How to whitelist email addresses in Gmail

We have written on this blog before about the importance of email deliverability and what we do to ensure your emails reach their recipients. Spam filters implemented by different email clients (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.) are becoming increasingly sensitive, to make sure that non-legitimate, spam emails aren’t delivered. Ensuring emails are delivered to the inbox is pretty much guaranteed if your list members have ‘whitelisted’ you. This means, simply, that you (as the sender) have been added to their list of ‘approved’ or ‘safe senders’. Different email clients carry out the whitelisting process in different ways and use different terminology. In this short post, we explain how to whitelist email addresses in Gmail.

Whitelist Gmail

Safe sender’

Gmail is pretty efficient at identifying non-important and potentially harmful emails that you probably don’t want to open. However, it isn’t 100% correct all of the time and, to make sure important emails never end up in the Gmail spam folder, you can tell Gmail that emails from a particular sender are safe, allowing those messages to pass through the filter. If important emails keep getting sent to your spam folder in Gmail, you need to add email addresses to the safe senders list to whitelist them.

Set up a filter

In Gmail, it is possible to set up ‘filters’ to whitelist a sender (or senders). You can apply a filter to a specific email address, a whole domain, or a mix of both. First of all, click on the gear icon in your inbox and select ‘Settings’ from the menu. Then, select the ‘Filters and blocked addresses’ tab when viewing the Settings menu. Click the link called ‘Create a new filter’ (if you have a lot of filters in place already you’ll see this at the bottom of the list, like in the diagram below). Select ‘Never send it to spam’. This will make sure emails that match the filter description will always reach the inbox.

How to whitelist email in Gmail

Filtering a specific email address or a whole domain

In the ‘From’ field, enter the email address in full that you would like the filter to apply to. If you want to filter a specific email address, write the whole address, like ‘johnsmith@emailbusiness.com’. If you want to whitelist all emails from a specific domain, you can just type ‘@emailbusiness.com’ to put all emails from this domain on the list of safe senders. There are other options but the ‘From’ field must be filled out.

Filtering more than one email or domain

You do not need to repeat these steps for multiple emails and/or domains. A handy tip is to put a vertical bar (Shift and then the backslash ‘\’ key, with a space before and after it) between the separate emails you wish to filter. For example: johnsmith@emailbusiness.com | janesmith@emailbusiness.com | simonsmith@emailbusiness.com.

Alternatively…

You can also filter messages directly from an email as you receive it. So, if you find an important email in your Spam folder, which should have come to the Inbox, you can open it and then apply the filter so it ends up in the right place next time. When you have the email open, click on the vertical dots in the right hand corner and then select ‘Filter messages like these’ (see below).

Whitelist Gmail 2

The email address of the sender will then be auto-filled in the next form in the ‘From’ field and you can create a filter from there, as before.

Don’t forget

It is worth knowing that when you whitelist an email or domain in Gmail, the filter does not work retrospectively. That is, it does not apply to emails that are already in the Spam/Trash folders.

How to insert a member’s name into emails

When you send emails to your list using Simplelists it is possible to insert members’ names into the emails. This personalises the message and allows recipients to see their name in the short email preview they may see in their inbox. This short post explains how to use this feature.

Insert names into emails

Activate the feature

First of all, activate this feature for your Simplelists account by sending an email to support@simplelists.com to request the ‘activate the insert names feature’.

Enter the correct text when composing your message

When you write your message to your list, insert $FIRSTNAME in your email in the exact place(s) you would like the member’s first name to appear. If you want their surname to appear as well, write $SURNAME where you want this to be.

If you do this, each member of your list will received a personalised email which includes their name.

An example

Dear $FIRSTNAME,

Thank you for joining our group. You will received monthly updates and…etc. 

If you don’t know their name

If a member’s first and/or last name is not included in your address book, you can request your preferred default name to be used instead. When you contact us to activate the ‘insert name’ feature, let us know your preference for a default option. For example, you could choose ‘Member’, ‘Customer’ or ‘Group Member’.

