Troubleshooting email marketing campaigns

Updated on 20-October-2016 at 10:16 AM

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In this article, you'll learn about issues that you may encounter when using the email marketing functionality provided by this system. Use the strategies described below to resolve unexpected behaviors and overcome difficulties with sending newsletters.

Warning: at the moment Liquid code or module_data do not work in email campaigns, take a look at the BC.Next and email campaigns technote for more details.

Understanding why email addresses bounce

Bounces can be caused by numerous issues. The first thing to look at is the error number displayed in the bounce report. To see the statistics for an email campaign, open the respective email campaign and look at the Reports tab, alternatively you may navigate to Reports -> E-Mail Campaigns -> Campaigns (tab) and choose your desired campaign from the drop-down. One of the best resources explaining the bounce messages can be found on mxtoolbox's site:

Probably most common errors are the 550 series errors that are caused by non-existant or incorrectly spelled e-mails. If you have imported a large list its very likely some of your e-mails 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 e-mail addresses. If you have a large number of these bounces you may find that your overall marketing suffers as the server starts refusing your e-mails! 4xx series errors often are temporary deferrments caused by excessive server load on the recipient side. There are a few easy steps you can take to ensure a higher rate of successful newsletter deliveries. Evaluate each campaign you send out and ensure:

  • There are no broken images
  • Language that "makes excuses" for the communication is not present (ie "We are sending you this because you signed up for *blank*")
  • Your messages maintain a ratio of 80:20 images:text and no higher; full image e-mails are often content filtered as spam immediately
  • You've analyzed the bounce list reports to identify 550 5.1.1 errors and removed any non-existent addresses from recipient lists
  • Encourage subscribers to white list this system's hosting servers and add your site's From address as a contact in their e-mail clients

When a subscriber's email address bounces, it often occurs because messages sent to a recipient were returned undeliverable because the user does not exist or the mail inbox is unavailable. You can get the list of these users from the "Email addresses that bounced" report, "Hard Bounces" tab.

Subscribers indicate they haven't received email messages or newsletters

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 e-mails that indicates to your client that they should whitelist your e-mails to achieve better marketing performance.

Understanding why the number of opened emails for a campaign is very low

If you run the campaign reports after sending an email campaign and see that the number of email messages opened is much lower than expected (or zero), it doesn't necessarily mean subscribers have not opened the message. It may be that the system is not registering the open activity, due to the way the campaign is configured. There are several reasons this could occur. First, verify that you have selected the HTML email format in the Campaign Details interface, as shown below.

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 e-mails and will default to the plain text version of the mailing. For example, older Blackberry devices do not display HTML unless the code is written in a very strict standard (or in some cases, will only open text messages).

Preventing email campaign messages from routing to the subscribers 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 to add your email address to their contact list and their white list to improve a campaign's success.

Issues with campaigns not sending (or situations when sending is 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 publication process has finished... but although the report is not available yet, that does not indicate that the system hasn't begun sending the messages.

Stopping a scheduled campaign from publishing

Edit your campaign and choose "Save Draft" to revert the status to a draft state. This ensures that the newsletter will no longer be sent at its scheduled time. If you set Save Draft before the time the email campaign was scheduled to publish, this strategy will prevent the message from sending.

Sending a campaign immediately

  • For trial sites we recommend sending email campaigns to no more than 10 recipients
  • If an "In progress" campaign is deleted, the messages will still be delivered. Deleting an in progress campaign and re-creating it will cause the emails to be sent twice.

When you create the campaign, set a date that is earlier to today's date and time (sometime in the past) and click Save and Send to send the messages immediately.