Why Is My Email Bouncing?

Your email will be delivered successfully if it passes some basic tests. In reality, an email system is complex with hundreds of rules. In this article, I will explain the 5 basic tests an email must pass in order to be delivered to your inbox.

Email delivery path previewThe first test I would like to describe is whether the recipient actually exists. Is this email going to someone who has an email address here? If it is not, there is no need to continue with the rest of the tests. Reject the email, or return to sender.

Pre-Approved Senders Get a Free Pass

The second test is important because the answer to this question may help bypass all other tests. In other words, “advance to GO and collect $200.” If the sender IS PRE-APPROVED, the
Email Delivery Pathemail gets delivered even if the contents of the email appears to be junk or spam. The email will only get rejected if the recipient’s inbox is full.

If the sender is NOT pre-approved, the email continues the path to your inbox, but it has to be scrutinized further.

The BLACKLIST is the next test it must pass

If the sender is not in any of the many popular blacklist services, then it passes to the next test.

Anyone who engages in sending unsolicited email to a large number of recipients will get listed in the blacklist. When internet providers receive multiple complaints regarding a certain sender, their IP address gets recorded in a BLACKLIST.

Blacklisted email senders will get their email returned back to them. Otherwise it continues to the next test.

A SPAM Check Is The Next Test

If the email has passed the previous tests, then it gets asked another question, “Does it look like SPAM or JUNK?

To be clear, this filtering process is a series of hundreds of questions. It happens very quickly on each and every email that is destined to arrive at your inbox. I have grouped these tests into five different categories as you can see in the picture.

On with our explanation. SPAM gets detected by comparing the emails that arrive with a database of previously flagged emails. This test weighs the email against those emails already marked as spam and scores it.

If the score reaches a certain limit, the email is marked as spam.  It gets recorded as a sample and is then returned to the sender.

Finally, Good Email Gets Delivered

Unless the inbox is full, the email with the least strikes against it is finally put in your inbox. Some email is scored high enough to be spam, but gets delivered anyway. You may have seen some of these with the words [possible spam] prefixed in the subject line.

These iffy emails should be opened with caution, or not at all.  If you recognize the sender or the conversation, it should be safe to open.  But you can also safely ignore it or delete it if you don’t recognize either.

Additional Filtering Mechanisms

Here’s an aside. After all these trials I wonder how any mail gets through to my inbox. And it’s not over yet.

Your inbox may have additional tools to filter email. Whenever I receive an email, my AVG checks for viruses and other junk. Then, my Microsoft Outlook looks into it further and determines if the email is junk or not based on its own biases.

By the time I actually get my email it should be completely sanitized right? Nah.  Now it’s my turn to inspect any suspect email that might have bypassed all other tests and spam traps.

BUT – Why Is Still Not Arriving?

You believe every “i” has been dotted and every “t” has been crossed. And your email is still getting bounced or returned to sender.

Here’s what to do:

First, determine the cause. The sender will get a message that explains why it was rejected. The most probable causes are: (see picture above) the recipient does not exist; the sender’s IP address is blacklisted; the email looks like spam; or the inbox is full.

Next, take action.

If the recipient does not exist

The solution may be as simple as a misspelling. Verify the email address, make any corrections as necessary and resend.

Sometimes you may have the wrong address if you replied to an email whose owner accidentally mistyped their return address. This is rare but it does happen.

If the person is in your contacts you might get an automatic fill in of their email address – that might be misspelled.  Correct your address book, and try again.

If the sender’s IP address is blacklisted:

The easiest way to fix this is to get another IP address.  Do this by unplugging your modem for more than 30 seconds.  The longer you leave it unplugged the better chance you’ll get a “different” IP address. I recommend finding out your IP address before and after the modem reset. That way, you’ll have a reference and way to compare if you actually got a different one.  Go to ipchicken.com and write down the IP address that appears on your browser.

If you have a cable modem that services you with telephone service, you will have to call your internet/phone provider to remotely reset your IP address.  Otherwise, the unplugging technique works with any service or modem.

If you have tried this, had your IP address changed and you are still getting blacklisted, then your computer may be infected with a SPAM bot. If you have a “permanent” IP address assigned by your provider, there is a higher possibility that you are infected with a SPAM bot. Find a reputable tech support professional to help you determine if you are infected and clean your computer.

If your email looks like spam

Change the tone of your email.  If it’s a personal message make sure you are not using too many trigger words like “sale,” “savings,” “cheap,” “Rolex watches” etc.  If you do, the email will get a higher score that might push it over the threshold and returned for being spam.

If you are doing business via email, make sure you are following the “CAN SPAM Act” rules and format your email in such away that it meets all the requirements. You can find that information here: https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business.

If the recipient’s email box is full

As a sender, there is little you can do about this.  Your best bet is to get in contact with your friend (the recipient) via other means – a phone call or text message, etc.

If you are the owner of the inbox and it’s full.  Then, delete some unnecessary emails to make room for new ones.  If you need to keep all the email in your inbox, you can move them to your computer.

Last piece of advice

The approved senders list is the best way to bypass all but the inbox full problem. All email recipients on the Ask Juan Networks servers can send a request to add someone to this list by sending an email with the “sender’s email address” to support@askjuan.net. Warning, sending any SPAM to this email address WILL be banned from future communications (BLACKLISTED).

A word of caution: the approved senders list in your personal email system in your computer is not the same as the global approved senders list. Remember, your email program will examine email arriving AFTER the server has filtered the messages.

Please comment below:

I realize this is a big topic. I may have prompted more questions than this article answers. So, please feel free to ask below.  It is best if we discuss this publicly (here) so many will benefit.

If you have suggestions or testimonials on how this has helped you, please share. I really value your feedback.

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Leave a comment or question

  1. I have an email in the BLOCKREPORT that I need, but there is no RESEND option. What should I do?
    It is date: Nov-03-15 13:54:02
    no message body received

    1. If there is no link to request an email to be resent, you must contact the original sender and request it.

      This happens when the time time to request has lapsed or the email was not kept in the queue.

  2. What to do when an email is returned?( I had typed the address correctly.) I tried to read the returned email so that I could reuse it, but received the message, “Browser Is preventing pop-ups.” I couldn’t find any way to allow pop ups. this was maddening and time-wasting..

  3. Juan – I believe you said that if someone lets me know by phone or text or by some other method that they tried to send me an email and it came back to them – that all I need to do is to send them a new email and that this will automatically get them back into the approved senders list – after which they can resend the email. I don’t think this was made clear in your explanation of the problem and how to fix it.

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