If you do this, in a case where you didn’t know the first name, the above example would read:

Dear Member,

Thank you for joining our group. You will received monthly updates and…etc. 

When should you use this feature?

Personalising emails is recognised as increasingly important for email marketing. For example, many mail clients show the first 10-20 words of a message in the inbox before the email is opened. At a glance, readers can therefore see immediately whether an email addresses them by name or not. If their name isn’t there, they may be more tempted to delete the message as they would deem it unimportant or irrelevant.

For this reason, we recommend that you use the ‘insert name’ feature in all your email marketing messages. Even if you are not using your emails for marketing purposes, inserting members’ names will help people to engage more with your list and feel a sense of involvement in the group.

Branding the landing – top tips

When you contact the members of your email list, it is likely that your message will include a link to a page on a website designed specifically for them to read more, subscribe and/or visit email archives – this is called a ‘landing page’ and these can be generated automatically using Simplelists. So that the page that they land on looks correct and does what you need, you may want to make sure that your list members see your branding or logo when they click through. In this post, we explain how to customise your landing page and share some other top tips for making the landing page ‘perfect’.

branding your landing page

Use your own logo or branding

To replace the Simplelists branding with another image, copy the web address of the image that you would like to use instead. When logged in to Simplelists, navigate to the ‘General Settings’ menu and paste the web address of your image into the custom image field. Click ‘Update Settings’ and you should see the message ‘The settings have been updated successfully’. Refresh/reload the page and you should then see your own branding. You can also watch these instructions in a short video.

Top tips for marketing landing pages

If you are running an email marketing campaign, have a think about what you want to get from your landing page when your members visit it. For example, do you want to persuade the visitor to click on another page (click through), buy a product, or gather data from them (lead generation)?

Don’t link to your home page

A good landing page will generally be a separate page that is distinct from your website (i.e. not just to the home page) and it will tend to have no navigation menu and be accessible only from the link in the email.

Use a snappy, concise headline

The title of the page will be the first thing that visitors read so make sure that it is near the top of the page and large enough to be obvious. Make sure the title is relevant to the content of the email they have come from.

Use an image or video

An image or short video is a great way to make an immediate good impression and also entices people to read what follows. Put the image/video near the top so that people don’t have to scroll to see it.

Check your colour scheme

Different colours generate different emotions and feelings when people see them. Try to match the colours in your image/video to what you are doing. Blues tend to be associated with trust and stability, while red emulates energy, strength and passion.

Break up your text

It is a good idea to use sub-headings to break up the text on your page. This makes it much easier for people to read and directs them quickly to the topics of most relevance to them.

Make the call-to-action obvious

Whatever you hope that your visitors might do (subscribe, buy a product, click through, etc.), make it clear and easy for them to do so.

Make sure mobile users have a good experience

Finally, don’t forget that the majority of visitors may well be using a mobile device. So, make sure the landing page can be viewed well on a range of devices. If it is not an option to make the page responsive, at least make sure it works OK on phones and tablets. This is definitely important if you want your visitors to fill in a form or make a purchase.

How to search your email archives

Simplelists keeps a record of all of the emails that have been sent to your list. This archive can be useful for new list members who might need to quickly get to grips with topics that have already been covered in a private group discussion. It is also a great tool for keeping a back up of all of your communications. If you haven’t already, you can learn how to set up, view and personalise the archive in a recent post on our blog. Below, we explain how to search your email archive, allowing you to find old emails using a keyword search.

Archive search

Finding the right message in a busy list

Busy lists that have existed for a long time can accumulate thousands of emails over many years. When new members join a list, they can be granted permission to read emails that were sent before they joined, and access old emails about a specific subject. To do this, the Simplelists email archive has a keyword search function that allows you to look for old emails by keyword. You can also browse all messages by date or by thread.

Accessing the archive

You can find the archive search function from the Members Home page once you have logged in to your Simplelists account. Under ‘What would you like to do?’, click on ‘View list archives’. If your list manager has set up a password for accessing the archive, you will need to enter this. Otherwise, you can request an access code by entering your email address.

