How to get a confirmation when your email is delivered or read
Sometimes it is critical to be confirmed if your outgoing email was actually delivered to the desired email address or if your contact read it or not. This article aims to describe various email confirmation methods that can help you achieve this goal.
getting a confirmation about the email delivery;
getting a confirmation about the fact that your contact received & read your message.
There are two different aspects to cover:
They don't exclude each other, but there are different solutions for each email confirmation type. For example, if you got a confirmation that your email was read by your contact, it is obvious that the email was also delivered. But not the other way around.
Email delivery confirmation methods
Email delivery confirmations are useful if you are not sure if your contact's email address is still valid or not. The easiest way is to simply send an email to that email account: if the email does not return to you with an error message, it means the email was delivered to the mail server to which your contact's address belongs to. If your email is returned to you with an error message, you can use this list of mail delivery codes in order to determine the cause of the failed delivery.
Given the huge spam rate of our days, more and more mail servers are configured to accept all emails sent to any email account of that mail server, EVEN IF there is no actual email address for that account username. This method is called "CATCH-ALL" and it means the mail server will deposit all emails sent to unknown email addresses to a pre-defined email account. For example, there is no email address at email@example.com, but the mail server of emailaddressmanager.com is configured to catch all emails sent to that account and redirect them to a spam filter.
On the other hand, some anti-spam systems can be configured to send fake email delivery failures in order to prevent spammers from validating a given email account.
Another way to get an email delivery confirmation is to use a delivery confirmation request. This confirmation method is supported by most MAPI-compliant email client programs (such as Microsoft Outlook), but it is not bulletproof, because:
the email delivery confirmation feature requires a manual confirmation from the user receiving the message. So if your contact does not want to confirm the email delivery to you, he can just choose not to send you the email delivery confirmation;
most web-based email systems (such as Yahoo Mail or Hotmail) do not support this email confirmation feature.
Confirmations for read emails
Assuming you sent an email and you didn't receive a delivery failure message, the following cases can occur:
your email was delivered to the desired email account;
your email got trapped in a spam filter;
your contact's email address is not valid, but the mail server is configured to catch all emails sent to invalid email accounts.
Obviously, it would be good to get a confirmation and know if the email message was actually read by your contact. There are many ways to get an email read confirmation:
Using read receipts as email confirmations
The "request read receipt" feature is a standard feature of most email client programs. However, just as in the case of the email delivery confirmation feature, the read receipt email confirmation assumes the user who received the email must agree to send you a read receipt.
There are 3rd party services that aim to achieve the same goal (getting email read confirmations to you) and one of the most popular of them is ReadNotify. However, please note that such solutions rely on inserting scripts in the email content to be delivered to your contact. Most up-to-date email programs will trigger alerts about unsafe content being included in your email. So think twice before using such solutions, as they may harm your image, especially in a business environment.
Other email read confirmation methods
One of the most efficient "do-it-yourself" email confirmation solution is to include a tiny transparent image in your email body. When your email contact reads the email message, his/her email program will attempt to download the nested image. Assuming you placed the image on a web location where you can see statistics about it, you will have an email read confirmation because it will count as a "hit" (file read) on the web location where the image was uploaded.
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