The From Line

Sending, Managing & Monetizing Email

Bounce Codes: Understanding Why Email Bounces Back

All email list administrators know what they look like, but what do they mean? Some bounces seem to have a clear meaning, but others are cryptic enough to make any normal person tear their hair out. The way bounce codes look when they show up is not even consistent!

Sometimes they'll look like this:

Remote-MTA: dns; []

Diagnostic-Code: smtp; 550 No such user here

Other times you'll see something like this:

while talking to []

>>> RCPT TO:<This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

<<< 550 No such user here

Okay. Take a step back, a deep breath and relax.

You can safely ignore most of what you see in both messages. The important part of the message is the 3 digit numerical code, 550 and the short description that follows immediately.

What do those three digit bounce codes mean? Well here's a list of the codes that matter to a mailing list manager and what they are supposed to mean:

  • 550 - The requested command failed because the user’s mailbox was unavailable (such as not found)
  • 551 - The recipient is not local to the server.
  • 552 - The action was aborted due to exceeded storage allocation.
  • 553 - The command was aborted because the mailbox name is invalid.
  • 554 - The transaction failed for some unstated reason.

The code to worry about for email marketers is code 550. Usually this means that there is no mailbox for that address. At this point you would want to cull the address from your list to avoid wasting resources on mailings, but even a code 552 which means that the user has exceeded their storage allocation is important. If the mailbox is full for several mailings it might be best to remove the address from the list.

Bounce codes are a great tool for refining lists gor maximum efficiency. If you have any questions about bounce codes or about how we can help you manage your email marketing please contact us.

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Co-registration: The Secret to Growing Your Email Lists

As published in DM News

In the world of email marketing, buying a list is considered a big “faux pas” amongst permission fanatics and professional email marketing pundits alike.  In fact, the practice is so loathed that the mere mention of a purchased list can get you banned by a mainstream email service provider.  So what’s a marketer to do when they want to engage in email marketing but don’t have a year or so to grow a list organically? 

Fortunately, some very creative, yet somewhat desperate marketer came up with the idea of co-registration and the email list industry has run amuck with the concept ever since.  For those you not familiar with the practice, co-registration is where your opt-in offer appears alongside or after the opt-in form of another website.  The idea behind this is that since it’s sometimes difficult and time consuming to get people to come to your website to opt-in, it is easier to syndicate your opt-in offer to other websites.  If done properly, co-registration has proven to be an effective way to grow your email lists. However, just as with anything in the list industry, it has been abused and twisted to meet marketers’ objectives.

You have two choices if you decide to use co-registration, the do it yourself approach or the ad network approach.  The do it yourself approach to co-registration is highly effective if your market is finite with a limited number of websites catering to it.  Here you would simply try to cut deals with website owners to place your opt-in offer alongside theirs with a checkbox next to it.  These types of deals are usually done on a price per lead or barter basis.  With barter you would simply return the favor on your website.  For the time-crunched marketer who is concerned about volume, going the ad network route is probably your only choice.  With an ad network, your opt-in offer is syndicated on a multitude of websites based on demographics, geo location and a host of other variables.  Deals are usually made on a flat price per acquisition (PPA) with minimum orders depending on the type of acquisition sought and quality of data collected.  Some new co-registration ad networks are turning to market forces with an auction style system to determine price and placement.  Whichever method you use for co-registration, below are some best practices that will help to ensure your efforts are successful:

  • Make sure your co-registration offers are accurate.  If you say you will send email once a week make sure these recipients don’t end up on your daily list.
  • If you work with an ad network, insist that you know where your opt-ins are coming from so that you can reference the website in your introductory email.  This will minimize list attrition and remind the person that they opted into your list.  Do not accept an offer from an ad network that is blind.  This might work for banners but not for opt-ins.
  • Send the introductory email as soon as possible.  “Out of site, out of mind” and people forget that they opted-in or will lose interest.
  • Do not have the opt-in checkbox pre-marked and don’t use an ad network with this practice.  If someone doesn’t click a checkbox to say that they want to hear from you then they probably don’t want to hear from you.  It’s simply wasted money.
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Don't Be Lazy - Start Segmenting Already!

