What’s Next for Informational Listings?

Written by
Inbox Monster

January 16, 2023

Remember last summer when Spamhaus released a “tidal wave” of informational listings? These warning signs of poor sending practices certainly got the attention of more than a few marketers and brands. Now that we’ve all caught our breath, we checked in with Matthew Stith, Industry Liaison at Spamhaus, to ask what’s next for these cautionary informational listings and what impact they have made.

Following the wave of informational listings in the late summer, Spamhaus mentioned in a blog post ramping up listings more slowly in the future to give the community time to react. Can you give us a sense of how the informational listings will be released going forward?

In essence, their release will be the much same.

Only when changes are coming that could include a large number of legitimate spaces, we are increasing our communications. That includes social posts and communications to industry lists, making relevant parties aware that an increase is coming. We’d encourage senders to follow us on Twitter and/or LinkedIn to get up-to-date visibility of these communications.

Where possible, we’re also ramping up listings with a slower cadence, allowing senders to catch their breath and resolve the highlighted problems.

This is not only related to informational listings, but all updates we make.

Do all informational listings have the same weight, i.e. should we treat them all with the same seriousness? How can we gauge the most at risk listings?

In short, yes, you should treat them all with the same seriousness.

All informational listings provide an early warning… there’s trouble ahead if you do not act. Their purpose is to warn of issues on the listed range or individual IP address.

While these listings are not being published in the zone that recommends users block mail from the listed resource, they should be treated in the same way that an ‘advised to block’ listing represents.

If informational listings are ignored and there is no resolution, that IP is at notable risk of a non-informational, “full-blown” listing.

There is not a set time frame in which that could happen, but the point of an informational listing is to notify a network of a problem and that it must be fixed. 

These should be acted on promptly.

Could you elaborate on managing bounces effectively – are default bounce rules in the ESP not enough? Should brands create custom bounce rules?

ESPs bounce rules are definitely not enough. In some cases ESPs are treating permanent rejections as temporary. So they may only prevent the send of an email that was rejected, but then attempt to send again on a different email… There is also a lack of transparency with how the bounces are managed.

Brands should be tracking their own bounces, whether that’s within the ESP’s software, a CRM, or some other function. Self-bounce management rules should be adopted by all senders.

Given that brands are working quickly to correct essentials,like managing bounces, suppression policies and other list hygiene practices, what can they do to be “de-listed”?

If the brand is confident they’ve resolved the issue, they should work via their ESP to ensure they are delisted.

For the most part, Spamhaus Blocklist (SBL) removals are to be handled by the owner of the network. If a brand reaches out to Spamhaus directly, it is possible that their request could be ignored. The ESP can always delegate a removal to the brand, but must consult the SBL team about this, and it must be approved by Spamhaus’ removal team.

When asking for removal, provide as much detail as possible in explaining how the issue occurred, how the issue was resolved, and what steps have been taken to ensure that the issue will not happen again.

It is always acceptable to reach out and ask for more information if the ESP/Brand is stuck and cannot figure out how to proceed.

What is the intended outcome of informational listings? Have you seen SBL listings go down as a result of informational listings?

The intended outcome is to affect change and promote better sending practices. Our researchers are observing email being repeatedly sent to multiple mailboxes that have NEVER accepted one single message from the sender. The aim is to highlight these issues that many ESPs have been allowing their customers to pursue for years.

Right now, the number of SBLs is roughly the same.

Anything else you’d like the community to know about informational listings and plans for the future?

Continuous improvement is imperative in our industry, given the ever-changing landscape. Our detection methods have to continually evolve to keep ahead of not only malicious behaviour, but also poor sending practices. Sadly, we don’t know what behaviour we’ll be seeing in the future, so can’t comment on future listing plans. However, it’s safe to say that where our researchers observe issues, listings will be made to effect positive change.

We are looking to improve the removal process further too, by changing the way SBL listings are published and managed. More details will be shared once we are closer to bringing it live.

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