Why are undeliverable emails bounced back to me?

When you send a message through our Email Invitation collector some messages may be deemed as undeliverable. This means the invitations have been delivered by our server. However, the receiving email client/server has rejected the message. Once a message becomes hard bounced in the SurveyMonkey system, it will become flagged in your Email Invitation collector list. You can then view, export, and/or remove these addresses from your list.


What Constitutes an Undeliverable Message (Soft vs. Hard Bounce)?

When an email server sends a message to a recipient email server, the receiver responds to the sender with a status message.

  • If the email was delivered successfully, the receiver will respond with a successful message and the sender will cease to attempt to deliver the message. (*These are typically consumed by the sender and are transparent to the people who are sending the emails.)
  • If the email was not delivered successfully, the receiver will respond with an undeliverable message. These messages come in two general flavors: soft and hard.  


Example explanations of undeliverable messages:   

  • The receiving email server is too busy and is not accepting email messages. You may need to resend the message to that email address at a later time. To send a message again to one email, click here to learn more.  
  • The receiving email client inbox is full. This person will need to clear out messages in his/her inbox before s/he can receive anymore messages.
  • Is the email address correct? If there is a typo or the address is formatted incorrectly, it will fail.
  • The receiving organization's firewall is blocking the message as spam.

If this is the case, check out the following Help Topics for things to consider:

arrow Message Content
arrow Blocked as Spam
arrow Response Rates & Surveying Techniques (*Currently in English only.)


What is a Soft Bounce? 

A soft bounce typically means that the recipient's email address is valid and that the account exists on the receiving server, but something about the account is preventing the email from being delivered. 

  • The message that was sent back to the sender, just like a successful message, is consumed by the server and is transparent to the people who sent the email. 
  • This message informs the sender that it should attempt to deliver the email again at a later date. After a certain number of attempts and subsequent soft bounces, the sender will finally give up on the email and treat it as a sort of expired soft bounce and that bounce message will be sent to the person who wrote the email.


What is a Hard Bounce? 

A hard bounce typically means that the email account doesn't exist on the receiving server and that the sender should never again attempt to deliver an email to that address.


When an Email is Considered Hard Bounced by SurveyMonkey:

We, at SurveyMonkey, monitor the undeliverable entries that relate to either an expired soft bounce or an actual hard bounce. We then look over all of those flagged records and analyze the text that appears in the messages to determine whether or not the message indicates a permanent (hard) bounce or an expired temporary (soft) bounce.

  • Only the email addresses that resulted in a permanent bounce are flagged as undeliverable in our database.
  • That is when it becomes Hard Bounced in your collector list. As you review the Edit Recipients section, you can sort by that criteria to view your hard bounces. 

NOTE: It may take our system several hours to go through this confirmation process for the hard bounced email. When it does, it will become flagged in your collector list. You can then view, export, and/or remove these addresses from your list. To learn more about this removal process, please click here.