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The Email Marketing Series: Bounced Emails, Part 1

by | Sep 2, 2010 | Recruiter Training, Top Echelon Blog

In the first blog post in this series, I discussed the CAN-SPAM act and how it could potentially affect your email marketing efforts.  In this post, I’d like to tackle the subject of bounced emails.  After all, you didn’t think every single email that you send is going to be delivered, did you?

First, a definition: a bounced email is one that’s returned to you because it can’t be delivered to the intended recipient.  There are more than few reasons that emails bounce, but the one that I want to explore in this post is the non-existent address.

A non-existent address is one that—surprise—does not exist.  The most common reason it doesn’t exist is that it’s been cancelled.  However, there are other reasons, such as an inactive account, changed domain names, what’s called “improper bounce coding,” spam-filtering programs, and typos in the email address.  I examine each of these reasons in more detail below.

Cancelled accounts—People cancel their email accounts all the time.  If you have a large list of people to which you’re sending, chances are good that somebody on that list has cancelled their account recently.  As a result, the email that you sent to them will bounce back.

Inactive accounts—Many free email services (such as Yahoo or Hotmail) make an email address inactive if that account hasn’t been used in a certain amount of time.  That timeframe can be as little as three months.

Changed domain names—Free email services also change their domain names from time to time (for example, to  In cases like this, your email will bounce.

Improper bounce coding—The administrator of the receiving email server is responsible for setting up codes for bounces, that code dictates the reason for the bounce.  If the code isn’t specific enough, the email will bounce back as a non-existent address, even if that’s not really the case.

Spam-filtering programs—Sometimes, the spam-filtering program of a receiving email server will send a non-existent bounce code back to the sending server instead of a message stating that the email was blocked.

Typos—These are pretty much self-explanatory.  Simply, put you spell something wrong.  As we all know, it’s easy to do.  All it takes is one wrong character.

No matter why your emails are being bounced as a non-existent address, the bottom line is that they’re not being delivered.  Not doing anything with these addresses is really not an option; they’ll bounce again the next time you send out a marketing email.  That’s why it’s important to clean up your email list after each send so that the number of non-existent bounce-backs that you receive the next time is smaller.

In my next blog post, I’ll explore the other reasons that emails are bounced (other than a non-existent address).

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