13 Reasons why your message wasn’t delivered

Green orb floating above phone indicating a message not delivered

It’s easy to take for granted that your text messages are delivered.

But there are plenty of reasons why a text message sent isn’t a message delivered, and it’s important to understand any message deliverability issues because you pay for every message sent, not just those that are delivered. 

Don’t believe me? Here are 13 reasons why your message didn’t get delivered.

Why your message wasn’t delivered

1. You used the wrong type of phone number

There are two types of messaging—A2P (application-to-person) and P2P (person-to-person). In most cases, if you’re a business sending messages to your customers, you’re likely engaged in A2P messaging, which means you have to use the right type of number. These can include toll-free, short codes, and certain local numbers approved for high-volume messaging (known as 10DLC or 10-digit long code).

Using the wrong number, like say an unregistered local number, to send hundreds or thousands of messages will get your messages blocked by the carriers.

2. Your message was flagged as SPAM by the carrier

This is not to say that your message actually was SPAM. However, something in your message, or the way it was sent, raised a flag at a carrier and it was marked as SPAM and blocked. While the carriers mostly align on their guidelines for sending and receiving text messages (SMS and MMS), each carrier has its own guidelines for what they consider SPAM.

Knowing those guidelines ahead of time helps to avoid getting your message blocked as SPAM. (See #9 for content red flags, too!)

Get the checklist

Want a printable at-a-glance resource? Download our deliverability checklist!

3. The receiver opted out of messages

The CTIA best practices give clear guidelines on what businesses must do to ensure users can opt out of messages easily. Sending messages to users who have opted out will result in those messages not being delivered.

Sending a link in your text messages raises a red flag. While there are ways to do it (more on that below), trying to include a link, even one as amazing and informative as https://www.bandwidth.com, can get your message blocked. If you need to include links, be sure to do it the right way. (See the #5!)

5. The message contained a risky shortened URL

I mentioned including links as a way to get your message blocked above (it was #4 on our list). You can, however, include a link if you use a link shortener. But, you have to use the right kind. Using shorteners like bit.ly or goo.gl can get your message blocked as well as those shorteners are often associated with SPAM and illicit content.

6. You’re sending too many messages

There are guidelines around how many messages you can send depending on the number you’re using. Phone numbers designated for P2P traffic (typically your local phone numbers) are generally only allowed to send 1 message per second (mps). There should also be a fairly even one-to-one balance of sending and receiving. 

A2P limits can depend on the number you’re using and the carrier. For example, 10DLC has specific caps for messages sent per minute and messages sent by a single brand that vary across carriers.

7. The message was sent to a number that couldn’t receive it

Unless enabled with hosted messaging, landlines can’t receive texts. It’s true. Despite all our advances in technology, your home phone is still limited to sending and receiving voice calls. Sending a text to that number will result in it not being delivered.

8. The carrier couldn’t deliver the message/network problems

Sometimes the carrier just can’t get the message all the way there. There could be a problem with the network, congestion, or some other issue with the receiver that just makes them unable to complete the delivery.

9. The message contained illicit content

Sending texts with illicit content, such as adult content, references to drugs, or anything referring to criminal activity, can get your messages blocked.

One acronym to keep in mind here is SHAFT-C. It stands for sex, hate, alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis. Any content on those topics can put senders at risk for blocking. 

Set a smarter text strategy this year

Our latest State of Messaging report is chock full of tips, case studies, and industry predictions to help you stay informed and make smarter choices about A2P texting.

10. The receiver has complained about this message type to the carrier

You might be following all the rules and somebody just complained about your message. Maybe they don’t remember signing up to receive texts. Maybe they just decided they don’t want them anymore but don’t know how to opt out. Whatever the case may be, if the carriers receive complaints about your texts, they may stop delivering them.

11. The number is roaming (abroad from home country)

If you’ve sent an SMS message to a recipient that’s not currently in their home country, there’s a good chance it won’t be delivered.

And if you are trying to send a text abroad, be sure you’ve included the correct country code and that the carrier allows international SMS messaging

Better yet, proactively approach creating your channel strategy global messaging

12. There are billing issues on the recipient’s carrier side

Another rare (but not impossible) issue is you might be texting someone using a prepaid plan with outstanding balances on their account. If this is the case, the carrier of the prepaid plan will block incoming messages until payment is received.

13. You entered the wrong number

Misdials happen–everybody makes mistakes. Did you triple-check that you entered the right phone number before hitting ‘send’?

Need help automating this? There are tools that help ensure you’re only sending messages to phone numbers that can receive texts like Bandwidth’s Phone Number Lookup API.

BONUS Secret Reason: Are you really sure it wasn’t delivered? 

One of the most common error codes we see here at Bandwidth is a simple time-out. Essentially, it’s just a fancy way of saying your recipient probably has their phone turned off. Maybe they’re on a plane somewhere over Springfield, MO or maybe they forgot their charger at home and their phone died (#beenthere).

It’s also important to know that sending a standard text message means you’re required to receive a DLR (delivery report) from your operator. If the carrier doesn’t make that receipt, the message will be marked as “Failed to Send”. It’s always possible that you’ve gotten a false negative, and that the operator simply didn’t send (or incorrectly sent) the DLR.

Regardless, it doesn’t mean that your message didn’t necessarily get delivered—it only means your message didn’t get delivered within the first few minutes after it was sent. 

Want to know if your messages are getting delivered? Give us a chat to see how you can improve your message deliverability, including how to measure your ROI and know which messages are (and aren’t) getting delivered.

Want a simple reference guide for your deliverability dilemmas? Download your printable deliverability checklist today! 

Want to know if your messages are getting delivered?

Give us a chat to see how you can improve your message deliverability, including how to measure your ROI and know which messages are (and aren’t) getting delivered.

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