Customer Success Story

How a small human error led to a blacklisting—and how Litmus helped fix it.





The email team at GasBuddy is working hard to make their email program the best it can be, helping more than 4 million active subscribers find the cheapest gas, plan the perfect road trip, and stay safe when traveling by car. With a laser focus on the subscriber experience and a team dedicated to sending truly relevant content, GasBuddy’s email program could very well be part of an email best practice playbook.

An email program that’s so well taken care of could never end up on a blacklist? Melanie Kinney, Email Marketing Manager at GasBuddy, thought so, too. Until one day, a simple oversight resulted in a blacklisting.

Here’s how Litmus helped the team identify the root cause of the blacklisting, and empowered them to promptly introduce a fix—with minimal impact to their email performance.

The Challenge

One morning, Melanie was sending a test email to her colleagues for approval—just as she does every day. Usually, feedback comes in within minutes, but this time, she didn’t hear back from her team at all.

I asked around, and quickly found that the test send had been placed in everyone’s spam folder.

Melanie Kinney, Email Marketing Manager at GasBuddy

Melanie sent another test email, then a live send to the internal test list, all with the same result: GasBuddy’s emails were marked as spam.

GasBuddy’s email team has always been thoughtful about only sending relevant content, managing frequency, and building an active and engaged subscriber base. Being placed in the spam folder just didn’t make sense. That’s when it first dawned on the team: GasBuddy might have been placed on a blacklist.

Being blacklisted is more common than you might think. In 2017, over 15% of marketers said their emails had been blacklisted during the past 12 months. Still, when it’s your program that’s blacklisted, the pressure is on.

It’s paralyzing, really. Being blacklisted is something you’ve probably heard about, and know you don’t want to be a part of. But when it comes down to it, do you really understand the process around it?

Melanie Kinney, Email Marketing Manager at GasBuddy

This was the first time that Melanie and her colleagues had faced a blacklisting issue, and their research didn’t turn up much actionable advice for what to do next.

When looking for advice, most sources only left me more confused. Litmus’ blog post on What to Do If You’ve Been Blacklisted was the first one that spoke to me in a way that I could understand—and it pointed me to try Litmus Spam Testing to dig into what might be causing our issue.

Melanie Kinney, Email Marketing Manager at GasBuddy

How Litmus Solved the Challenge

Litmus Spam Testing not only confirmed that there’d been a blacklisting—GasBuddy was listed on SORBS and RATS—it also immediately helped pinpoint the cause of the issue. Litmus Spam Testing revealed that GasBuddy’s emails were failing both DKIM and DMARC; something was off with GasBuddy’s email authentication.

This gave the GasBuddy operations team something to work with—and within minutes, the error was found.

The domain we use to send email through had expired. Imagine that? It’s probably the last thing I would’ve considered at the start of this whirlwind.

Melanie Kinney, Email Marketing Manager at GasBuddy

The Results

After identifying the root cause of the blacklisting, GasBuddy paused all scheduled sends to avoid delivering emails to the spam folder while they worked on a fix. Because Litmus Spam Testing provided clear direction on both what had been causing the blacklisting and how to submit unblock requests, the team could resolve the issue quickly. This minimized the impact to GasBuddy's email performance and brand perception.

It took us less than 48 hours to identify and fix our issue, and to get removed from the blacklists. Without Litmus, we wouldn’t have known where to start.

Melanie Kinney, Email Marketing Manager at GasBuddy

Today, Spam Testing is part of GasBuddy’s pre-send checklist. Melanie and her team get notified of any issues that might impact deliverability before they send, and can rest assured that their carefully crafted emails make it to the inbox, every time.

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