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Catchall Emails: The Definitive Guide for Email Marketers

Jan 18, 2022

Making sure your customers can reach you is one of the prerequisites not just for great communication, but also for increasing your revenue. To make sure they can find you at all times, you can use something called a catch-all address.

A catch-all address (or catch-all account) is a type of account that forwards email messages when they are sent to a non-existent address. That way, you can continue the communication even when someone does not know the address they’re sending to.

Today, we’re going to explain how a catchall address works, what is a catchall email, and show you why (not) to use one for your business communication.

How a catchall email works

Catch-all servers are designed to ensure that business owners aren’t missing any customer issues, questions, or leads. For example, if a customer is trying to send an email and the address does not exist, they will get an error message and the email will bounce.

With a catchall address on your domain, you use a type of email forwarding. Even emails sent to invalid email addresses reach your inbox.

What is a catch-all email account?

A catch-all refers to something that includes odds and ends of a large variety of things. Catch-all email addresses are often created to make sure that emails are still received even if the sender makes a mistake when entering the email address. 

However, they can sometimes cause problems. For example, catch-all servers can sometimes make it easier for a spammer to bombard the domain with unsolicited messages. Because of this, a catch-all mailbox will often be overloaded with spam, becoming functionally useless.

catch-all address

An example of setting up a catch-all email address in Zoho. Source

A catch-all email address will often cause some confusion and handling one correctly will require an understanding of what they are, how they are used, and how they work. A catch-all email account refers to an address that is set to receive messages addressed to the wrong email address for a domain.

Reasons to have a catch-all email

For many companies, having a catch-all mailbox configured for the business is important, despite the risks of spam and phishing attacks. Catch-all mailboxes can act as a lifeboat for mistyped or misspelled email addresses and can save your company from missing out on potentially important emails due to minor errors made on an email address.

Downsides of catchall domains and email addresses

The main purpose for creating catch all domains and email addresses was to make sure that no email to that domain would be rejected and ultimately lost. A catch all domain is set up to accept all emails without rejecting anything, making them useful for anybody who is concerned about the risk of potentially missing out on important messages. 

However, they were quickly taken advantage of by spammers. All spammers now need is the domain name to start sending spammy messages, without the need to look for usernames or scrape email addresses. Due to the way that catch all emails work, all spammers need to do is put anything that they like in front of the domain and send the message -and it will arrive in the catch all mailbox.

This results in tons of unsolicited emails sent to non-existent users. And these spam messages are one of the most common reasons why many businesses don’t bother with setting up a catch-all address.

How to set up a catch all email address in two ways

Despite the potential issues, there are various reasons to consider setting up a catch-all email address on your email domain. A catch-all email address will prevent emails from being bounced back to the sender as undeliverable or redirect emails that have been accidentally addressed to an incorrect email address. Most domain name providers allow you to set up a catch-all email address. Some offer this as a free service while others will charge a fee.

You can set up a catch-all email address in Office365 by creating a dynamic distribution group. This lists all of the company’s Office365 email addresses to receive emails from external domains. You will also need to set up a shared mailbox where the organization’s many recipients can view emails that are sent in through the catch-all mailbox.

Cloud hosting setup

Setting up a catchall mailbox is relatively easy for those with cloud hosting. Most email manager tools will allow you to create a catchall email address.

Semi-dedicated hosting setup

Businesses using semi-dedicated hosting will usually be able to set up a catch all email address easily, particularly in the case where emails are handled by the cloud hosting platform.

What is a catchall email used for?

Initially, catch-all emails and servers were used by webmasters to prevent emails from getting lost when they go to a non-existent email address. Erroneous email addresses were redirected to a generic ‘catch-all’ mailbox, which was reviewed regularly to make sure that there were no important messages going missing. 

However, while it might sound like a good idea in theory, the truth is that most catch-all mailboxes today are overloaded with spam and unwanted emails, which can ultimately make it difficult to find any important messages anyway.

Along with this, catch-all email addresses cannot be verified, which is another reason why some people find them so frustrating. Unlike with most servers, SMTP cannot be used to find out what is going on

Some services can confirm that the domain is active and there are also advanced services out there that can detect a catch-all configuration. The only way to verify that the mailbox exists is to send an email to the address, which can pose a risk to your reputation as a sender.

What is a catchall domain?

When verifying a list of domains or emails, you are most likely going to come across some results that are marked as unknown with a status of ‘server is catch all’. 

Basically, this means that these are domains that are set up to accept emails, however, they will always respond ‘OK’ no matter what mailbox they are given. 

Because of this, most email-checking services will always flag catch-all domains as unknown. Due to the nature of these domains, the only way to know for sure if the email address is valid is to send it an email.

However, many of the catch all email addresses are likely to be valid, in which cases the results will be re-introduced back into your main list once you have sent the email to verify this. Doing this gradually is the best way to make sure that your overall bounce rate is kept low.

Catch all domain best practices

It’s considered to be bad practice for a mail server to accept email addresses that don’t exist before bouncing them back later. Initially, this practice was employed due to spammers mining mail servers for email recipients, with the idea that spammers would not be able to accurately mine the mail server for recipients, leading to them moving on and reducing spam. 

However, spammers got creative and quickly learned to manipulate catchall server behavior to their advantage. It is a better approach to reject non-existent email outright to prevent any messages from being received, accepted, and then bounced back.

Why do catch all emails bounce?

If you are sending marketing emails, there are likely to be some catch-all emails included on your list. While some emails are going to find their way to the domain in question, others are never going to reach the inbox, often due to the amount of spam that these mailboxes receive. Companies can set up servers to receive all email for a certain period of time, however, there is always the option for them to disable this feature in the future, which might cause your emails to bounce.

Emails bouncing can cause a lot of damage to your sender reputation, especially if your bounce rate is higher than the industry standard of 2%, which is a red flag to internet service and email providers. 

A high bounce rate demonstrates to email providers that you are not keeping on top of good email hygiene and there is a risk that you might not be a legitimate sender. 

As a result of this, sending emails to catchall domains is a risky business since it might end up with you being send to other recipients’ spam folders, even if you have the best of intentions and follow all email best practices.

The best way to avoid this happening is to clean up your email list regularly. When you run your list through an email verification tool, you will usually end up with a percentage of results that are listed as risky, or catchall emails. 

Some companies may choose to play it safe by deleting all of these emails from their list, while others may take a cautious approach to determining which ones are safe to send to and which are not. 

You can find tools that you can use to run the catchall results through to get a better idea of how risky they are, giving you a better idea of which ones to keep and which ones to remove from your list.

A catchall email address can be an ideal way to receive email that would have otherwise gone missing. However, before setting one up, it’s important to understand the downsides and the risk of spam.

A Catchall Email Wrapped up

Setting up a catch-all address can be a good way to ensure that you’re not missing out on any emails and that you’re always available to your customers. However, you should also be aware that it can result in receiving lots of spam. The decision is yours to make, and hopefully, we’ve made it easier today.

And if you’re sending out email campaigns, you should know that many of your recipients have catch-all addresses too. Use Bouncer to verify your email lists and find catch-all addresses so you know not to send messages to them.

Try it out for free today!

Frequently asked questions

What is an example of a catchall email address?

It could look something like this: [email protected]. However, the exact address will vary from one domain to the next.

Can I add a catch-all email account in Gmail?

Yes, it’s possible to add a catch-all address even in Gmail. You just need to add a new account in your Google Workspace and set it up to act as catch-all.

Can you verify catch-all emails?

Most email verification tools cannot do this – but Bouncer can. With Bouncer, you can identify catch-all emails by running your lists through our verification service.

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