AWS Messaging & Targeting Blog

What if you get an SES probation notice for bounces?

So you’re sending lots of email; everything is looking great.  At least, until you get a probation notice in your inbox.  How could this be?  Why did it happen?  What are your next steps?

First of all, take a deep breath.  There is generally a grace period for addressing issues you might be having with your sending.  Start by taking a look at the following things:

  • Have you been monitoring your bounces until now?  Have you been removing the bounced addresses from your send list?
  • Have you changed your email campaigns recently to include a bunch of new recipients or have you bought a list?
  • Did you decide to send to a bunch of old customers you haven’t seen in a while (1-2 years)?

Let’s start with the first bullet: monitoring your bounces.  These can either come back in email format to the Return-Path of the original message you send or via our Feedback Notification system.  As you receive these bounces, you should compare them against usage data you have, and then remove the bounced addresses from your email list.  For example, the ISPs may sometimes return a “mailbox does not exist” status code in a bounce and mean something else.  It’s rare (most of the time the mailbox is really gone), but you will have to ensure that the email address really doesn’t exist.  You can do this by closely monitoring the response (if any) to the email address.  If it continues to bounce with the same error, you can safely assume it’s not valid.  You might also consider sending a re-opt-in link to this recipient and see if they engage at all.  If not, you should remove them from your lists.

Furthermore, mailboxes that disappear may eventually turn into a spamtrap.

The second and third bullet points deal with changes in behavior.  If you changed something, roll it back to the previous behavior to give yourself some time to analyze what’s going on.  SES doesn’t currently have a “list cleaning” service, so you are going to have to severely limit any email addresses you aren’t confident in.

If you are able to get your bounces under control, the probation will heal naturally, and you can go on with your sending.

If you are unable to get your bounces under control, you might be shut down.  We encourage all our customers to read the best practices document and pay attention to their feedback as it happens.  If you are shut down, please follow the instructions in the email if you choose to appeal the suspension.