Post: tech, email, The Halon Innovation Series | Dec 7, 2023

Bounce Patrol: Simplifying bounce message handling

There are a thousand possible reasons why email addresses bounce or fail to get their messages delivered to the inbox. Every time an email address bounces, it generates an error. Depending on the specific cause, you can either overlook the failure and try the address again or remove it immediately. 

Pretty straightforward, right? Not exactly. Decoding delivery errors is one challenge. But a bigger one is knowing what to do with the email addresses that generated the error codes. Should you remove them? Try to send them again? Or cross your fingers and hope the problem fixes itself? Luckily, Halon has created Bounce Patrol. A feature that simplifies your life by offering multiple options for classifying bounces while enhancing your operational team's experience.

Spend more time maximizing email deliverability 

Halon’s Bounce Patrol automatically classifies thousands of email error messages based on what’s best for your business: act on them, let them go, or apply unique, business-based rules to make the call. You’ll spend less time fixing problems and more time coming up with ways to improve deliverability so you can reach the inbox more often.

Other bounce processing services just tell you an email generated a 421 error (service unavailable), a 450 error (mailbox busy), or the dreaded 554 error (failed for unstated reasons), which is a technical way of saying “¯\_(ツ)_/¯.”  

Bounce Patrol reports not only what went wrong, but also classifies those messages according to what you need to do with them. This additional information speeds up your bounce processing, helps you assess list quality, and guides you in creating automated rules that mesh with your unique business scenarios.

Three action-oriented classifications

Take the guesswork out of handling bounces. With Bounce Patrol, you can use three pre-defined classifications including: 

  1. Action required: Immediately see what action is required. The classification includes permanently undeliverable (“hard bouncing” email addresses), as well as spam and blocklisting/blacklisting issues. 

    They could be misspelled domains (“gmial” instead of “Gmail”), email accounts that don't exist, or issues with authentication mechanisms like DKIM. Additionally, if the email generated a spam complaint or showed up on a blocklist it should be looked at ASAP.

    This classification shows you immediately which addresses you need to remove and quarantine on a suppression list so they stay out of the active sending file. 

    Doing this quickly is a top priority because internet service providers (ISPs) and other mailbox services are cracking down on senders who flood their servers with undeliverable addresses. Rapidly eliminating invalid addresses is crucial for maintaining a positive sender reputation, ensuring your messages reach inboxes instead of being filtered to spam or denied entry.
  2. Business decision: Here’s where Bounce Patrol’s innovative classification system really pays off. Because you aren’t wading through thousands of other bounce messages, you have the time and insight to make more informed decisions on those bouncing emails.

    Some messages land in a gray area, such as when a recipient’s mailbox is over quota. That’s considered a temporary problem, but it could also lead to permanent failure. 

    For example, you could remove all over-quota addresses. The problem is you don’t know whether the recipient is just letting emails pile up in an abandoned inbox or just got slammed with emails and will clear it out shortly. 

    That’s a business-related judgment call because you are dealing with valid email addresses that might be temporarily undeliverable. Removing valid addresses reduces your potential audience for your messages and could cut off important communications with your audience, not to mention the acquisition cost they represent. A good example of a business decision is to try an over-quota address 5-10 times (or maybe for 1 month), and if the error persists, then remove it from the email list.
  3. No action required:

This classification indicates that the delivery problem is temporary and suggests that the address is likely valid, but there is a current issue with the inbound mail server. The message is expected to be delivered once the problem clears up. 

This error code often occurs when the receiving server is overwhelmed with messages and temporarily reduces acceptance of inbound messages. This notification assures you that the issue will likely be resolved on its own, allowing you to proceed to the final classification.

Current, customizable, and collaborative bounce management

The list of email error codes that most bounce-processing services use is long (and often unique to the server). It offers no context and has not been updated in years. Bounce Patrol is built on data from millions of real-world records. Plus, Halon fine-tunes its bounce categories regularly so they are constantly updated and relevant for today’s email-sending environment.  
By using Bounce Patrol reports, you can create customized rule sets to process bounces based on scenarios unique to your business. This will ensure that your solution serves both list quality and business goals, instead of a one-size-fits-all treatment.

Your unique experiences can also be incorporated to make it even more useful. For example, if your company sends emails to inboxes in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region or to African nations, mailbox services in those areas might reject emails for reasons not included in standard error codes. 

Bounce Patrol can build codes to handle those errors and even incorporate your results into the core product. This collaboration can be part of a global effort, creating a better email experience for senders and recipients alike.

See Bounce Patrol in action

Contact us to learn more about Bounce Patrol, part of Halon Engage