How Do You Know If Your Email Is Blocked?

Melanie Balke
April 11, 2023

Few situations are as stressful for marketers as a blocked email.

When you’re spreading your wings, you need to get the word out about your product! Every email needs to land in an inbox, and your contact list is an invaluable resource. So, it stands to reason that blocked emails will negatively impact your strategic marketing.

Aside from being a waste of money, blocked emails are likely to become spam emails. Over time, these messages may get flagged by an email server, and the consequences can become more severe than a few lost clients.

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid this fate.

If you’re afraid of getting blocked — and who isn’t? — this post is for you! Keep scrolling to learn more about what it means to get blocked and how you can stay in inboxes and out of spam folders.

What Are Blocked Emails?

A handwritten letter. "The Basics: What Is a Blocked Email?"

For starters, a blocked email is an automatically flagged message that usually gets delivered to a recipient’s spam folder.

Think of it in terms of social media. When you block a user on a social media platform, you no longer see their posts. Likewise, when a user blocks an email, they can easily ignore that sender’s content.

Messages from blocked addresses are unlikely to be seen, directly impacting the effectiveness of your email marketing. However, that doesn’t mean your marketing is entirely ineffective. Much like a soft bounce, blocked emails are accessible to users actively looking for them.

Where Do Blocked Emails Go?

Overlapping palm leaves. "Where's My Message? The fate of blocked emails and how recpients see them."

Most blocked messages go to the recipient’s spam folder. However, the destination depends on the user’s settings and email service provider.

Microsoft Outlook, for example, gives users a way to forward any blocked emails to their junk folder. Likewise, a Gmail account can be set to automatically place blocked emails in the trash.

Trusted senders are the opposite of blocked addresses. These accounts have been flagged as trustworthy, and their emails always end up in the user’s inbox.

How to Tell If Someone Blocked Your Email

A boat. "How Do I Know? How to Tell If Someone Blocked Your Email."

I’d love to say that there’s an easy way to figure out your email’s delivery status. There are, after all, read confirmations for SMS messages!

Unfortunately, there is no simple way to determine if a user has blocked your email. While some methods may result in an alert when your email delivery fails, many soft-blocked messages will appear as delivered.

In other words, it’s near-impossible to know if someone blocked your email — specifically. However, you can figure out if you’ve been placed on an ISP-based block list.

Understanding Delivery Status Notifications (DSNs)

An old-fashioned alarm block with an icon-circled rim. "Official Methods: Understanding Delivery Status Notifications (DSNs)."

When an email fails to arrive in a recipient’s inbox, it often triggers a delivery status notification.

Have you ever mistyped an email address? You likely received an automated response, which notified you of your error. “This email account does not exist” is a common example of a failed DSN. Some ISPs also include Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) codes to help you avoid future mishaps.

Different Types of Email Blocks

A partially opened padlock. "Difference: How Can My Email Be Blocked?"

It’s also worth knowing that there are different kinds of blocked addresses. Some emails are delivered to spam folders, while others may be ignored entirely. This means that you can’t rely on successful delivery reports alone; you must also track your key performance indicators.

Common blocking methods include:

  • Deletion: Any blocked email addresses are automatically deleted upon receipt
  • Filtering: Messages from blocked emails have designated tags or notices
  • Flagging: Blocked emails are flagged as spam, but they may still appear in the inbox

Moreover, there are systematic blocks that occur on a higher level.

What If My Emails Are Blocked by an Email Service Provider?

Overlapping palm leaves. "The System: Large-Scale Email Blocking."

In particularly egregious cases, an email address may be blocked by an organization or provider. Sometimes, these blocks are little more than secretarial matters. For example, many businesses block commercial messaging from their internal emails to reduce clutter and distractions.

There are, however, cases of widespread censorship. These institutional blocks usually mean you’ve landed on some sort of blacklist, and you’ll know if this has happened to you.

How Do I Know If My Email Address Is on a Blacklist?

Many gears and a gear icon. "Knowing Things: How to Know If Your Email Address Is on a Blacklist."

It may be difficult to tell if someone blocked you on an individual level, but a widespread blockage is readily apparent.

