How an Email Marketer Can Become a Trusted Sender

trusted sender cover image with tiles writing trust

A trusted sender is someone who has explicit permission from recipients to send them emails.

When a sender is marked as safe or trusted, their emails consistently reach the inbox. So how exactly does one become a trusted sender? Is the only way to ask recipients to whitelist you? Are all your emails doomed to land in the spam folder if you don’t do so?

Worry not! We will break down the concept of safe senders for both personal email users and email marketers.

But before we do that, let’s explore why the concept of a trusted sender was born — spam.

The Spam Problem

Spam emails are unsolicited, bulk electronic messages that you receive without your permission. They’re generally considered a nuisance and can even be dangerous. While they have reduced in volume, they still remain a significant threat even today. 

These spam highlights convey the seriousness of the matter:

  • According to Statista, spam accounted for around 46.8% of all emails in December 2023. This is a staggering amount of unwanted and potentially malicious emails.
  • Spam costs businesses and organizations billions of dollars annually in lost productivity, infrastructure costs, and efforts to combat it.
  • Spam clogs inboxes, wastes time, and creates frustration for email users. This diminishes the effectiveness and usability of email as a communication tool.
  • Many spam emails are used for phishing attacks, distributing malware, or other cybercrime activities, putting users’ data and systems at risk.

So what’s being done about all this spam?

Steps Taken to Fight Spam

Combating spam is an ongoing battle that requires collaboration between email service providers (ESPs), security agencies, the authorities, and users themselves. Effective spam prevention measures can help tackle these problems and create a more secure email ecosystem.

To combat this persistent problem, various efforts have been undertaken:

MeasuresHow they reduce spam
Spam filtersThe use of techniques like content analysis, sender reputation scoring, machine learning, and real-time blacklists to block spam.
Authentication protocolsProtocols like SPF, DKIM, DMARC, and BIMI help identify legitimate email senders and reduce spoofing attempts.
Anti-spam lawsCountries have enacted laws and regulations (such as CAN-SPAM), allowing for legal action against spammers.
Private email networksCompanies use solutions like anti-spam, anti-phishing, and anti-malware components to protect their email systems.
Anti-spam tactics

We can all agree that spam is a grave issue. But where do safe senders come in? 

What is a Trusted Sender?

A trusted sender or safe sender is an individual with a specific email address who has been explicitly marked as safe by the email recipient or mailbox provider. 

There are two main contexts where you might hear this term:

  1. Email marketing,
  2. Personal email.

Trusted Senders in Email Marketing

Mailbox providers use the sending history of an email address or domain to classify it as a trusted sender. 

In email marketing, a trusted sender is an entity that adheres to good practices. 

This means they:

Mails sent by a safe sender are typically not marked as spam or blocked by spam filters. This is a desirable trait for email marketers who regularly dispatch emails. Being trusted means their emails won’t be caught by spam filters due to their content or volume.

Mailbox providers view senders as trusted under these conditions:

MethodThe sender is seen as trusted when:
WhitelistingWhen recipients explicitly mark the sender as safe.
Safe senders listThe email address is on a centralized “Safe Senders List” which includes popular and reputable senders.
AuthenticationAuthentication protocols like SPF, DKIM, DMARC, and BIMI are properly implemented.
Feedback loopWhen recipients mark emails as “not spam,” the provider’s spam filters learn and trust that sender.
How do mailbox providers decide the trustworthiness of senders?

Being designated as a safe sender can help ensure better email deliverability, as emails from such senders are less likely to be filtered as spam or end up in spam folders. That said, messages identified as malware or phishing get quarantined regardless of safe sender settings.

Trusted Senders in Personal Email Use

In the case of a regular email, recipients have to manually mark someone as a trusted sender to receive emails without issues.

For personal email users, email clients like Microsoft Outlook or Gmail allow you to create a safe senders list or a “whitelist.” This is a list of email addresses or domains that you designate as safe. Emails from these senders will bypass your spam filter and be delivered directly to your inbox.

The Need for Trusted or Safe Sender Lists in Personal Email

In the early days of spam, there were clunky security measures in place to fight spam that were causing more harm than good. The concept of trusted senders arose as a solution to these issues.

The problems that created the need for a safe senders list were:

  1. Early spam filters relied heavily on content analysis and simple rules, which misidentified legitimate emails as spam. This was doubly true for emails that contained certain keywords or formatting used by spammers.
  2. False positives caused individuals and businesses to miss out on opportunities, as important emails from colleagues or clients were incorrectly blocked.
  3. There was a growing demand from email users for a way to mark certain email addresses or domains as safe. 
  4. Spam filters were wonky at the beginning; these systems could sometimes penalize legitimate senders or incorrectly associate them with spammers. Some senders even had poor reputations due to factors beyond their control.
  5. The safe senders feature allowed organizations to control and customize their spam filtering experience. They could then tailor it based on their specific needs and open up trusted email channels.

