CATCHALL EMAILS AND ITS IMPACT ON EMAIL DELIVERABILITY
The catchall is a feature provided by hosting companies. As the name suggests, it works by catching the messages that have been sent to recipients who don’t show up in the domain. These messages are then forwarded to a standard email that is indeed registered by the system administrator.
Here's a clear example:
There's an IT company which provides support to its affiliate customers and this company has a specific domain through which the clients can reach technical support. Every time a customer messages an employee the mail is automatically forwarded to the destination provider.
If a customer were to send an email to a non-existent address, he would get a notification saying something went wrong the sender's provider would report that the email address has not been found.
Results from the same case scenario would differ if the company's domain had the catch-all function activated. Instead of getting a failure notification, a customer's message would be sent either way, even if the email address is incorrect.
This would happen because the provider would get the message and forward it to an actual registered address in the system. This might work as an advantage at times, but it poses a security threat as well as it might overwhelm the domain with incoming emails.
When catch-all has been set, emails sent to any domain-related addresses won't be returned. This applies to messages that are sent to ''nonexistent'' or ''invalid'' accounts as well they will still be delivered to the configured catch-all account.
Every employee who's been granted access to the catch-all email account can validate it and sort out typos made by the senders. They'll be able to redirect the message to the correct email address.
With the catch-all feature, this email would not be returned to the sender. Instead, the message would be delivered to the catch-all mailbox.
Any user with access to the catch-all account would be able to validate the email and forward it to [email protected]
Another benefit of the catch-all feature is that it helps manage spam emails since it sorts out valid from invalid email addresses inside a domain through controlling delivered and returned messages.
SETTING UP A DEFAULT CATCH-ALL EMAIL ADDRESS
Access the cPanel. On the Email tab, select the ''Default'' email address. Configure the default address and select ''Change''
1. DOMAIN & DEFAULT EMAIL ADDRESS
The first step is to select the domain which the default email address will be linked to. This is the account all non-routed emails will fall to. After the domain part has been arranged, you need to choose an action. That is, what will happen to messages that have been sent to an invalid email Address.
There are different actions available:
- Discard message: This will get rid of the email while the SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) will process an error message.
- Return message: This will automatically return the email to the sender, it will include an error message. You can customize the content of the error message in ''Failure Message'' (seen by the sender).
- Forward message: You'll have to enter the email address you want the message to be forwarded to.
2. ADVANCED OPTIONS
- Meu Dominio Com: If selected, this option will make sure messages sent to non-existent recipients are redirected to the main account that's shown on the control panel.
- Redirect to a program: You'll have to insert a program path inside the text box so the messages can follow it and be delivered.
- Discard (not recommended): When this option has been selected, all incoming messages will be deleted without notifying the sender about the delivery failure.
3. DISPLAYED DELIVERY SUCCESS
The sender will receive a message letting them know that the delivery of the email has been successful.
THE DANGERS OF CATCH-ALL
Catch-all may seem an easy-to-grasp feature at first. There's an undeniable advantage of not missing any messages your customers send. But before activating this tool, you might want to keep in mind some important aspects that could make you think twice before going all-in with it.
1.FULL DISKS ALL THE TIME
Catch-all is without a doubt a powerful resource, and this is one of the reasons it takes up so much space and can be laid-back when it comes to information security.
Picture a sender who mails a huge amount of messages to a destination with your domain, these are later on forwarded to a standard account via catch-all. Without the appropriate measures, this could fill up your disk in no time. This is one of the main issues, especially if you manage limited disk space.
Whenever catch-all is active on your domain, it's necessary to strengthen the control over your email service provider. If not done properly, this can turn your domain into a very big pile of random messages, and most likely lots of them will be spam.
Dealing with so many unwanted emails can easily get out of control. So before you reach that point, it's better to approach catch-all well prepared. Picture your private email provider as a big container. If it gets filled up by the minute the maintenance and cleaning of it all will take not only great effort but a lot of time. However, the right up keeping will prevent it from ever flooding and affecting departments that depend on it.
Bulk spam consists of mass-sent emails, usually with commercial content that may include unwanted advertisement, and in more serious cases, malicious links. These kinds of security-threatening emails violate personal data and could compromise your site.
