Sending emails is essential for businesses. However, sending an email to a person is one thing, getting it to its destination is another. What happens to the famous bounce messages and how are they handled? This is where the return-path comes in, since this process will allow the recipient to better manage sending errors, but also to clean up their contact lists to obtain better deliverability as well as a better sender reputation. .

What is the return-path?

The return path is a technique to detect and remove invalid email addresses from mailing lists. It is more precisely a hidden email header in the form of an SMTP address different from the sending address and not visible to the recipient, which will be used to retrieve and process bounces. Clearly, when an email address does not arrive at its destination, the return-path allows you to indicate the location of the acknowledgment of non-receipt.

For example, if you send an email to a small number of people and some of them don’t receive it, the few bounces will go directly to the sender’s email address. But in the case of a large campaign with a very large number of contacts, this can become complicated to manage, as the amount of invalid addresses will probably be far too large. So this is where the return-path is useful, since it will allow you to create a dedicated location for receiving all unreceived messages, to be able to retrieve, store, then analyze and correct them. It is therefore crucial to include the return-path header in sent emails in order to be able to obtain this follow-up and not to repeat sending errors by continuing to have invalid addresses in your contact list.

Why is the return-path important?

With the growing number of phishing and identity theft attacks, ISPs are monitoring more and more to protect themselves. Among the many possible actions to optimize the deliverability of your shipments, cleaning your email header and personalizing your return-path is an easy solution to implement. Each server has its own way of interpreting mail headers to establish authenticity, but this is more likely to work if the signals in your message are consistent.

In the long term, return-path therefore improves your deliverability and your sender reputation, because it helps validate your identity and make your messages more credible. It also helps protect your sender details and the location where bounce messages are processed.

Why personalize it?

Using a custom return-path header will help aid the email authentication process and let the destination server know which message to let through and which to reject. This refers to the DMARC system, which is used to combat phishing and fraudulent emails by authenticating email senders. One of the tasks of DMARC is precisely to verify that the name of the sender matches the name of the return-path.