Soon, safe senders lists became a common feature of all email clients and services. And the benefits are worth it, as you will see next.

The Advantages of Marking Someone as a Trusted Sender

We can think of numerous scenarios where marking a sender as safe or trusted can be beneficial. 

  • Emails from safe senders are more likely to bypass spam filters and be delivered directly to the inbox. This reduces the likelihood of missing important emails due to them being incorrectly marked as spam.
  • Some email systems prioritize messages from trusted senders, ensuring that their messages are among the first seen.
  • With important emails correctly sorted into the inbox, users can organize their emails more efficiently, applying further labels for quick access.
  • When a recipient marks an email sender as trusted, they’re confirming that they recognize and verify the sender. This makes it less likely for them to fall prey to phishing and spoofing attacks.
  • Some email systems provide notifications if an email from a safe sender fails other security checks (like SPF or DKIM), which can be a sign of domain spoofing or other malicious activities.
  • There’s less need to regularly check the spam or junk mail folder for missed emails. 
  • The incidence of false positives (legitimate emails marked as spam) decreases with accurate safe sender lists.
  • Marking colleagues or vendors as trusted senders ensures the flow of email chains remains uninterrupted. This is crucial for timely decisions and operations.
  • Knowing an email comes from a trusted source can increase confidence when opening and interacting with the content.

When marking someone as a safe sender, it’s crucial to ensure that the email address is verified. Always confirm that the ID is legitimately associated with the corresponding individual/business.

Marking a contact as trusted is pretty simple; we’ve listed detailed steps for popular email services below.

Marking Someone as a Trusted Sender In Gmail

Add trusted sender in Gmail - Step 1
Add trusted sender in Gmail – Step 1
Add trusted sender in Gmail - Step 2
Add trusted sender in Gmail – Step 2
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Add trusted sender in Gmail – Step 3
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Add trusted sender in Gmail – Step 4

Adding a trusted or safe sender on Gmail is simple:

  1. Open Gmail and click on the Settings gear icon.
  2. Select “See all settings”.
  3. Go to the “Filters and Blocked Addresses” tab and then click on “Create a new filter”.
  4. Enter the email address or domain to whitelist in the “From” field.
  5. Click “Create filter”.
  6. Check the box next to “Mark it as important”.
  7. Click “Create filter” again to save the changes.

Now all emails from the address will be delivered to the primary Gmail inbox.

Mark a Sender as Trusted In Outlook

Adding a trusted sender on Outlook Web - Step 1
Adding a trusted sender in Outlook Web – Step 1
Adding a trusted sender on Outlook Web - Step 2
Adding a trusted sender in Outlook Web – Step 2
Adding a trusted sender on Outlook Web - Step 3
Adding a trusted sender in Outlook Web – Step 3

Adding a safe sender on Outlook is straightforward: 

  1. Log in to web Outlook on a browser.
  2. In the top right corner, click the gear icon to open settings.
  3. Click on the “Junk email” tab.
  4. In the “Safe senders and domains” section, click on the “Add” button.
  5. Type in the email address or domain you wish to add as a safe sender. 
  6. Press Enter on your keyboard.
  7. Click on the “Save” button at the bottom.

All future emails from the email address will now appear in your primary mail window.

How to Mark Trusted Senders In Apple Mail

Add trusted sender in Apple Mail - Step 1
Adding a safe sender in Apple Mail: Step 1
Add trusted sender in Apple Mail - Step 2
Adding a safe sender in Apple Mail: Step 2
Add trusted sender in Apple Mail - Step 3
Adding a safe sender in Apple Mail: Step 3

If an email sender is already on the Contacts list, they will not be marked as spam. So the easiest way to ensure someone is a safe sender is to add their email to the list of contacts on Apple Mail.

Here’s the second method:

  1. Open Apple Mail on your Mac and go to Mail > Settings.
  2. In the new popup window, click on the “Rules” tab.
  3. Click on the “Add Rule” button.
  4. Set the first drop-down list to “From” and the second to “ends with.” 
  5. Enter the email address/domain you want to mark as trusted in the text field.
  6. In the next section, choose “Move Message” in the first drop-down list and “Inbox” in the second.
  7. Click “OK” to save the rule.

That’s it! The Mail app will now view all emails from that particular sender as trusted.

