicine. By following sound sender best practices the chances of being listed at Spamhaus are slim to none. Check out Kelly Molloy’s recent blog titled “Bounce of Prevention” for some great tips on preventing your IP addresses and domains being listed on a blocklist.