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The case of the vanishing emails
January 17, 2012 5:41 PM   Subscribe

Emails containing a certain domain name are going missing. How can we fix this now and prevent it in the future?

I'm helping someone who is having trouble with emails that go missing. All of these emails contain a certain domain name (not going to post it here, in case that would appear to be SEO). These emails are coming from two addresses, one nothing to do with the domain name (another domain, Gmail is the provider) and the other info@[the domain in question] (an exchange server, hosted by GoDaddy).

For most recipients, emails containing the domain name are delivered. For a handful of recipients, emails containing the domain name are not delivered and are not to be found in the recipient's spam folder. These recipients do receive emails without the domain name. No bounce messages are ever received. In some cases, recipients will be able to receive an email containing the domain name, but then their reply will go missing. These emails are not bulk mail. I have tried sending the domain name as plain text and as a link.

I have check SURBL, URIBL, and Spamhaus, but the domain name is not listed.

I have tried sending messages containing the domain name from my own accounts and have had no difficulty.

The sender wants to include the domain as part of a signature.

What else can we try to solve this problem?
posted by ssg to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
I ran into similar issues with domains that once were hosted by godaddy but got hosted somewhere else later. They never seemed to remove the DNS references in their internal systems and so mail was just getting routed internally on their side. The problem happened frequently but it was usually caused by the customer only changing the MX records for their domain and not cancelling the email hosting.
posted by tmt at 5:58 PM on January 17, 2012

Do you have access to the outbound mail server logs to see if there are 550/553 errors from the recipient servers? It could be that the inline domain, alongside the rest of the email content, triggers a high enough spamassassin score that it's dumped in the first sweep. It could also be the formatting of the signature.

Long shot: it might be that the Exchange server is trying to deliver locally (on preview, what tmt said) but that doesn't explain the GMail problems.
posted by holgate at 6:01 PM on January 17, 2012

On a reread, holgate is likely correct. Does the link to the domain include any referrer information like an affiliate ID?
posted by tmt at 6:11 PM on January 17, 2012

I don't believe there is any mail server log access (this is a GoDaddy Hosted Exchange server).

There is no referrer information in the domain link. In fact, even the plain text URL causes this problem.
posted by ssg at 6:18 PM on January 17, 2012

An update for posterity:

After many hours of pointless phone back and forth with the entirely useless GoDaddy support people, I managed to have the issues sent on to their advanced support team, who very quickly diagnosed the trouble as Cloudmark filtering. They told me that they had submitted a request to Cloudmark to have the domain name removed from their filter, but that it would take 3-4 weeks to take effect. As this was obviously ridiculous, I contacted Cloudmark directly (though they don't make it clear how to do this) and they quickly removed the domain from their filter. They claim that some people had marked emails containing the domain name as spam in December, but they weren't able to provide any further information, nor any stats about how many that may have been.

Cloudmark is used by a number of ISPs and hosting companies, which explains why emails were going missing to various addresses, but not to others. Why their service is configured to silently delete emails without sending any kind of bounce message is beyond me, though it does seem fairly evil (as it makes it very difficult for someone who experiences false positives to figure out what the problem might be). They also don't provide any kind of lookup service (as other blacklists do), which makes things difficult for the rest of us.
posted by ssg at 6:08 PM on January 26, 2012

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