Once in the mail archive, messages are grouped by month and year, with the search box at the top. Type in your keyword and the relevant emails will be displayed. On this page, you can also view list statistics and read more information about your list.

Search tips

We all know how to use a search box but these tips might come in useful if you’re not entirely sure of the best keyword to search for:

Wildcard ‘?’ – Type the ? symbol and it will be replaced with any single character. This is handy when you’re not sure how a word should be spelt. For example, you might be looking for an old email titled ‘Worthington Event’ but you had forgotten if ‘Worthington’ was spelled with an ‘o’ or a ‘i’ you can type ‘W?rthington’ and the results will show emails with both spellings.

Wildcard ‘*’ – Type the * symbol and it will be replaced with any number of characters. Using the previous example, if you weren’t at all sure how to spell ‘Worthington’ you could type ‘W*ton’. The search results will show all emails that start with a ‘w’ and end with the letters ‘ton’, including ‘Worthington’.

You can also search by keyword for specific months. Browse to the month of the email that you are looking for and then search while in that month. The search will geneate results only for that month.

Sending HTML emails with Simplelists

HTML emails are formatted like a web page and can include colours, graphics, tables and links. Most emails that you receive from a shop/business that you subscribe to are likely to use this kind of email. Plain text emails are more like what you might expect to receive from a friend or in a typical work email. Before sending an HTML email to your list, it is worth considering the pros and cons of HTML and plain text emails.

HTML email

HTML or plain text?

HTML emails are colourful and eye-catching. You can include your company logo and make your email look professional. HTML emails can include images and make it possible to break the email into sections that are easy to read or scan. They can also include social media buttons. HTML emails are more likely to be blocked by some spam blockers, especially if they contain a lot of HTML.

Plain text emails are small and light, which means they use less memory and open more quickly. Plain text messages look less commercial and more similar to personal emails. It has also been found that a plain text email is more likely to be opened and clicked through, which is important if you are sending emails as part of a marketing campaign.

Creating an HTML email

First, you need to create your email as a single web page. There are a few special points to note when creating HTML for email:

  • Use tables to create the layout. Avoid using margins and padding and give the table’s elements fixed widths. This prevents the email looking different in different email clients.
  • All CSS styles should be inline styles. Any CSS in the head or on external style sheets will be ignored.
  • Any images should have an absolute URL – they’ll need to be on the server so they can be sourced.

Once complete, view your web page in a browser. First, check that the page looks perfect. Right click and select all and then copy. Note that you should not copy the HTML code. Copy the content of the web page.

Send the email

Open your email client and compose a new message to your list. Simply paste the email and hit send. Your HTML email will be sent to your whole list. Simple.

You can watch these instructions in a short video here.

Add list members from a spreadsheet

When you start to build an email list you may only have a few members. If this is the case, inputting people’s details manually via the Simplelists members area is straightforward. When your list starts to grow, you may find it helpful to add a large number of subscribers at one time, from a spreadsheet. It is also useful to have a spreadsheet copy of all your list members for your own records. In this short post, we explain how to add members to your list from a spreadsheet.

Add list members from spreadsheet

Prepare the spreadsheet

First, open your spreadsheet. Your spreadsheet only needs three columns:

  • First name
  • Last name
  • Email address

If a name is missing, don’t worry as it can be left blank. You can also add notes in another column.

Remove any headers and titles from the spreadsheet (you may need to delete a row to do this). Your list is now ready to go.

Save as a .csv file

Save the file as a .csv file type using the ‘Save As’ dialog box in your spreadsheet program. You may be asked if you are that you wish to save as a .csv file. Just select ‘OK’ or ‘Yes’ when asked. Remember where you save your file.

Upload to Simplelists

Finally, you want to upload the file to Simplelists. Log in to Simplelists and select the ‘List members’ page. Click on the ‘Upload file’ tab and search for the file that you saved earlier. Make sure that ‘comma separated’ is chosen in the drop-down menu on the ‘Upload file’ page in Simplelists. Then, click ‘Next’.

On the next screen (‘Select fields’), select the correct field name for each column of the file (First name, Last name, Email address, etc.). Then, click ‘Next’.

