AWS Messaging & Targeting Blog

Bounces To Domains You Have Verified

Hello SES senders!  We have talked a number of times about how high bounce rates indicate a need to improve sending practices.  A high bounce rate can be a sign that someone is sending mail to lists that they have bought or rented, or that they aren’t maintaining their own lists, or a number of other problems.  As such, SES takes high bounce rates seriously, and requires all SES senders to keep their bounce rates low.
Over time though, we have noticed one type of bounce that, while still an indication that something is wrong, is usually not an indication that the user is doing anything that would cause a problem with ISPs. The type of bounce we’re referring to happens when a user sends some sort of notification to an invalid address at their own domain.
Sending notifications to an address at your own domain is certainly not a bad practice in itself. For example, you might use system notifications to alert you that there has been an error or something else that needs attention.  This works fine until one of the people receiving notifications leaves the company and their mail starts bouncing.  If significant sending to that address compared to your overall sending, your bounce rate may spike, despite your good intentions.
Another situation is people testing their system by sending mail to made-up addresses at their own domain.  This practice also causes bounce rates to skyrocket.
None of these bounces are something you want, of course.  In the first case, you should have set up bounce processing that would notice the new bounces and allow you to take action to change where the alerts go, or suppress them all together.  Otherwise, the notices aren’t serving their intended purpose anyway and are just wasting your resources. In the second case, you should be using the  SES mailbox simulator rather than sending to made-up addresses, because it is never good to intentionally send to addresses that don’t exist.
While it would be better if people didn’t bounce messages sent to their own domains, we recognize that this is a situation where SES can allow some flexibility.
Because of this, as of today, while bounces to domains you have  verified with us will still be sent to you as bounces and show up in your bounce metrics on the console and with GetSendStatistics, they will no longer “count” when we look at your bounce rate to determine if you have a bounce problem.  You should still fix the underlying issue, but we will not notify you of a problem if your bounce rate is only high because of messages you are sending to domains you have verified with us.
Note that we can’t let you off the hook for bounces to email addresses you have  individually verified though, because we need evidence that you in fact control the domain, and the domain owner won’t be upset with the volume of bounces hitting it.  If you do own the domain but have only used email address verification so far, consider verifying the entire domain.
As always, we encourage your feedback in the  SES forum. Thank you for using SES!