Bounce Unsubscription Policy

A mailing list can lose members in one of three ways:

  •     Removal by an administrator
  •     Interactive removal by the list member
  •     Automatic unsubscription due to failed delivery attempts, also known as bounces

In the first two cases, the process is quite straightforward; the third case requires a more in-depth explanation. This document will explore the process and logic behind emails that are unsubscribed due to bounces.

Email messages may bounce for a wide variety of reasons.  Blue State Digital's new process examines bounces based on a series of "known" bounce reasons. Some common "soft" bounce types include situations where the email provider is experiencing technical difficulties or the recipient's mailbox is full. These soft bounces are considered mostly temporary and do not affect the email's subscription status with clients.

There are times, however, when the recipient's email provider responds immediately to the delivery attempt by telling us that the recipient's mailbox is inactive. This could be for a variety of reasons like the user has cancelled their account or it's suspended. These types of classifications are final and clearly indicate that this and future messages cannot be delivered to this email address at any point now, or in the future.

There are rare occasions when a recipient's email provider might be experiencing internal issues that causes them to respond as if the mailbox is inactive, even when its not. These rare situations do not usually last longer than a couple of hours. However, for this reason we maintain bounce counts and classifications over periods of time. If we receive 2 or more responses from an email provider indicating that an email address is inactive in a span of 24 hours or greater, the address is unsubscribed.

Currently, when an email address is classified as inactive and subsequently unsubscribed from a client's list, it will not be unsubscribed from other client's lists. In the near future we will be changing this to a global unsubscribe across all clients, meaning that if an email address has been verified as inactive, it will be unsubscribed from all client's lists.

Another bounce classification that results in unsubscribes is know as a "Feedback Loop." This is a special classification that we receive with certain larger email providers (Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL, RoadRunner, Comcast). This type of classification is based on actions taken directly by the email recipient themselves. A feedback loop is generated when an email recipient at one of the mentioned email providers flags a message as "Spam". The email provider then takes the original message and sends us an individual spam report including the client that sent the original email and the recipient's email address.  As part of our agreement with these email providers to provide us with these feedback loops, we are required to immediately unsubscribe these emails.

This is the current automatic unsubscribe system in place. All unsubscribes happening via this service are tagged "UnsubscribeService" for the unsubscribe reason. Without this process in place, we risk hurting our deliverability rates as continually sending to inactive email addresses can lower deliverability. Ultimately the purpose of this process is to ensure client's have healthy email lists.

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