The next screen will show you some ‘Upload options’ which you can choose to select or not:

  1. By default an entry’s name will be updated when the email address matches an entry already in your address book. If you would also like to update the email address if the full name matches then please check this box.
  2. Send confirmation requests to all addresses uploaded (except those already in the address book and already confirmed).
  3. Delete current address book entries that are not in uploaded file.

When you have selected any options you wish to activate, click ‘Finish’. The new members will now be added to your list. You can check that they have been added by viewing your address book from the ‘Members home’ page.

You can also watch a short video of these instructions in an earlier post on our blog.

Setting email posting permissions

Simplelists is designed to be flexible so that it will suit your needs exactly. You might want to send email newsletters to a list of customers with you alone being able to post to the list. Or, maybe you have a team of people who will all need to be able to send emails to your customers. Or, perhaps you would like to use your list for a private group discussion and you would like anyone on the list to be able to contribute. Whatever your needs, you can customise your list by setting posting permissions. In this short post, we explain how you do this.

Posting restrictions

Login and navigate ‘list settings’ in the left hand menu. Under the ‘Posting restrictions’ tab you will see the heading ‘posting permissions’ with three radio buttons next to it:

  • Allow anyone to send messages
  • Hold all messages for approval
  • Choose specific people who can send messages

If you select ‘Allow anyone to send messages’, this permits both members and non-members to send messages to your list without approval being necessary. As an alternative, you can choose to ‘Hold all messages for approval’.

Or, select ‘Choose specific people who can send messages’ to grant specific people permission to send messages to the list. With this third option, you can select all list members or provide the individual email addresses of those permitted to send messages to the list. Just enter their addresses in the box that appears when you select this option. This setting is useful for private group discussions as you can choose to have only specific people post to the list. This setting is also useful for email marketing and newsletters.

Email replies

When thinking about permissions, you may wish to consider where email replies are sent. Select the ‘Email customisation’ tab and, under the heading ‘List replies’, choose whether the reply is sent to the person who sent the original message (select ‘Replies go to poster of message’) or to the whole list (select ‘Replies go to list email addresses’). In this section you also have the option to strip attachments from the messages that are sent, truncate long messages to a set character limit, and add a message footer to be attached to all emails sent.

You can watch these instructions in a short video in a previous post on our blog.

Using your own domain with Simplelists

If you have a multiple list account, you can use your own domain to replace simplelists.com. In fact, you can add as many domains as you like, which means you can totally brand the system as your own. Combine using your own domain with branding your landing pages for truly professional results. This short post will explain how to use your own domain and, once you have done this, how to improve the deliverability of your emails.

Using your own domain

Set up your own domain

Setting up your own domain is easy. Log in to your Simplelists multiple list account, navigate to ‘General Settings’ in the left-hand menu and select the ‘Domains’ tab. Enter your domain name and click ‘Add’. In the list that follows, set your domain name as ‘primary’. You can then view your new email addresses on the ‘List members’ page in the left-hand menu.

Configure MX records

Once your domain name is added, you must configure its mail exchange records, using your web hosting control panel. Set the Primary MX record to ‘mx1.simplelists.com’ and the Secondary to ‘mx2.simplelists.com’. You can see instructions for how to do this using cPanel in this short video. Note that it can take up to 72 hours for the MX changes to come into effect, depending on your web hosting settings.

Make sure your emails are received

There are some simple steps that you can take to improve the deliverability of your emails. SPF records prevent spammers from sending messages with forged email addresses from your domain. DKIM records help to verify the sender and prove that a message has not been altered in transit.

If you are using your own domain, it is recommended that you add both of these DNS records to your domain. When logged into Simplelists with your multiple list account selected, navigate to ‘General Settings’ and the ‘Domains’ tab. Scroll down to find the details you’ll need to add the DNS records. You can then open your web hosting control panel and complete the required fields for the SPF and DKIM records. You can see instructions for how to do this using cPanel in this short video.

All of these instructions can be viewed in two short videos on a previous post on our blog.