This weekend, I received a call from a client whose email domain had been blacklisted, something that could very easily happen to you, too. The story goes like this. The client originally used example.com as his web and email domain (no, not really example.com – it’s just an example). Some time ago, emails send from this domain were blacklisted. The solution they put in place was to register and start using example.net. Shortly thereafter, example.net was blacklisted as well. The attempted solution was to register yet another domain (which we’ll call example.org), and move the operation over there. As you may have suspected, the same thing happened, and the third domain was blacklisted as well.
This is where we enter the picture. The client called us on Friday evening to convey the story. After some troubleshooting we confirmed the bizarre report that emails were being blocked because of the content of his marketing messages. Somehow, his emails were being silently dropped by email service providers who subscribe to a third-party spam filtering solution, e.g., Spamhaus.org, Postini, etc. While I can appreciate dropping spam, as I hate spam as much as, no, more than the next guy, silently dropping something with no indication of the problem is, well, a problem. Why? Read on and find out.
What was happening is that emails sent to several large email hosting providers, including GoDaddy, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google, were being dropped for merely mentioning the blacklisted domain name. This made it impossible to send an email referencing the blacklisted domain to any of these providers, and more. Simply mentioning the domain in an email, regardless of who sent it or to whom, as long as the recipient’s mail server was using the aforementioned blacklist, was enough to get the email rejected, and neither the sender nor the recipient would receive any notification of this non-delivery.
Fortunately, we were able to contact the email hosting provider and explain the problem, and they were able to de-blacklist the domain in question. Unfortunately, while I advised my client on several steps he could take to attempt to avoid this in the future, there is no surefire way to prevent this from happening again, as the blacklisting could have originated as a result of his email marketing company, his website hosting company, or his email hosting company.
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