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Why Aren't My Emails Being Delivered?

May 13, 2023

Here's a question we get all the time:

"I sent an email, but the person I sent it to never received it, it didn't go into their Junk folder, and it didn't bounce back to me. What happened?"

Email Finger

That's a good question! Let's talk about how email gets from the sender to the recipient. And we'll talk about it in terms of a courier delivering a letter between businesses.

Steve at ABC Corp writes a letter to Bob at XYZ Inc. Here's what happens:

And now, the process has been completed. Pretty simple, right? Along each step of the process, whoever has the letter in their possession is either responsible for delivering it, or responsible for going backwards in the process and indicating why they couldn't deliver it.

Delivering an email essentially works the same way. Steve composes an email and hits Send. The email goes to his mail server at ABC Corp, which either hands it off in the next step, or rejects it and bounces it back to Steve. The next step (probably XYZ Inc's mail server) is then sent the email. And now it's responsible for either delivering it to the next step, or bouncing it back to ABC Corp's mail server. And the next (and probably last) step is to deliver it to Bob (usually his Inbox, perhaps his Junk folder).

Each time responsibility is handed off from one to another, the server receiving that responsibility can respond in one of several ways, including:

And when a message gets "lost" as described in the question above, what's happening is that some server along the line that accepted responsibility for it decided that it was going to act as if it was delivering it, and then just... not.

So how do you solve this sort of problem? Normally, as a business who subscribes to a business-class email service, you'd contact your provider and ask them what happened. They can check the logs and trace the email, at least for as long as they handled the email before the next step accepted responsibility for it.

But... there are some mainstream mail providers that are not business providers (even if they market so-called "business" email services). You may know them as AOL, Yahoo, Google, Hotmail, and a variety of others; because they won't (can't?) provide any support in a situation like this.

First, let's define what "business" email is vs. "consumer" email:

Here are rules for choosing a business email:

If you ever have questions about, please reach out to us and we'll be happy to assist.

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