Deliverability Challenges Faced by Email Marketers

Now that we’ve explained the “trusted sender” topic in the context of email users, how about email marketing? 

Every email professional wants to be considered a safe sender and see their emails land in the inbox. But that’s easier said than done.

The top 8 reasons mailbox providers view email senders as suspicious are:

  1. Spam filters: If spam filters detect issues with email content or sending history, the messages will be marked as spam.
  2. Poor sender reputation: The result of high bounce rates, spam complaints, or sending practices, a low sender score can lead to emails being blocked.
  3. Authentication: Improper authentication protocols can make a sender look suspicious. SPF, DKIM, DMARC, and BIMI are essential for email deliverability. 
  4. Poor email list: The quality of your mailing list can significantly impact deliverability. If you have invalid email addresses or buy lists from untrusted sources, it will result in high bounce rates and spam complaints.
  5. Spammy content: ISPs look for certain keywords, excessive links, or formatting that resembles common spam tactics. 
  6. Low engagement: ISPs evaluate user engagement (or lack of) to determine deliverability. 
  7. Email volume: Sending too many emails in a short period or exceeding the recommended email volume can raise red flags with mailbox providers.
  8. Compliance: Non-compliance with regulations, such as the CAN-SPAM Act, can result in deliverability issues and even legal consequences.

If struggle with deliverability, it’s because ESPs do not think of you as a trusted sender. Asking every single subscriber to add you to their safe sender list can be a near-impossible task. This is why you must look at more practical ways of achieving better deliverability.

The first and best step marketers can take toward becoming a trusted sender is to work on their sender reputation. 

Fixing Your Sender Reputation

If poor sender reputation is an issue you’re facing currently, you should know that it’s fixable.

Following these ten points diligently can help you turn the situation around:

  1. Analyze your email metrics: Review your email sending statistics, including bounce rates, spam complaints, and unsubscribe rates, to identify areas that need improvement.
  2. Clean your email list: Remove invalid, inactive, or outdated email addresses from your mailing list. Use email verification services or tools to ensure your list is up-to-date and accurate.
  3. Use a reputable ESP: Consider using a reputable ESP with robust deliverability tools and expertise to help manage your sender reputation.
  4. Implement authentication protocols: Set up email authentication protocols like SPF (Sender Policy Framework), DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance), and BIMI (Brand Indicators for Message Identification) to validate your email server’s identity.
  5. Monitor sending volumes and frequency: Avoid sending too many emails in a short period, as this can trigger spam filters. 
  6. Optimize email content: Ensure your email content is relevant, valuable, and doesn’t resemble spam.
  7. Encourage engagement: Include attractive CTAs and make it easy for recipients to engage with your emails. High engagement rates can positively impact your sender reputation.
  8. Provide an easy unsubscribe option: Include a prominent and functional unsubscribe link in your emails, so recipients can easily opt out.
  9. Monitor feedback loops: Participate in feedback loops to receive and process spam complaints appropriately.
  10. Be patient and consistent: Rebuilding a damaged sender reputation takes time and consistent adherence to best practices. Monitor your metrics and adjust your strategies as needed.

Since using a reputable ESP is a critical step, this next section is relevant for you.

Campaign Refinery: Always Be a Trusted Sender

As the number one deliverability email platform in the industry, Campaign Refinery is home to only safe senders. We enjoy an excellent reputation with mailbox providers and that’s because we put in the hard work to get here!

These are the tools and methods we use to ensure our emails consistently land in the inbox:

  • Approval system for new clients: New accounts have to go through an approval process, which helps prevent the onboarding of spammers.
  • Mandate on authentication protocols: We require all clients to implement SPF, DKIM, and DMARC before they can begin sending email campaigns. We are currently in the process of getting BIMI-certified ourselves!
  • Powerful segmentation and tagging tools: Organize your email list in any way you like to ensure the best engagement rates. Your subscribers and mailbox providers will love you!
  • Robust analytics: If there are trends, upwards or downwards, our customers will immediately know, thanks to our accurate and visual analytics dashboard.
  • Automated list cleaner: Our list cleaning tool removes spam traps, complainers, role-based emails, and seeder and burner accounts.
  • Valid email lists: We require our clients only email lists with valid email addresses.
  • Ban on buying lists: Sending cold emails is prohibited at Campaign Refinery as are purchased lists.
  • Server monitoring: We constantly monitor client metrics to ensure no spam is sent from our servers
  • Acceptable use policy: We monitor accounts that consistently perform poorly, and low engagement stats like open rates below 10% or bounce rates over 10% lead to account suspension.

Apply to be a Campaign Refinery customer — become a trusted sender today!

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