Email whitelisting: A best practices and how-to guide

With how populated the average inbox can be, making sure your target audience sees your emails can be a challenge. And having your email marketing efforts marked as spam—landing you in the wastelands of the internet—adds another layer of difficulty.

While there are many ways to get your message seen, a great way to keep your content out of spam folders is through email whitelisting. Before we talk about email whitelisting best practices, we should take a moment to define email whitelisting and how you can get your readers to add your brand to their list.


What is email whitelisting?

Put simply: An email whitelist is an approved list of senders you and your readers clearly define to ensure your email service provider (ESP) doesn’t block and/or mark your content as spam. 

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have several spam blockers built into their programming. Each message sent to a user must go through spam filters before landing in their inbox.

Despite these filters, users may decide they no longer want to see certain content in their inbox. So, they make a spam report. Depending on the ISP the reader is using, they just choose one of the following options:


  • Mark as spam

  • Report as spam

Then “poof!” your message is branded. Your emails will forever drop in the subscriber’s spam folder. This can wreak havoc on your email deliverability rate and sender score. 

Following email marketing best practices is a surefire way to get your content to readers. But, you can also ask your readers to add your brand to their email whitelist, also known as the “safe sender’s list.”

The safe sender list is the same thing as an email whitelist

Source: Campaign Monitor

Pros and Cons of email whitelisting

The primary “pro” is that if you’ve convinced your emailing list to whitelist your address, then they are sure to get your content. It not only helps them, but it also helps your brand in several ways, including:

  • Improving your overall deliverability rate

  • Improving your sender score, which lowers your chances of being marked as spam by other email service providers

  • Lowering overall spam complaints

While getting your emails whitelisted is excellent on many levels, these “cons” are worth considering as well:

  • Doesn’t prevent bounces due to ESP downtime
  • Doesn’t always protect the sender should someone hack into your databases

  • Maintaining an email whitelist can be labor-intensive

That said, if you’re going to ask your subscribers to whitelist your brand’s emails, make sure you aren’t regularly changing your addresses and IP’s so they don’t need to update their list on your behalf. After all, you’re trying to make the user’s experience easier. 

How to ask your readers to add your name to their whitelist 

Asking your readers to add your name to their list of whitelisted emails doesn’t have to be an awkward task. In fact, many different tools can help you generate instructions, which you’ll want to then add to your landing page. Once you’ve done that, the next step is adding a link to your email marketing templates. 

Take this example from SharkNinja—in the footer of their email message, they offer the following options:



SharkNinja asks readers to whitelist their email address to ensure they keep getting content

Source: Gmail

Looking for a nifty code to enter into your email template? Give this one a try:

<p>To keep receiving emails from us, <a href=”"> please add us to your address book</a>.</p>


code example

Your how-to guide on email whitelisting best practices 

We’ve already covered asking your readers to whitelist your email newsletter address to ensure your messages are landing in their inboxes. But there’s a little more involved in this process. 

That’s why we’ve put together this handy how-to guide to email whitelisting best practices. This will help land you on your reader’s safe sender list and build a relationship of trust. 

Get to know your readers

The first step to getting your name on your audience’s email whitelist is building the trust between you and the reader. To do that, you must take time to get to know your subscribers. We aren’t talking about asking for their name and email address at sign-up. Once they’ve taken that first step, encourage them to share more about themselves by filling out information in their email preference center. 

An email preference center can be as simple as allowing your readers to select which types of content they’ll receive from you, or a more detailed form that gets to the meat of their interests. 


Just take this example from Le Creuset:

The details can mean everything when building a relationship with your readers

Source: Really Good Emails Blog

Sure, they ask for basic information like their name, address, and birthday. But they take it to an entirely new level by asking for their favorite colors, their cooking expertise level, or if they’re currently using cookware. 

Le Creuset means it when they say: “Get the email you want and nothing more.”

This step is vital to building a trusting relationship with readers. Once you have, asking them to whitelist your brand’s email will be a simple task. 


You must give your readers a good reason to whitelist your brand

Another best practice is giving your readers a reason to whitelist your brand. You can’t ask them to add your name to their safe sender's list before you prove you have content they want. 

Sure, you’ve piqued their interest enough to join your emailing list, but if you haven’t sent engaging content through a welcome email or series, you can’t expect them to trust you enough to consider you a “safe sender.”

For retailers, a good way to welcome your consumers is by saying, “Hey, thanks! Enjoy this treat on us.” That’s what Luv AJ did for their new subscribers. In their initial welcome email, they send a 10% off promo code.


Using your welcome series to provide a special offer is a great way to earn reader’s trust

Source: Emma

If monetary incentives aren’t quite the direction you want to take, then why not send a welcome series that allows your new subscribers to genuinely get to know your brand, your mission, and more?

A welcome series allows your reader to get to know who you are genuinely

Source: Emma

Let their voices be heard

Want to amp up the relationship between you and your readers? Make sure you’re allowing them to be heard. Preference centers are great ways to get started.

The next step: Allow your readers to give feedback through surveys. This is a great way to make sure their voices are heard. Ask your readers for genuine feedback, as Anthropologie did in the following email message.


Surveys show your readers that you are listening to what they have to say

Source: Milled

Not sure how to get your users to fill out your surveys? Consider including an incentive for their time. Anthropologie offers a 20% off promo for those that to leave genuine feedback. 

Remind them to update their preferences regularly

Once you’ve initiated those three email whitelisting best practices, you’ll want to follow up with your readers. Remind them not only to update their email preferences regularly, but also make sure they’ve whitelisted your brand to get all of your messages. 

Wrap up

These email whitelisting best practices can help you build a valuable, trusting relationship between you and your readers. These include:

  • Getting to know your readers

  • Giving them a good reason to whitelist your brand

  • Letting their voices be heard

  • Reminding them to update their preferences regularly

Once you’ve established that relationship, getting them to add your brand to their email whitelist shouldn’t be a problem. 

Need some extra help with email list management? Give these 3 tips a try.

About the Author

Emma Email

Emma is an email marketing platform that gives you all the tools you need to send campaigns that really connect with your subscribers. With our​​ powerful automation and personalization features, you can create and send email campaigns that reach the right customer at just the right time. It's email marketing that works for you.

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