How to deal with SMTP errors

Written on 29 May, 2013 by Karen Lim-Sam
Categories Email MarketingTags email

SMTP stands for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol. It's a set of communication guidelines that allow software to transmit email over the Internet.

Whether it’s a cryptic email from Google or the sudden realisation that your SMTP service has been listed in the Spam and Open-Relay Blocking System (SORBS), navigating email errors can be a perplexing business.

Unfortunately, if you’re less than tech-savvy when it comes to the ups and downs of email, it can seriously impact business efficiency and put customer relationships to the test. That’s why it pays to have a contingency plan to tackle SMTP email errors and aim to put them to rest.

Here’s how to deal with some of the most common types of error messages:

550 error codes

This pesky type of email error often occurs when you send an email that then bounces back. It usually means that the receiver’s system could not deliver the email to your user and that the mailbox corresponds to an inaccurate or nonexistent address.

Top Tip: If you’re constantly fielding 550 error codes, it’s a sign that you should be confirming email addresses before creating new mailing lists. If you make an effort to double-check the authenticity of the email addresses you receive, you’ll increase the quality of your database and receive less of these messages.

554 error codes

The ubiquitous 554 error code usually takes the form of a bounce-back message from the server and includes the message you first attempted to deliver. In most cases, it corresponds with a generic delivery failure that can’t be identified by another error message.

Top tip: In many cases, 554 error messages can mean that virus-infected files are attached to your email or that your message triggered a phish filter. Try changing the content of the message, removing hyperlinks before resending the email or checking your message for any hidden or embedded images.

Email address detected as SPAM

If your email address has been detected as spam and listed in SORBS, it might mean that a shared hosting user is engaging in spam abuse – a practice with grim implications for your business.

Top Tip: Dealing with SORBS can be notoriously difficult. Make sure you contact the industry body as soon as you suspect you might be blacklisted and endeavour to be polite and patient through the process of reinstating your domain.

Although tackling email errors can be challenging, making small improvements to your processes can see you navigate your inbox with ease.

What are your most persistent email errors and how do you fix them?