Email is one of the most commonly used forms of communication on the internet. Sometimes we need to know how to troubleshoot email issues, because email can also be frustrating when your campaign does not work properly. In this blog post, I will guide you through the basics of how to troubleshoot email issues. I’ll provide information on how to get started, and what you should check. So… Let’s get started!
How to Troubleshoot Email Issues: Getting the Information
If you are having trouble with email, the first step is to gather information, before figuring out how to troubleshoot email issues. You will need the following:
- The from email address
- The to email address(es)
- The relaying script or application
- The receiving email application(s)
- Error codes and messages
Once you have this basic information, you can get a better understanding of how to troubleshoot email issues.
One of the first things you should do when troubleshooting email issues is to check for spam. There are a few things you can check:
Domain reputation is determined by how many spam complaints a domain has received. You can check a domain’s reputation by using a tool like MXToolbox. The tool will show you the number of spam complaints, as well as how long the domain has been spamming.
You can use a tool like Sender Score to check the IP reputation. The tool will show your reputation score (0 – 100), as well as some opportunities to leverage.
You can use a tool like Blacklistchecker to check if your domain or IP is being blacklisted by a Real-time Blackhole List (RBL).
Email content (spam words)
A simple tool to use is MailTester, which will return a report of issues that need to be resolved. You can of course use a plain spam keyword trigger checker as well, such as MailMeteor. This helps you to avoid using spam related words in your email copy.
If you find that your domain or IP is blacklisted, you will need to take steps to remove it from the blacklist. You can do this by contacting the blacklist provider and following their instructions.
Checking the Email Address
Sometimes a recipient email has overly stringent filters, or a greylisting setting with a too long wait time. In this case you may want to contact the subscriber (outside of your email campaign), and suggest whitelisting, otherwise you’ll need to remove their email address (so you stop getting bounces from that email address).
Typically there are three types of spam filters, which are: Built in filters at ISPs, Desktop spam filters, and third party cloud / gateway filters.
ISP spam filters
If you are having trouble with email deliverability to Gmail, Yahoo, or Outlook/Hotmail, it is likely that your messages are being caught in the ISP’s spam filter. In order to fix this issue, you will need to follow their specific instructions.
Some examples of the larger, free email providers:
- Gmail: Postmaster Tools | Bulk Senders Guidelines
- Yahoo: Bulk Email Senders Guide | Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) Overview
- Outlook.com and Hotmail.com: Junk Email Filter Settings in Outlook.com
Desktop spam filters
If you are having trouble with email deliverability to a specific person, it is likely that their desktop spam filter is catching your messages. In order to fix this issue, you will need to contact the person and ask them to whitelist your email address (this is an often overlooked option when sorting out how to troubleshoot email issues).
Third party cloud / gateway filters
If you are having trouble with email deliverability to a specific domain (such as example.com), it is likely that their third-party spam filter is catching your messages. In order to fix this issue, you will need to contact the domain owner and ask them to whitelist your email address.
Otherwise, you’ll need to follow their specific delisting instructions (often included in the bounce message).
Checking the Server
The next step is to check the (sending) server. When sorting out how to troubleshoot email issues this option may not be available – So contact your support department. There are a few things you can check:
You can use a tool like MXToolbox to check the DNS records for your domain (there’s an option to see your MX records. The tool will show you whether or not the DNS records are valid, as well as any errors that need to be fixed.
Be sure that your SPF record authorizes sending your email campaign via the correct server. Ensure that the DKIM, DMARC, etc. DNS records are all properly in place (and valid).
You can check the error logs for your email application to see if there are any issues that need to be fixed. Sometimes a script can cause an error, or a server process can hang. If using a third party relayer, you might not have full access to all logs, but their support will.
You can check the mail queue for your email application to see if there are any messages that are stuck. If your email campaign messages are piling up, it might indicate an issue at recipient networks, or an issue with your email solution.
You can check the email policies for your email application to see if there are any restrictions that need to be lifted. Some providers require you to meet policy requirements, and then to request that your email be enanabled
Some systems have a suppression list for addresses that have had issues. If an email is on this list, then remove it from your mailing list.
You can check the configuration for your email application to see if there are any changes that need to be made. I’m referring to the application that sends your email, so when figuring out how to troubleshoot email issues, keep this in mind.
Checking the Network
Finally, you will need to check the network. There are a few things you can check:
You can check the firewall to see if there are any restrictions that need to be lifted.
You can check the router to see if there are any changes that need to be made.
You can check the connection to see if there are any issues that need to be fixed. I have actually seen an issue where the senders own network firewall was accidentally blocking connections (although I doubt this would be a common issue).
Email is an important communications tool, but it can occasionally be difficult to get messages through to some recipients. In this blog post, I’ve outlined a few troubleshooting steps that you can take in order to increase your chances of having your email delivered successfully, and help find issues when they crop up. I’d also suggest checking any outgoing spam filters, as well as checking the email policies, configuration, and network connection. With a little effort, you should be able to get your messages through to their intended recipients.
You can learn much more about how to troubleshoot email issues, by visiting our Small Business Email Marketing posts. As well as find out further about Email Troubleshooting.