Salsa provides your organization with a variety of automated list-cleaning procedures to maintain optimal delivery standards--ensuring that your emails get delivered to your supporters' inboxes rather than their spam folders. And the best part is, most of this takes place behind the scenes, where you'll never have to deal with it directly!
But all the same, you may wonder what's going on under the hood, so in this article we'll discuss what some of the numbers on your supporters' records mean, and how they affect deliverability.
At the most fundamental level, the field on the Supporter table called Receive Email governs whether Salsa will actually attempt to send email to that particular supporter. Supporters must have a positive, valid Receive Email value or the system will not even attempt to send them email.
Imported supporters, by default, have Receive Email status set to 1 - Imported or unknown (subscribed). They will receive emails. Supporters who sign up through a web form, or complete the optional double opt-in process will receive an even higher status, guaranteeing that Salsa will send them emails.
There are many Receive Email statuses below these initial values--none of them will be sent email. The most common reason will be people who unsubscribe: supporters who click on an unsubscribe link or use one of your unsubscribe pages will get a Receive Email value of -3.
Bounce and spam processing operations that indicate supporters should not receive e-mail result in switching the Receive Email field to one of a variety of negative values, each of which correspond to various reasons for the status. The supporter record continues to exist in your database, but will no longer receive e-mail of any sort from you.
The Receive Email field can be queried and reported on like any other on the Supporter table; see here for a list of all Receive Email values.
Salsa deactivates all undeliverable supporters (those supporters who have confirmed deactivated email accounts - when their mail server says to Salsa, "Hey, this user no longer exists or does not have a valid email address") by switching their Receive Email field to a value of -24 (5.1.1 User Unknown). This is considered the hardest of hard bounces and this is the only type of hard bounce that Salsa unsubscribes automatically.
Note: hard bounces are universal--that is, an email won't hard bounce for your organization but work for something else. Hard bounces usually only occur in specific circumstances (user's account deactivated, user's account full/exceeds quota, etc) that affect a user's ability to receive email from any source. If Salsa were to continue attempting to email people after their email server reports 5.1.1 User Unknown hard bounces, both Salsa and your organization would be labeled as spammers and be blacklisted.
In some cases, you may find a supporter record marked as receiving a Hard Bounce, yet see that you never even sent them an email blast. How can that occur? Well, because Hard Bounces are universal (see above), this usually indicates that the email address, for that supporter record, received a Hard Bounce in another organization hosted by Salsa. When a Hard Bounce occurs, for an email address, then Salsa will mark that email address as Hard Bounced across ALL organizations because we do NOT want to keep trying to send email to that address. Continuing to send email, from any organization, to an address that has Hard Bounced can lower Salsa's deliverability scoring, which has a negative impact on all organizations. We want to always avoid that (for everyone's benefit).
How Salsa handles "This is Spam" buttons
As you may know from using personal mail on a service such as Gmail or Yahoo, most providers offer a button marked "this is Spam" allowing users to identify emails as unwanted Spam. Salsa automatically unsubscribes any supporters who mark your email as spam--Salsa receives notification of this happening through our relationships with postmasters at major mail providers and a variety of independent spam-control services. These unsubscribes are specific to an organization - that is, unlike hard bounces, they only unsubscribe the user from the list of the organization whose message triggered the spam complaint - and encompass any receive email flags between -40 and -49.
A "soft bounce" is a server response such as a vacation or Out of Office response, or a notification that the mail server is busy. For all soft bounces, Salsa keeps count using the soft_bounce_count field in the supporter record; currently, we don't currently do anything with that data automatically - none of these records are set not to receive further e-mails. However, these bounce counter fields are available as queryable fields; as a user organization, if you wish to implement a business rule such as "any subscriber with more than two hard bounces is inactive," you can manually remove these users with the query tool, or create a Smart Group to bring these users to your attention.
Okay, so I've got these supporters who aren't receiving email--can I just reset all their Receive Email statuses and start mailing them again?
NO! NO NO NO! Ahem. Please don't do this. This is not only a violation of your Salsa Terms of Service, and not only is it terrible etiquette that will cost you goodwill, but doing so can result in your domain and organization being actively blacklisted by mail providers. In extreme cases, you may find yourself unable to email your own staff members because your email server will refuse to carry any traffic from your organization. (We've seen it happen.)
The only situation in which it is acceptable to reset a supporter's Receive Email status is if they individually contact you and ask why they are not receiving emails--they may have accidentally unsubscribed, or gone on a long vacation resulting in their email account being full and sending hard bounces. In this instance, it's okay to reset the individual supporter's record. Otherwise, please respect your supporters' email preferences. It's good for them, good for you, good for Salsa, and good for the universe.