For those of you who spend a lot of time reviewing mail server bounce logs, the title of this post might be somewhat familiar. For those who don’t, it represents a transient bounce (or ‘soft’ bounce, tempfail) indicating the receiving server is unable to process the current message for one reason or another. And while it references a technical SMTP response, this post is actually about something very non-technical: my absence from new posts on this site.
As this is meant to be a site for industry advice, I’ll keep this more “personal” post short and sweet.
In a lot of ways, the past 2 years have placed unprecedented levels of stress on so many of us. For me, the motivation to do all those “extra things” — like creating useful content and engaging more in the email community — often came up short in light of everything happening in the world. It took quite a while to recover that particular drive, but I’m ready to start actively sharing and resuming an increased level of activity.
For the TL:DR crowd, just know that I’m back and working to provide more useful information and industry advice. Thanks for reading and it’s good to be back!
Earlier today, Spamhaus announced via their News blog that their Blocklist Removal Center is being sunset. The organization indicated the decade-old page needed a refresh to improve its usefulness to users of all technical skill levels. The new page, dubbed IP and Domain Reputation Checker, contains a single field used to check both IPs and domains against Spamhaus-hosted blocklists.
Performing a lookup on a blocked IP address results in a user-friendly page indicating the IP is blocked with additional detail about which list(s) and why:
In addition, the page also provides clear delisting instructions and some additional insight about the pertinent blocklist:
Throughout, the information retains a friendly and helpful tone, acknowledging that most people who end up on this page are likely victims of bad practices (whether their own or others’) and not guilty of outright malice. And for those who are guilty of outright malice? They’re probably not getting delisted either way.
Last week, a mysterious, newly-created Twitter account shared these screenshots of Microsoft’s Outlook web interface with tabs similar to those found in Gmail:
The screenshots are the only thing ever posted by the Twitter account and this was the first I had heard of Microsoft adding tabbed sections to their inbox view, so I took it all with a grain of salt.
That is, until I logged into my Outlook.com account today and was greeted with an option to enable inbox tabs in my account. Upon clicking the button to “Try them,” I saw the same dialog box shared by the Mystery Tweeter:
Included in the available tabs are Focused Inbox, Microsoft’s “Priority Inbox” clone, along with Promotions, Social, and Newsletters. When you choose your tabs and click Save, you’re presented with your new inbox with the allocated tabs plus the category “Other” for anything that doesn’t fall under the chosen groupings.
Looking through the tabs, the categorizations seem fairly accurate but not perfect. In my own inbox, different promotional mailings from the same sender (same domain, IP infrastructure, and authentication) were split between the Promotions and Other tabs. When this happens, miscategorized messages can be dragged to the correct tab and dropped there — although it’s not clear how much impact that will have on future mailings.
Maybe I’ve been out of the loop given the current state of the world, but this came as a bit of a surprise to me. Are you seeing the Tabs option in your own inbox? If so, what do you think?
Over the years, it has been a common practice to convert certain temporary bounces into permanent bounces after a series of occurrences. Some ESPs will escalate bounces that occur X number of times in a row, or occur for X number of days without a successful delivery. One of the most commonly affected bounce types for these suppressions is Mailbox Full.
Mailbox full/over quota bounces are considered by many to be a symbol of a dead address. With the nigh-unlimited storage found in most mailboxes these days, no one who actually checks their email should ever have a full mailbox…right?
Not necessarily. In a new blog post on the MessageGears blog, I sat down with Senior Product Owner of Cloud Operations Nick Zeich-Lopez (aka. ‘Mr. Data’). We pored over results from over 20 billion deliveries and found some surprising results.
For starters, the data showed that of those recipients who experienced a Mailbox Full bounce, over 8% engaged with a subsequent email in the next 7 days and over 31% engaged with an email over the course of the next 12 months.
As a sender who’s suppressing Mailbox Full bounces after the first occurrence, you could be losing nearly 1/3 of those recipients for no reason. At the least, it’s worth some analysis of your own data (or your ESP’s) — you’ll likely find some room for improvement in how you’re handling these bounces.
For the details — along with our findings on bounces caused by spam, delivery timeouts, and DNS errors — check out the full post.
A few days ago I had a client who mentioned seeing something unusual in their Gmail testing. Their messages, which usually end up in the Promotions tab, had been hitting the Primary tab for almost two weeks. They reported clients had seen the same behavior. It’s not unheard of for this to happen at Gmail, but typically it lasts no more than a couple of days.
