Do you remember Google experienced an outage December 14th 2020? Maybe the impacts weren’t as apparent stateside (reported between 03:47am to 4:32am PT); Europeans, on the other hand, would have noticed something was up immediately.
I remember the outage. I was out of the office that day in the British countryside; I thought I was going mad when no emails were sending, my first thought was not that it was a Google-side issue.
It turns out that for approximately 45 minutes, users lost Gmail, Google Drive, access to the Android Play Store, Google Maps (and more!)
Today, at 3.47AM PT Google experienced an authentication system outage for approximately 45 minutes due to an internal storage quota issue. This was resolved at 4:32AM PT, and all services are now restored.
— Google Cloud (@googlecloud) December 14, 2020
Why am I talking about this, one month on? Two especially sharp Marketing Champions bought to our attention the impact this could have had on our email marketing. Here is what you need to know about checking your Pardot prospect database and rectifying the issues.
Note: this is also applicable to any marketing automation platform. The images shared in this post and the expertise referenced are related to Pardot.
Here are some steps you can take to investigate the impact:
- Check email send reports
- Check bounce codes in Pardot
- Identify incorrect ‘Do not email’
- Check email sending domain isn’t blocklisted
Admins will now see a notification banner in Pardot. Follow the link for more advice.
Step 1: Check email send reports
For each of these checks, you can decide to carry them out using Pardot out of the box reporting or build Salesforce reports. I will be giving you an overview of both – personally I find Salesforce reports easier to work with but I know that’s not going to be everyone’s preference.
First up, check email sends that happened between:
GMT: 11:47am – 12:32pm | EST: 06:47am – 07:32am | PT: 03:47am – 04:32am | IST: 17:17 – 18:02
Jen Kazin, marketing automation & Salesforce expert, recommends the Pardot dashboard is the place to start, where you will be able to see all list emails that were sent:
You will also need to check Pardot sent email reports to ensure you pick up on automated emails too (sent through Engagement Studio, or autoresponders).
In Salesforce, you can build a Pardot email overview report to achieve this – follow the guide here.
What are you looking for?
Add the following fields to your Pardot/Salesforce report:
- Deliverability rate (is the % delivered lower than usual?)
- Hard bounces
You will be able to spot any culprit sends, a solid start to your investigation.
“The first client I examined had a 10% hard bounce rate on a single email sent the morning of December 16th. This was out of line from their historical email metrics.”
Jen Kazin, Marketing Automation & Salesforce Expert
Step 2: Check bounce codes in Pardot
Now it’s time to look into the individual prospect level. When an email ‘hard bounces’, a bounce code and bounce reason are recorded on the prospect record.
You’re looking out for code 5.1.1:
“Hard bounce – User Unknown [5.1.1 bad destination mailbox address) The email account that you tried to reach does not exist…..”Image credits: Yvette Montague
On each sent email report, you can click on the hard bounce link and see which prospects received the error code above. Or, you can do a whole prospect export and filter down prospects by their bounce date.
Step 3: Identify incorrect ‘Do not email’
Usually, during server outages, an email service provider would identify the undelivered email as a ‘soft’ bounce and reattempt sending at a later date. Unfortunately, the Google outage used a bounce code that signalled ‘hard’ bounce to Pardot.
The result: prospects incorrectly marked as ‘Do not email’. These prospects are permanently unmailable. Here is a great resource on how to clear Pardot hard bounces.
Step 4: Check email sending domain isn’t blocklisted
Some businesses reported their accounts getting suspended by email services providers due to low deliverability rate/high bounce rate. Pardot has a tolerance threshold 90% deliverability/10% bounce rate; exceed a 10% bounce rate and the “Email Reputation Outreach” team will take action).
Blocklist/blacklist reporting is not as obvious to come by – follow this guide for more information: Check If Your Email Domain Is Blacklisted: Here’s What to Do About It
This may all seem overwhelming – there are quite a few things to check and potentially rectify! If you need support, I recommend you reach out to these two Marketing Champions who raised the alert and offer their Pardot expertise: Yvette Montague & Jen Kazin.
“The Google crisis may have been brief – it took services offline for less than an hour – but it was an unnerving reminder of just how dependent millions of people have become on services in the cloud.”
Rory Cellan-Jones, Technology Correspondent, BBC.