The one size fits all mentality simply doesn't work anymore especially when it comes to selling online.  Just when you think you're aiming your marketing and creative efforts at the right target market, think again and think smaller.  Segmentation is the key to generating higher conversion rates from your website and email marketing efforts.  From displaying the right product using geo physical data to creating the perfect offer based on previous email click patterns, segmentation will help to ensure the right offer gets in front of the right person at the right time.  Mass customization is here to stay and you better have the right tools to make it happen with your website and email campaigns. 

Almost all websites are categorized based on product or service type however segmentation is the magic step that results from understanding consumer behavior.  By digging deep into your web analytics, you should be able to tell who buys what from where and how.  For example, if you're a sports apparel retailer just imagine how much more your chances of sale increase if you're able to display a Clinton Portis jersey to a Washington Redskins fan on the front page of your website.  You might be thinking how would this fictitious sports apparel retailer know if a website visitor is a Washington Redskins fan?  Well, since online retailers know their website visitor's IP address they can use geo targeting to display the jersey of an NFL team with the closest proximity.

The same principle applies to email as well.  Every online retailer sends a weekly email campaign hocking their latest wares.  But just because someone bought from an email campaign displaying digital cameras doesn't necessarily mean they are interested in upgrading the camera's memory card as a result of receiving subsequent email campaigns.  When you integrate your email campaigns with your web analytics you get a clearer picture of customers click paths so you send customized follow up messages based on products they actually viewed or maybe have placed in their shopping cart rather than what you think they might purchase.


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EEC Study Reveals Confusion on Bounce Management

In March, the Email Experience Council held a webinar to discuss the results of its recent survey on the current state of e-mail metrics and bounce management. The survey of 400 email marketers and 29 email service providers revealed both positive and negative outcomes. It found that respondents knew delivery was an important, if not the most important, element to a successful campaign. Despite this knowledge, however, EEC’s study also confirms serious concerns about the apparent confusion and miscommunication on reporting and management of bounces.

The good news is that 83 percent of mailers and 88 percent of ESPs rate “email delivery” as high or above average in importance. The bad news is that the study also revealed there is “widespread industry disagreement on key bounce definitions” and inconsistent bounce data. Approximately 25 percent of ESPs reported that they didn’t break out hard and soft bounces for their clients and nearly 40 percent can’t isolate why an email bounced. The lack of detailed data leaves clients unable to distinguish bad addresses from other delivery issues, such as spam blockers or technical failures.

So, what is the email marketer to do? A few recommendations also came out of the study.  Most important is to be proactive and ask questions.  Find out how your ESP or company calculates bounces and other email metrics.  
eLoop has tools to help you.

First is a glossary of terms in the Help section.  If you don’t understand emarketing jargon refer to it or send us an email so we can explain the difference between terms like “hard” and “soft” bounces. Understanding the terms is the first step in effective bounce management.  The Reporting section of eLoop also breaks out the number of hard and soft bounces in addition to the total and unique opens and clicks.  The metrics are all there and we will work with you to understand it and customize it to your needs.

Gold Lasso considers bounce management as a priority to successful campaigns and you should too.

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Keeping Your List Current

The worst mistake an email marketer can make is to get a reader’s email address and walk away.  Getting the address is difficult enough, but what happens if that contact switches jobs, gets promoted or changes their primary email address.  Prevent your list from getting stale with the following practices.

  • Bounce Removal – make sure bad addresses are removed after a pre-determined number of bounces.  Remember there is a difference between a hard and soft bounce. Hard bounces mean the address is bad; soft bounces mean there was a problem with the transmission, the server or the recipient’s inbox. eLoop automatically removes bounces from your data.
  • Welcome Email – automatically send a welcome email after a new reader has subscribed.  It should explain the features and services available to them and provide them with a connection to your company’s Web site and, ideally, a real-live person.
  • Follow-up emails – follow up with contacts whose addresses continually cause problems.
  •  Managing Opt-Outs – your email service provider should automatically remove contacts that opt out from receiving messages. Make sure anyone choosing to opt out receives a confirmation message before permanently removing them from the list.
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