Some of the most common questions surrounding email deliverability are around whitelisting and concerns about spam complaints. We’ve covered a lot about all things blacklists and spam, what they are, how to avoid them. In addition, we’ve looked at ISP level whitelisting and the effects it has on deliverability. In this post, we’re covering personal whitelists, what they are and why you want your company’s emails on them.

What are Personal Whitelists?

Simply put, personal whitelists are a custom list of email addresses and/or domains from which a subscriber always want to receive emails. In this case, all the filters are disabled for whitelisted senders. Subscribers can whitelist a specific sending email address, or a full sending domain. It’s a way for email clients (Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, etc.) to recognize that you’re a legitimate sender, and not a spammer. The personal whitelist gives the recipients the ultimate control of what they want sent to their inboxes. However, if your company’s emails are whitelisted, this does not guarantee 100% delivery. If your IP address is on the ISP’s blacklist, your email will not be allowed through.

Why Do They Matter?

Essentially, whitelisting improves deliverability. ISPs use personal whitelisting as a positive signal from the subscribers that they want your mail. If they see a lot of subscribers adding your domain and/or sending address to their personal whitelist, then that factors into a good reputation and inbox placement. Since the goal of sending email is to get it delivered to the inbox where subscribers will see it, this is extremely valuable.

How Can You Get On Personal Whitelists?

You can get on a personal whitelist by asking your email subscribers to make changes in their individual email clients to note you as a “safe sender”. This means your emails won’t be held up or filtered. The process for a subscriber to add you to their personal whitelist varies depending on the ISP. By educating your recipients, you’re quickening up the process. Here are some examples from the large email clients:


  • Select “Contacts” under Mail on the left side of the Gmail Inbox.
  • Select Create Contact on the top menu.
  • Enter the email address in the primary email box.
  • Select Save.


  • Open your Yahoo mailbox.
  • Click the address book icon under the Yahoo! Mail logo. When you roll your mouse over it, it will say Contacts.
  • Click “New Contact”.
  • Fill in the fields of your Contact.
  • Click Save.

  • Select Options from the top right.
  • Select More options > Safe and blocked senders > Safe senders.
  • In the space provided, enter the address.
  • Select Add to list.
  • Ensure the safe mailing lists box has the address you entered, and select OK

*See more info here

Sometimes just asking your subscribers to whitelist you can make a huge difference in your delivery rate. This is one of the only actions that marketers can take to suggest that their company be on an individual’s whitelist, and all it involves is providing simple instructions as listed above as to how they go about whitelisting in the first place. Otherwise, you can add the email address you want subscribers to save to the header or footer of your commercial emails. See examples from Skyscanner and Moleskine below to see how they have included it:

Similarly, we can see the same request in this example:

Try For Yourself

100% inbox delivery is extremely hard to achieve. So, the more positive signals the ISPs see from your mail, the better. Having your subscribers add you to their personal whitelists is a good thing. If you follow best practices your mail is less likely to land in the junk folder. You should try for yourself, ask your subscribers to add you to their personal whitelists or “safe lists”.

Finally, if you want more information on personal whitelists, deliverability or how to be a good sender, feel free to contact us below, on Twitter or Slack.

We have deliverability experts who can help!

-Holly McQuillan

Big Rewards Blog Footer