What is Bounce Management?

CiviCRMWhen sending emails, CiviCRM has the ability to register a bounced email, and put that email address on hold. This is an important measure when protecting your mail server reputation. It also allows you to investigate and hopefully update email addresses that are no longer in use. This article describes how to set up bounce management.


Email account

Although not required, it is a good practice to create a dedicated email account, that will be used for sending, and then potentially receiving, bounce messages. I also recommend using a discrete domain for mailing use (e.g. email.yourschool.org). By using a separate domain, you are potentially protecting your primary domain, in case you are ever black-listed.

Once you've created an email account, you will need the following information:

  • Username: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Password: The password that you've set for this account.
  • Incoming server address: yourschool.org
  • Outgoing server address: yourschool.org
  • SMTP Port: 465

Note that I've used my web hosting email service for this email account, but there might be some advantages in using Google mail services, with the following settings:

  • Username: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Password: The password that you've set for this account.
  • Incoming server address: smtp.gmail.com
  • Outgoing server address: smtp.gmail.com
  • SMTP Port: 465

 

Outbound email configuration

I recommend using SMTP for your mail service.

  1. Go to Administer > System Settings > Outbound Email (SMTP/Sendmail).
  2. In the General section, select Yes to enabling mailing.
  3. For Select Mailer, choose SMTP.
  4. Enter the following SMTP Configuration settings, using the information above.
    1. SMTP Server: ssl://yourschool.org (or ssl://smtp.gmail.com)
    2. SMTP Port: 465
    3. Authentication: Yes.
    4. SMTP UsernameThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
    5. SMTP Password: xxxxx
  5. Click Save & Send Test Email.

All being well you should receive an email from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., with the message 'SMTP settings are correct'. Note that if you are using Google G Suite, you will need to Allow less secure apps.

 

Variable Envelop Return Path (VERP)

The preferred CiviCRM setup for VERP is called subaddressing. Here is an example:

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

To test whether your mail server supports subaddressing, send a test email to an address similar to the example above to see if it arrives at the inbox for This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Return email traffic

This article deals with bounce management, but note that there are three important processes triggered by return emails.

  1. Bounce management of invalid email addresses.
  2. Email based unsubscribes, opt-outs and resubscribes.
  3. Emails that can be logged as Activity records associated with contacts, using the From, To and CC lines.

To configure CiviMail with your bounce processing account do the following:

  1. Go to Administer > CiviMail > Mail Accounts
  2. Click the Edit link for the default account.
  3. Edit the following fields:
    1. Name: default
    2. Server: yourschool.org (or smtp.gmail.com if using Google)
    3. Username: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
    4. Password: xxxxxx
    5. Localpart: noreply+
    6. Email Domain: email.yourschool.org
    7. Protocol: IMAP
    8. Use SSL?: Yes
    9. Used for: Bounce processing
  4. Click the Save & Test button.

All being well you should see a CiviCRM message saying Connection succeeded. Note that this account will also be used as the envelope email when sending mass mailings.

 

Fetch Bounces

Now you need to configure the Fetch Bounces job.

  1. Go to Administer > System Settings > Scheduled Jobs.
  2. For the Fetch Bounces job, click More > Execute Now.
  3. Click the Execute button.
  4. Click View Job Log, to confirm that the task is working.
  5. Enable the job and set a frequency of one hour.

Remember that you must configure a Cron job, in order to automate the execution of scheduled jobs.

 

Test run

At this stage I recommend creating a test group of contacts, and testing your mailing function.

  1. Go to Contacts > Manage Groups.
    1. Create a new Group called Bounce test.
    2. Add a couple of contacts, one of which has an invalid email address (e.g. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).
  2. Go to Mailings > New Mailing.
    1. Create a mailing using the Bounce test group.
    2. Send the mailing.
  3. Go to Administer > System Settings > Scheduled Jobs.
    1. For the Fetch Bounces job, click More > Execute Now.
    2. Click the Execute button.

All being well, your contact's invalid email address should now be on hold.

 

Searching and Reporting

Now that you have bounce management up and running, you may find that some of your email address are invalid. When you look at a contacts record, in the email section, you will see that the email address is 'On hold'. You can also search for these invalid email addresses.

  1. Go to Search > Advanced Search.
  2. In the Basic Criteria section, select the Email On Hold check box.
  3. Click Search.

You can even search for mailings that have bounced.

  1. Go to Mailings > Mailing Reports.
  2. Click Mail Bounces.
  3. On the Filters tab, you can filter for Bounce Type, including:
    1. AOL: AOL Terms of Service complaint
    2. Away: Recipient is on vacation
    3. DNS: Unable to resolve recipient domain
    4. Host: Unable to deliver to destination mail server
    5. Inactive: User account is no longer active
    6. Invalid: Email address is not valid
    7. Loop: Mail routing error
    8. Quota: User inbox is full
    9. Relay: Unable to reach destination mail server
    10. Spam: Message caught by a content filter
    11. Syntax: Error in SMTP transaction

You can also go to Mailings > Mailing Reports > Mailing Summary for a report that includes bounce information.

 

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