Unraveling the mystery: why recipients cannot find “delivered” emails.
One of the most frustrating situations both for senders and recipients is the case where a sender confirms that the email was sent and accepted by the receiving email server, but the recipient cannot seem to find it in their mailbox. In this article, we will explore the various reasons why this occurs.
The first thing in troubleshooting those issues is to check the Spam folder. If your recipients find your emails there, please read Deliverability issues? What and how to fix!
We are going to speak about various filtering features and settings in modern mailboxes, which allow users to build all sorts of complicated scenarios. While this can be beneficial for managing an overflowing inbox, it can also lead to emails being misplaced or seemingly disappearing. Once the recipient’s email server accepts the message, the sender loses visibility into its subsequent journey. Nevertheless, certain typical situations often lead to problems with locating emails. Here is how it can happen:
- Emails are redirected to specific folders: users may set up rules to automatically route certain emails to specific folders. For instance, newsletters, promotional emails, or emails from specific senders or with certain words might be redirected to folders other than the primary inbox. Consequently, an email that appears “delivered” or “accepted” to the sender might be sitting in a different folder in the mailbox of the recipient, who is unaware of it.
- Automatic deletion rules: users may set up rules to delete emails automatically if they meet certain conditions. For example, a user could create a rule to delete all emails containing the word “free” in the subject line. If a legitimate email with that word in the subject arrives, it will be deleted without the recipient ever seeing it.
- Forwarding and deletion: users might configure their mailbox to forward incoming emails to another address and delete them from the original mailbox. If not done with precision, this can result in vital emails being forwarded to an incorrect destination and completely lost.
- Compromised mailboxes: in some unfortunate cases, malicious actors might gain unauthorized access to a mailbox. These attackers can set up filters and rules to delete or divert incoming emails before deploying spam replies or auto-replies, causing the recipient to miss crucial communications.
- Custom mail filtering rules: it is important to note that mail filters, especially when it comes to mailboxes hosted by organizations/businesses, can quarantine emails, and they may also appear missing after a successful delivery. You can read more about this phenomenon here: Logs show email was delivered, but it is not in the recipient’s mailbox. Why?
The issue of recipients not locating delivered emails can result from a combination of factors, including filtering rules, automatic deletion settings, server-side configurations, and compromised mailboxes. Recipients have control and responsibility over many of these rules. As a sender, you can share a troubleshooting process with the recipient to address this problem:
- Advise the recipient to use the mailbox’s search tool, allowing them to enter specific keywords or sender information to locate emails that might have been mistakenly sorted into different folders.
- Encourage the recipient to diligently check all folders, including the spam folder, to ensure no important messages have been misclassified.
- Recommend that the recipient review and modify their filtering rules, automatic deletion settings, and forwarding configurations.
- If the recipient is using a business mailbox, suggest checking with their company’s mail administrator to investigate quarantined emails and other server-side filters.
If after all these steps, the recipient is still unable to find the message, the sender’s only recourse to help is to provide the recipient sending logs, confirming that the message was successfully accepted by the receiving server. In such a situation, the recipient should reach out to their mailbox provider or mail administrator to seek further assistance.
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