When it comes to catch-all, this scenario can turn into a bigger concern it can facilitate the spread of malicious links. When the catch-all feature is activated, messages sent in bulk towards your domain can overload your server and compromise your system as a whole.
This translates into a security risk for your company. Awareness and caution are needed, all it takes to spread the issue is an employee opening a malicious email believing it to be legitimate. This will come to infect your entire network.
ENABLING CATCH-ALL ON YOUR HOSTING SERVICE
In general, the catch-all option is available on most hosting plans. However, this feature is disabled by default. If you wish to activate catch-all be sure to stay alert of all incoming messages.
To activate the feature in your email domain, go to the menu of your website's administrator panel and then access the email option. Once you're there, look for the default email option (the names of the settings may vary according to the version that's been installed).
In sites working with cPanel, you must register the mail email address. This will be the one responsible for receiving all the messages that have been forwarded.
If you haven't been able to find the option in the administration panel, contact the customer support centre responsible for your page's hosting services. Before you go and activate the feature, remember: When catch-all is enabled, all incoming messages that have the incorrect recipient but still are directed to your domain, will be forwarded to the standard email registered on your platform. Make sure you take the necessary precautions to prevent your inbox from filling up with unwanted emails.
It's important to bear in mind that catch-all is not allowed in some hosting companies because of how easily it can burden the system with spam. HostGator is one of the companies that doesn't allow the catch-all feature, and also one of the biggest host platforms in the market.
ALIASES: VIABLE ALTERNATIVES TO THE CATCH-ALL FEATURE
A commonly used alternative for the catch-all feature is ‘aliases’. These are alternative addresses, and many companies opt for them as a practical solution. This process is the forwarding of emails from a specific account to a primary one. Your alias will be your alternative email account and it's not necessary to create a physical account for this to work.
An alternative email account is commonly known as ''alias'' or ''nickname'', they lead to one or more primary email addresses. Aliases are widely used to create groups of emails. For example, the email [email protected] works as an alias, and it redirects messages to [email protected] which in this case is the account responsible for the commercial department.
Catch-all and aliases are quite different. Aliases are always linked to a specific account, just as shown in the example above. An alias is fundamentally the process of email forwarding. Unlike the catch-all, the messages are directed to a default email address.
Another difference between these two methods is that alias accounts are often offered by host services providers, and most without additional payments necessary. The service will depend on the chosen plan, and it's possible to create an unlimited number of aliases and redirects.
A good way to register your aliases is listing the most common typos. The main reason why aliases are considered a viable alternative to catch-all is the insurance of sent messages without flooding the server. Disks will not reach full capacity often and the security against bulk spam will be highly increased.
THE IMPACT ON EMAIL DELIVERABILITY
Deliverability is the ability to deliver an email into a specific inbox, and not having them automatically marked as spam. It is, without a doubt, one of the key indicators to take into account when putting together a mailing campaign.
But, before even thinking about click rates, you need to make sure your messages are getting there. The ability to deliver emails depends not only on the router but on the behaviour of the advertiser as well.
The verification of email addresses is key in this matter. This means separating verified emails from the ones that have been identified as high risk or invalid. The identification feature will be backed-up by auto-correction of typos, making sure you’re not negatively flagged: the number of people who get your emails in their inboxes will go higher in less time.
HOW TO ASSESS DELIVERY ABILITY BEFORE SENDING THE MESSAGE?
Ever heard of ''prevention is the best cure''? This method applies to marketing just the same, especially if it's email campaigns. It is extremely important to review the best practices that can accommodate the life of your routers.
An example of one of the tools that can help you out is that proposed by Return Path. This will allow you to evaluate the reputation of your servers by determining the route your emails are taking. It's important to know that there are many tools meant to evaluate your domains and IP. A sender score will be useful when partnering web emails with Return Path.
Because of how important sender reputation is if it declines it can be deadly for deliverability. This issue can be addressed in time. A good way to focus on improving server reputation is to follow advice from Return Path such as reduction of complaints and unsubscriptions, analysis and corrections of NPAIs, etc. The best practice to be incorporated in your campaign is to send emails according to regulations and rules of the art (refer to the second part).