The first sign that you’ve been blacklisted is a dramatic shift in your KPIs. A sudden dip in deliverability is always worth further investigation. Similarly, increased spam reports should clue you in on something larger.

If you somehow miss these telltale signs, you’ll face bigger problems.

Ignoring your blacklist status can result in the loss of important clients, and longstanding problem accounts tend to get the boot from their internet service providers.

How to Avoid Getting Blocked

Closely spaced gear teeth. "Avoid Trouble: How to Stay Unblocked."

Email marketing tends to avoid consequences through foresight.

The best way to avoid getting blocked is to avoid annoying your customers. Yes, that means knowing and understanding the dry basics of email marketing. You’ll also want to study the specifics of targeting and customer relationship management.

Follow the Law

A snippet of the constitution of the United States. "Know the Law: Lawful email marketing is rarely flagged as spam and has higher engagement."

It may seem obvious, but the most direct way to avoid widespread blocks is to follow the law.

There are plenty of legal hurdles to marketing, including the United States’ CAN-SPAM Act. Studying such information may not be exciting, but it definitely beats serving jail time!

Being a law-abiding digital marketer also comes with some perks for your customers. Consumers are more inclined to trust legally sound businesses (no surprise there), and this trust often increases engagement.

Avoid Sending Spammy Content

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that “spammy content” is an imprecise label. Really, it should be called “suspicious things” because that’s what often triggers systematic blocks. Some common hallmarks of suspicious content (and, thus, messages that end up flagged as spam) include:

  • Excessive punctuation or emoji use
  • Failure to maintain your contact list
  • Poor grammar
  • Poor sender score
  • Unverified or improperly configured email accounts

Notably, these practices go hand-in-hand with poor email marketing. Regardless of their status, a specific sender engaging in these practices will likely find themselves in hot water eventually. Conversely, avoiding these practices results in more successfully delivered emails.

Every Email Service Provider Has a Different Tolerance for Spam

Before I move to the next tip, let it be known that every contact is different.

What lands in one person’s inbox may be filtered by someone else’s.

Email on Gmail, for example, tends to be sorted more rigorously than other accounts (i.e., Yahoo Mail). Similarly, a recipient may be using a professional email account, which is more likely to prune commercial messages. Consider, too, that some individuals may have manually configured filters to block incoming emails.

Again, you must monitor your KPIs to know if someone has blocked you on Gmail or any other service provider. You often will not get mail back from accounts that have auto-listed your emails as spam.

To ensure your message gets delivered, it’s worth reminding users at signup to check their spam and trash folders.

Don’t Forget to Clean Your Contact List Regularly

A soapy sponge. "Stay Clean: Don't Neglect Your Email List Maintenance."

Regardless of whether or not someone has blocked your email, there may come a time when you must part ways with a recipient. It sucks, I know!


Think of it like dating.

If someone has blocked you on hangout apps and chats, that’s a sign they’re through! Eventually, all those unopened previous emails and letters become a nuisance. You wouldn’t treat a person like that (or, at least, I hope you wouldn’t!), so don’t treat your customers like that.

To avoid this issue, the best email marketers perform what is known as list maintenance. For the best results, the process is automated. When subscribers fail to open a certain number of emails, they’re sent a re-engagement email. And, should they fail to open that message, they’re quietly removed from the mailing list.

If someone has blocked your email, then this message series won’t matter much!

At worst, they’ll re-subscribe to your email list. However, these lapsed customers often have little interest left in your content. As much as it may pain you to let them go, having them drag down your metrics is a waste of time and money in the long run.

Enlist Professional Marketing Help

Overlapping palm leaves. "Enlist Experts: Get Pros to Help You."

Still afraid of getting blocked?

Don’t be!

Hiring an expert can improve your marketing, and the dedicated pros at The Email Marketers are always ready to help your brand thrive. We understand the intricacies of electronic mail, and we know how to avoid the spam folder.

If you’re ready to amplify your marketing, get in touch with me. I’ll walk you through a strategy crash course and show you how my team can help you.

And don’t forget to browse the rest of my blog for more tips and tricks!