Turns out, lots of people have been asking the same question to the team at 250ok. Matt Vernhout confirmed via blog post yesterday that the deliverability tools provider is seeing this behavior as well.
There is no official acknowledgement from Google, although yesterday @Gmail replied to a Twitter user’s complaint with instructions on moving mail between tabs:
If you logged into your Google Postmaster Tools dashboard late yesterday or today, you may have been greeted with a troubling sight in the IP reputation graph:
From what we can tell, it appears to be an issue on Google’s end. I’ve checked dozens of IP reputations and all show nothing but red for December 10th data, and many in industry forums have reported the same.
Open rates at Gmail appear to be unaffected in my own data, and Laura at Word to the Wise provided some reassurance via Twitter:
Lots of comments this morning about GPT showing bad IP reputation for EVERYTHING this morning. Checked one of my clients on big shared pool and even those IPs dropped to ‘bad’ over night. Don’t Panic! This is a reporting issue, not a reputation one.— Laura Atkins (@wise_laura) December 12, 2019
No word from Google of course, but since this seems like just a display issue we can all go back to freaking out about other email metrics during this busy holiday season.
Overnight in the US, the AOL Mail and Yahoo Customer Care teams both tweetedupdates indicating services may be down.
No details on scope or ETA were provided, and in my own testing I was able to access my own AOL and Yahoo addresses. Both brands have indicated engineers are working on the issues and they will provide regular updates.
UPDATED 1pm EDT: around 10AM EDT the @AOLMail Twitter account indicated the issue was mostly resolved. My own Yahoo/AOL queues started to clear out around noon EDT, and unofficial word is that the issue is considered to be resolved at this point.
Last week we told you about an outage with Google’s Postmaster Tools data, which was missing data starting on 8/16 (many domains had data for 8/17). According to my own data and reports from others, data was populated for most domains late on 8/21 with data for 8/20 but nothing between 8/17-8/20. For the domains I track, it seems 8/21 data was added for some domains but not others, and no domain has anything past 8/21 at this point.
At the end of last week we assumed the issue was resolved, but it appears data is still missing in many instances. Spam Rate, IP & Domain Reputation, FBL, Authentication, Encryption, and Delivery Errors are all missing data for the same days. Word on the street hints at something new in GPT (but doesn’t it always?), but we’ll just have to keep refreshing that page until Google makes an announcement or something new appears.
Multiple reports have been coming in about Google’s Postmaster Tools data being missing for the past few days. Most reports indicate no data since 8/17, but some of my own domains were last updated on 8/16 even though they sent volume on the 17th.
Generally, GPT data runs a full 1-2 days behind, so the data for 8/17 was likely updated sometime the evening of 8/18. Even so, that leaves us on 3 days without updates. Not terribly uncommon, but many of us are still shook up after the 2-week-plus outage back in June. As usual, there’s been no official acknowledgement from Google.
GPT is a free tool, but it’s the only real insight (directly from Google) we as senders have into Google’s black box of mail filtering. I’m sure it’s not the highest priority project over there, but we sure do miss it when it’s not working properly.
UPDATE 8/22: Sometime last night EST Google appears to have populated data for 8/20 in my own instance and those of multiple others I’ve asked. Data is still missing for 8/18-8/19 (and 8/17 for a couple of my domains). Updates to the data generally happen for me late afternoon EST, so I’ll watch for any new data or backfilling later today.
If you’ve sent mail to Canadian recipients over the past few days, there’s a good chance your engagement rates have been lower than expected. Telus, a major Canadian telecom and mailbox provider, has experienced a multi-day outage of their email system starting last Thursday (August 15th).
Reports have been mixed about the exact impact and scope – Telus claimed on Friday that only 10% of customers were still impacted, then issued an apology video Saturday night in the midst of continued problems. The Telus website carries a banner linking to an Update page. Among the information here, Telus directs users to a temporary webmail account that has been created for them and states that the “old” mailboxes are being rebuilt. No timeline is given for this process.
Will Telus be able to recover all the emails lost since last Thursday? Time will tell, but it’s a safe bet at least some mail will be lost in the process. As a sender, you should evaluate the volume of traffic sent to Telus since 8/15 and whether to halt sending to those addresses until full resolution is received. At a minimum, you’ll have a good explanation when management asks why your engagement rates took a dive.