This is an efficient software that allows you to analyze an email from different angles. After testing the message, a score is issued and presented to you. It will tell you if your email ranks as spam or not. Depending on the score you get, you'll have a choice: send it or not. It's advised not to send emails that rank as spam to your recipients, this will harm your servers and your brand image (e-reputation).
DATABASES ARE INEVITABLE
Although there is software capable of analyzing the deliverability potential of your emails, so called ''old techniques'' still play an important part.
The encryption of errors on your contact list allows you to, before sending emails, arrive at a quick conclusion and solutions for invalid addresses, duplicates, dormant addresses, inactive contacts or unsubscribed users.
So, how can you improve your email campaign in a simple way? Certain techniques for email campaigns are preferred over others. With the number of advertisers constantly growing, creating effective campaigns is no longer an instinctive practice, but the result of well thought marketing and sales plans.
HOW DO YOU PRACTICE PROPER EMAILING?
Segmentation is crucial when building customer loyalty and determining prospects. Segmenting allows you to classify customers and prospects, and divide them into different categories rather than having them inside a single list.
By segmenting a list into several groupings and then forming homogeneous ones according to specific elements, you will come closer to accurate targeting. This practice allows you to derive more value from them, for you're using a personalized approach.
Declined offers also commit to this role. When the impact is not as expected, you'll be able to learn from what you gauge and find the triggers that appeal to them.
Would you like to buy the same T-shirt and car as your neighbour? Pretty sure you wouldn't. This is because we tend to prefer tailor-made elements that make us feel special. Same goes for emails. Clients will be more attracted to a company when it takes the time to send messages as customized as possible.
We've already mentioned the needed analysis of your contacts list at the beginning of the article. It will always be relevant when talking deliverability. Currently, sending emails in BtoC is subject to strict regulations. The recipient's authorization (opt-in) must be respected according to CNIL normative and to avoid receiving a high rate of complaints.
The collection, rental or purchase of a list is a necessity but so in compliance with the rules which apply. The following information has to be mentioned: the identity of the data controller, the right to access the data and correct it, the identity of the recipients of the collected information, and the purpose of processing the collected data. If this operation takes place in due form, the number of complaints will be significantly less.
Regarding the content of a message, it is difficult to ban a specific topic. Certain subjects (real estate, insurance, or even trading of products/services intended for +18 years) tend to be spam.
However, it is possible to cleverly feed the content of the email to play the deliverability card in your favour. First of all, you can start by inserting an ''unsubscribe link'' to your page and opt for a link to a ''mirror page'' to make it easier to read. Also, avoid spam words such as promotion, excluded, 100% free, get rich, etc.
Make sure your content creators are good at writing engaging emails. It can seem like an easy task but can turn out to be quite challenging for many.
We could also call it ''marketing pressure'': the frequency of sending is important. Over-solicitation can lead to a feeling of oppression vis-à-vis customers and will be negatively perceived.
The latter depends on the number of messages over a certain period (all channels combined) which are addressed to the same sender. There's an objective to splitting the contents of emails sent: two newsletters in a few days will be better digested than two strongly promotional messages.
Always remember to make varied content. A promotion incorporated in a newsletter will appear less aggressive, but be careful not to abuse it.
Even if the number of emails is constantly increasing, we shouldn't leave the deliverability of our emails unattended. This notion, although sometimes dull, is 100% responsible for your ROI so it needs to be treated in accordance.
The problem with the catch-all feature is that it leaves the front door open to your data home. It must be used with caution, as it widens the space for the spreading of malware and spam inside an inbox. Some viable solutions to the issue in this particular case include the use of forwarding addresses, it avoids the catch-all-specific disadvantages.
Bear in mind that a common practice of spammers is to send emails to popular names that may or may not exist as email addresses.
This might be a problem even though these accounts have not been disclosed anywhere. The spamming is done automatically based on lists of popular names. The dangers are multiplied when variations are added to the mix (numbers, letters that are common to email accounts combinations).
Wizard when it comes to email outreach, marketing automation, and social media. In the past 4 years, Gints has been working with some of the most exciting and scaling startups in Denmark.
Gints has been running email campaigns for the past 4 years using clear out and various other tools. During his work, he has commonly come across fake emails. In this article, Gints will share his expertise on how everyone can spot and avoid fake emails with no hustle.
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