Repost from Unica Blog
We've heard reports from numerous ESP
partners and clients that AOL has been sending back large volumes of
bounces due to the deactivation of old and unused email accounts.
Although the exact reasons for what constitutes an inactive email
account aren't 100% clear the numbers and reports we've been seeing range
anywhere from the documented 30 days in their Terms of Service (this document specifically
applies to screen names but also appears to cover email) to 90 days and
upwards of 6 months.
Marketers have to be very careful and take immediate action to
prevent these accounts from receiving further messages because it can
seriously impact their overall reputation and ability to deliver email
to AOL domains:
- The number of hard bounces generated by an IP is tracked by AOL and
- Sending too many hard bounces is an indication of poor mailing and
list hygiene practices and will negatively impact your IP reputation.
- AOL has deactivated old and unused accounts in the past. Once the
accounts were deactivated they lay dormant for a period of time and then
were reactivated as spam traps to monitor the behavior of mailers. Its
quite possible that this could happen again with this new batch of
deactivated accounts but AOL hasn't said one way or another as to what
their plans are.
The deactivation appears to have started on or around May 20, 2010.
Marketers should expect to see higher than normal hard bounces (due to
deactivation) until they've mailed and received the bounces for all
addresses in their house files that were deactivated. There isn't a
specific bounce being employed for this, rather the two hard bounces normally associated with permanent
550 Mailbox not found
This error indicates that the AOL Member no longer exists on AOL or the
address is misspelled.
550 Mailbox not found
500 5.1.1 : Recipient address rejected: aol.com
Senders using scripts to remove unknown users automatically, should be
looking for both the new error code and the old one.
Overall this is potentially a good thing. A healthy list is one free
of inactive users and hard bounces. Consider this a kind of spring
cleaning and get those hard bounces out of your mailing systems as soon
as you can. If you are waiting for more than 1 hard bounces to mark an
email address as dead, consider shortening that to 1 hard bounce for AOL
bounces received in the last five days and going forward for a number
of days in order to refrain from re-mailing the deactivated accounts.