What Are Email Whitelists, & How Do You Get On Them?

A few weeks ago I was planning a trip to Charlotte. I’ve booked my flights and those Day Before leaving, I was trying to find my confirmation email.

I couldn’t find it anywhere. In a panic, I called the airline. “Ma’am, your payment has been declined. We have emailed you about this.”

I learned very quickly how important email whitelists are.

Fortunately, I was able to book another flight. However, this did not save me from the stress or frustration I felt with the airline because there was no other way to contact me.

Ultimately, you don’t want a similar experience to happen to your customers. And as a marketer, nothing is more frustrating than realizing your email marketing tactic that is designed to appeal to and inspire new prospects. They don’t just work because they don’t get into your prospect’s inboxes.

Here we explain what email whitelists are and how you can ensure that your company is whitelisted by your email recipients.

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This is how you get into the whitelists of your e-mail subscribers

To whitelist your email subscribers, you can ask your subscribers to whitelist your email address. Consider using simple language that frames the additional step as a benefit to the recipient:

“To ensure that our emails always get into your inbox, please add us to your email whitelist.”

Ideally, you would include this message in the first email you send to new subscribers to improve email deliverability at the beginning of a new relationship.

You can use your own flair and branding voice to create a compelling email message. HubSpot agency partner Yokel Local does this well in its reintegration campaign that aims to reconnect with customers who may not open their emails:

Example of a whitelist email from yokel localWhile the aforementioned email fulfills a specific role in an email marketing campaign, you can also include a more general whitelist reminder in the footer of all of your communications:

Whitelist message in the footer

Note that not all recipients may know what a whitelist is. Hence, you may want to include the necessary steps as well. To make the process easier, you can include links to instructions for the most common web clients like this:

“To ensure that our emails always get to your inbox, please add us as a contact or whitelist us. If you have a Gmail account, follow these instructions. If you use Outlook, alternatively click here. “

Just make sure you consider the typical email clients your recipients use, including Apple Mail, Yahoo, and more.

If you want to provide more specific instructions in your email, or ever need to walk someone through the process, follow these steps for the whitelist and email in the two most popular email clients, Gmail and Outlook :

1. In Gmail, click the gear icon and select “Show All Settings” from the “Quick Settings” menu.

In your Gmail inbox, there is a gear icon in the upper right corner. When you select it, you’ll either get a Quick Settings menu (shown below) or a drop-down menu with several options to choose from.

Gmail gear icon and quick settings menu

When you get the Quick Settings menu, select Show all settings. Otherwise, navigate to the settings Possibility.

2. Navigate to “Filters and Blocked Addresses” in the top menu.

Once you’re in your advanced settings area, you’ll want to click Filters and blocked addresses in the top menu. You will land on a page that looks like this:

Gmail filters and blocked addresses page

3. Select “Create a new filter”.

In Gmail, whitelisting an email involves creating a filter.

Create Gmail filters for filters and blocked addresses

4. In the “From” field, add a specific email address or an entire domain.

In the “From” field, specify what will be whitelisted. In Gmail, you can either enter a specific email address (e.g. hello@domain.com) or whitelist an entire domain by leaving out everything in front of the at symbol (e.g. @ domain. com). The former whitelist a specific email address, while the latter whitelist anyone who sends email from that domain.

Gmail Create Filter Process

5. Click on “Create Filter”.

From there, you don’t need to enter any additional information. Just click Create filters Button at the bottom of the window (next to the blue search Button).

6. Select the “Never send to spam” check box.

Clicking the button will open a new window. Here you actually specify that you run a whitelist. In Gmail, you do this by checking the box Never send it to spam Box. This will ensure that emails that meet the criteria you specified never end up in spam or trash (unless you do so manually).

Never send gmail to spam check box

7. Click on “Create filter”.

Once this information is provided, click the “Create Filter” button again. This will create the whitelist in Gmail.

1. In Outlook, click the gear icon and select “Show all Outlook settings”.

Sign in to the web version of Outlook. There is a gear icon in the upper right corner.

Outlook gear iconWhen you select it, a drop-down menu will appear. At the bottom of the drop-down menu, choose Show all Outlook settings.

Outlook settings menu with "Show all Outlook settings" highlighted

2. Select “Mail” from the settings menu.

Once you’ve expanded the Settings page, you’ll want to choose Mail from the menu on the right.

Outlook Junk Email Settings

3. Choose Junk E-Mail from the submenu.

click on Mail You have access to an expanded submenu that you can click on Junk email.

6. Under Safe Senders and Domains, click Add.

Use the Junk E-Mail window to add safe senders and domains. Under this heading is the word Add with a plus sign next to it. Click here.

Outlook adds safe senders and domains

7. Enter the email address you want to whitelist.

Here you determine what is whitelisted.

8. Select “Save”.

This will save your whitelist settings and ensure that emails that match the criteria don’t end up in your Junk Email folder in Outlook.

Whitelisting as best practice

Encouraging your email recipients to whitelist your email or domain from the start is an email marketing best practice that can help improve the deliverability of your messages. After all, your prospects and customers are unlikely to take this action on their own unless they are reminded to do so.

However, whitelisting isn’t the only factor that can help you improve deliverability. You can help reduce the chance of your recipients’ email providers mistaking your email for spam by following email marketing best practices such as:

  • Use inbound methods to populate your database instead of buying email lists and sending spam emails
  • Segment your email database to make sure you’re always sending the right email to the right recipients
  • Keep your contact information clean and remove dead or unresponsive emails

All of this is so important to make sure your message is heard by your prospects and customers so that you can stay on top of things and grow your business.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in April 2019 and has been updated for completeness.

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