Maintaining a Directory of Leads Bouncing Emails

Included in this article




Bounce activities carry details for why the email was bounced, but it’s housed within the activity log entry, not in a field on the lead record, so it’s difficult to export that data. This article will show you how to extract that information to create a directory of leads bouncing emails and how to make the list automatically update. This will also create counters for bounces and successful re-deliveries after bounces happen.


Data you’ll get from Email Bounces

Bounce Categories

Email bounces come in different types depending on why the email was bounced; Hard Bounces or Soft Bounces.


Hard Bounces

Hard Bounces come in two types, Category 1 and Category 2.

  • Category 1 bounces are emails that have been marked as spam by the recipient mail server. Many email servers monitor blacklists or spam traps, so after de-listing with them, leads that have had a Category 1 bounce previously may be able to receive emails again.
  • Category 2 bounces occur due to an email address that is invalid or doesn’t exist.


Soft Bounces

Soft Bounces come in three different types, Categories 3, 4 or 9.

  • Category 3 bounces are usually temporary, caused by full mailboxes, timeouts, or throttling. Any email with this designation has been retried for up to 24 hours (36 for AOL).
  • Category 4 bounces are caused by technical problems, Transient Failures, Admin Failures, DNS Failures. Any email with this designation has been retried for up to 24 hours (36 for AOL).
  • Category 9 bounces are unknown, undetermined or gibberish details. Any email with this designation has been retried for up to 24 hours (36 for AOL).


Bounce Details

When an email is bounced, the recipient mail server includes details of why it was bounced. These are created by the admin of the recipient mail server and vary greatly, but most will give some explanation that can give valuable information. Email Bounce Codes


Building the Directory


1. Create 6 custom fields

You’ll need 6 custom fields, two DateTime fields, two Score fields, and two String fields

  • Name the DateTime fields “Bounce Date” and “Email Delivered After Bounce”.
  • Name the Score fields “Email Bounces” and “Deliveries After Bounces”
  • Name the String fields “Email Bounce Details” and “Email Bounce Category”

Directions for creating Custom Fields can be found here: Create a Custom Field in Marketo


2. Create a Program to house everything

Use a default program type and name it "Directory of Leads Bouncing Emails".

Info on creating programs can be found here: Create a Program


3. Create a Static List

This static list will be your actual directory that contains all of the leads that are currently bouncing emails. Name it "Active Bounce List".

Info on creating a static list can be found here: Create a Static List


4. Create two Smart Campaigns

These two Smart Campaigns are what will be used to add and remove leads from your active bounce list.

Info on creating Smart Campaigns can be found here: Create a New Smart Campaign



Smart Campaign One - Logging Email Bounces with Bounce Details

Your first Smart Campaign will be used to listen for any email bounces that occur. The campaign will populate the “Bounce Date”, “Email Bounce Category” and “Email Bounce Details” fields. It will then add one point to the “Email Bounces” score field which can be used to count how many bounces have occurred per lead. Lastly, the campaign will add the lead to the static list which will be an active directory of leads who are bouncing emails.


Campaign Smart List

  • Use the two triggers of “Email Bounces” and “Email Bounces Soft” in the Smart List. Set both triggers to “is any” so that they will fire whenever any email bounces for any reason.


Campaign Flow

  • The Flow of the campaign will have 5 flow steps. The flow will use a System Token and some Trigger Tokens, which can be used to pull details out of the action that activated the trigger. In this case, the Trigger Tokens will be pulling out the details on why the emails were bounced. That info is in the bounce message and is logged in the lead's activity log. Normally you'd have to comb through the activity log one at a time to find these details for each individual lead. This method, however, will pull the details out automatically for all leads.


Flow Step 1: Change Data Value

Attribute: “Bounce Date”

New Value: {{system.dateTime}}


Flow Step 2: Change Data Value.

Attribute: “Email Bounce Category”

New Value: {{trigger.category}}


Flow Step 3: Change Data Value

Attribute: “Email Bounce Details”

New Value: {{trigger.details}}


Flow Step 4: Change Score

Score Name: “Email Bounces”

Change: +1


Flow Step 5: Add to List

List Name: “Active Bounce List”


Smart Campaign Two - Remove Leads From the List After Successful Deliveries


Campaign Smart List

  • The Smart List of the campaign will need a trigger for “Email is Delivered” set to “is any” and also a filter of “Member of List” looking just for leads that belong to your Static List. This way, the campaign will only apply to leads who have had an email bounce but have then had an email successfully delivered afterwards.



Campaign Flow

  • The Flow of the campaign will have 3 flow steps to do the following; log when the email was delivered, add a point to the "Deliveries After Bounce" Score Field, and remove the lead from the "Active Bounce List".


Flow Step 1: Change Data Value

Attribute: “Email Delivered After Bounce”

New Value: {{system.dateTime}}


Flow Step 2: Change Score

Score Name: “Deliveries After Bounces”

Change: +1


Flow Step 3: Remove from List

List Name: Operational.Active Bounce List


5. Create Custom List View Showing Bounce Details

The custom fields you’ve created for email bounce information won’t show automatically in the view of your list. You can create a new view of the list to show just this information so that when it is exported it will give you only the email bounce information you need. Once the list has the necessary details, it can be exported with those columns included so that you can work with it. You can identify emerging trends and issues with your deliverability by looking for common themes among the bounce details.

Directions for creating Custom Views can be found here