What is the Golden Shield Project?

The Golden Shield Project, commonly referred to as "The Great Firewall of China", is an initiative by the Chinese government designed to monitor and heavily censor all internet content. While most firewalls offer a protective shield around a corporation, Golden Shield places one around an entire country. Years in the making, the Golden Shield began operation in 2006.


How does it affect me?

If you are sending email to China, it will be subjected to significantly stricter email filtering than any other country in the world. This could result in email delays, delivered emails with unclickable links, or flat-out non-deliverability.


What can I do to ensure email delivery?

While there is no guaranteed way to ensure delivery (to anyone for that matter), there are some best practices you can follow that can improve deliverability when sending to China.

  • Avoid commonly filtered content: Political and religious content aren’t only hot-button topics at dinner, they can also earn your email a one-way ticket to the spam folder. You should also refrain from using generic salutations, such as “Dear Friend.” In fact, don’t use the word “Dear” in your greeting at all. You should however consider using a first name token to personalize the greeting.
  • Proper language: If you’re not fluent in Chinese, avoid using free online translation software. Incorrect or mangled grammar can result in your email getting discarded (note: this practice is applicable to all foreign languages). Pay the money for a good translation service. Be sure to use simplified Chinese characters as opposed to traditional.
  • Mind your links: Marketo adds click-tracking to all links, allowing you to track the recipient’s actions. Due to the stringent filters in China, you’ll have better odds of links even working if you disable click-tracking (even when click-tracked links do work, their numbers are often inflated due to the extreme filtering practices). Additionally, if you ever have the option to purchase the top-level domain for China, (.cn), do it. The URL www.mysite.cn will have a better chance of loading than www.mysite.com.
  • Font size: In terms of deliverability, font size matters. Anything below a 10-point font can be misconstrued as an attempt to sneak something in, thereby exposing the content to additional filtering.
  • Keep a clean list: China is known for its high attrition rates when it comes to email lists. If an email address does not interact (open or click) with an email after 2-3 sends, it may be abandoned. Continuing to mail to this type of email address can have an adverse effect on your sending reputation, and subject you to further filtering.
  • Contact Marketo for large qq.com sends: If you plan on mailing to a list north of 25k to qq.com, please contact Marketo Support so they can create a whitelisting request for our Privacy Team.  Sending from a dedicated IP is required for this request.


How do I check if I am blacklisted in China?

There are multiple sites that can give you this information. One we sometimes use is: http://www.blockedinchina.net/. Be sure to check domains and sub-domains (if you use them).


What can I do to get off the blacklist?

Nothing at all, unfortunately.  Listing are often dynamic and will resolve on their own when reputation improves or the content is not flagged.


Since I can’t do anything to be removed from the blacklist, what can I do to avoid landing on it going forward?

Being blacklisted is only temporary 99% of the time (length of blacklisting will vary). Our best advice is to follow the above best practice tips.


Is there anything else I should know?

Countries such as China and Japan are huge players in the mobile market, so be sure to keep mobile best practices in mind when designing emails.

Marketo cares about your success. To stay on top of trends, we monitor and receive reports from CASA (Chinese Anti-Spam Alliance). If you have any additional questions, or if you feel that you're being impacted by the Golden Shield, please contact Marketo Support.