troubleshooting BC email marketing campaigns

Rob Miles - Thursday, December 09, 2010

There are various issues you may encounter when using the email marketing features of Business Catalyst. This article from BC aims to explain some of these issues and their causes.

Why are my emails bouncing?

Bounces can be caused by numerous issues. The first thing to look at is the number being written in the bounce report.

550 series errors are caused by non-existent or incorrectly spelled emails. If you have imported a large list it's very likely some of your emails are invalid and as such you will find this number appearing in bounce reports. It is important you unsubscribe these individuals as servers view this as an attempt to "phish" for valid email addresses. If you have a large number of these bounces you may find that your overall marketing suffers as the server starts refusing your emails!

4xx series errors often are temporary deferments caused by excessive server load on the recipient side. Our mail server will most likely send out the email but this report will not be updated upon completion. The bounce report is written once and includes the first wave of tries from our marketing servers.

Though such heavy bounce rates are not a regular occurrence, there are a few steps you can take to help us and yourself with email deliverability. The first thing you can do is evaluate the campaigns you send and make sure that:

  • There are no broken images
  • Your messages maintain a ratio of 80:20 images:text and no higher. Full image emails are often content filtered as spam immediately
  • You monitor your bounce lists for 550 5.1.1 errors and remove these non-existent users from your email lists
  • Have your customers white list your email address and list you as trusted senders in their email clients

My customers say they aren't receiving my emails!

There are numerous reasons for this, most of which have to do with the first question! However, there is also a chance that the mail application of the client, whether it be a web based system or local client application, is sending your mailing to the spam filter. Along with the suggestions above, you should always include language on the signup page and on emails that indicates to your client that they should whitelist your server and emails to achieve better marketing performance.

Why is nobody opening my emails?

They most likely are, but they are probably not registering. There are a few reasons for this. First of all, be sure you have selected to send an HTML version of your email.

In order for the system to register an opening, the email client needs to download the images from the email or the user needs to click on a link and go to your website. The tracking code is attached to the images. If your newsletter does not have an image in it, the system will insert 1px x 1px image into it for the recording purposes. That image download is then recorded by the system. The image download is what causes the reports to reflect that the email campaign message was opened. The problem is that the email clients don't do this by default to prevent spammers form identifying the legitimate email addresses. In Outlook, Gmail, Thunderbird, Mail and most other clients, you often have to specifically click on "Download Images" (or something along those lines) link. So, for all those customers that end up viewing the newsletter without downloading the image, the system will have no way of recording the opening.

Finally, some clients just don't like HTML emails and will default to the plain text version of the mailing. For example, many older Blackberry models do not display HTML unless written in a very strict fashion or at all!

Why is my email going to the spam folder?

This ties into the first two issues discussed. Inbox placement is a tricky issue and is due to a multitude of factors. Follow best practices and engage your customers with calls to action for whitelisting and you will find success.

Why is my campaign not going out or seems delayed?

Typically you will find that campaigns are sent out within 15 minutes of the scheduled time. However, campaigns can take up to 24 hours to finish fully broadcasting. Keep in mind that reporting is only available once the broadcast is "finished" but this does not necessarily mean sending hasn't begun.

How can I stop a campaign from going out?

If you go into your campaign and choose "Save Draft" then it will revert to a draft state and no longer be sent at its scheduled time. As long as you do this before the time is reached this should work for you.