Text Messages Not Sending? Why SMS Messages Aren’t Delivered
Kyle Kuczynski
Kyle Kuczynski
MessageDesk Co-Founder & CMO
Updated: Jul 24, 2022

Wondering “Why Aren't My Texts Getting Delivered?” Here’s The Secret to SMS Deliverability

Text messages have an average open rate of 98%. That level of engagement makes them a valuable form of communication for businesses and organizations.

But recent changes to carrier texting policies mean that many text messages aren’t getting delivered.

Carriers are asking businesses and organizations to verify their identities, phone numbers, and messages before they text.

So what can you do when your text messages aren’t sending?

Fortunately, you have a few solutions for minimizing your undelivered text messages.

In this article I’ll go over:

  1. What SMS delivery and SMS delivery reports are
  2. Why SMS deliverability rates are important
  3. The top 10 reasons why your text messages aren’t delivering
  4. How to make sure your text messages get delivered

Keep reading for more.

Get carrier-verified text message delivery. Try MessageDesk for free.
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What is SMS Delivery?

SMS delivery is the percentage of successfully delivered SMS and MMS messages over the total number of messages sent. SMS delivery can refer to the status of a single message. But SMS delivery usually is measured as a percentage of delivered messages to total messages sent. Many business texting services provide SMS delivery reports that show SMS delivery rates.

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What is an SMS Delivery Report?

An SMS delivery report shows you the SMS delivery rates for all text messages sent from your device or business texting software. A text message delivery report indicates how many total messages were sent and how many were successfully delivered. It also shows you in greater detail the current status of SMS verified messages submitted to a carrier (AT&T, Verizon, TMobile, etc.).

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Why SMS deliverability rates are important

Bulk text messaging services like MessageDesk charge per sent message. See how I say “sent” and not “delivered?” That means even if a message you send doesn’t get delivered, you still end up paying for it.

Carriers like AT&T and Verizon charge platforms like Twilio and Bandwidth per message sent.

Then, services like MessageDesk pay these platforms to move your messages across their networks to get them delivered. Much of those costs and messaging rates get passed on to you.

This process means that successful message delivery is important for everyone in the process — especially you. When one of your messages fails to deliver, those fees trickle down to everyone.

When you optimize your SMS deliverability rates, you get the best return on investment. This helps with all kinds of SMS campaigns for everything from SMS marketing to texting for employee communication.

Top 10 Reasons Why Your Text Messages Aren’t Delivering

There are various reasons why an SMS text message or MMS picture message might not get delivered. Some of the most common delivery failures happen because the number is invalid, the recipient opted out of messages, there were network problems with the recipient's carrier, or your message contained content that carriers frequently block.

The above are just some of the most common reasons why text messages aren’t getting delivered. There are more reasons, including the following.

  1. You entered an invalid or wrong number.
  2. You’re texting a non-text-enabled landline or phone number extension.
  3. Your message was sent but not delivered.
  4. A carrier flagged your text message as spam.
  5. Your message contains illegal or explicit content.
  6. You’re trying to mass text from your personal phone.
  7. Your phone number isn’t carrier-verified for mass texting.
  8. The recipient opted out of messages or blocked your number.
  9. The message recipient reported your message to a carrier.
  10. The message recipient didn’t pay their carrier bill.

1. You entered an invalid or wrong number

The first and most common reason why your text messages aren’t getting delivered may be because you entered an invalid or wrong number.

Popular phone verification services include Experian and Xverify. They take a list of contacts you provide and check their service status.

Some will also flag a number of formatting errors. These get in the way of proper delivery or indicate whether or not the number is a landline.

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2. You’re texting a non-text-enabled landline or phone number extension

You can text a landline and you can text phone number extensions. But in both of these cases, the number for SMS you’re texting must be text-enabled and supported by a business texting service.

So the second most common reason why messages aren’t getting delivered properly is that the number you’re texting just doesn’t support SMS text messages.

MessageDesk figure sitting at desk showing landline sms services

3. Your message was sent but not delivered

Carrier and network problems aren’t often an issue. What I’m referring to here is a carrier-wide outage that affects SMS delivery for everyone.

In this case, you’ll often see your message get a dialog that says “message sent, but not delivered”. This is where there’s a big difference between sent and delivered.

A sent message is one that was sent through your texting software up to the carrier for delivery. Once the carrier successfully gets your message to the recipient, they’ll mark it as “delivered”.

Once a message is sent, it isn’t necessarily delivered until the carrier confirms it.

That being the case, carriers are frequently the cause of problems when sending SMS messages. But this is for several good reasons as I’ll explain below.

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4. A carrier flagged your text message as spam

Text messaging is now the second most popular communication channel in the work compared to email. Literally, everyone has an email address and a phone number now.

Because of this adoption, carriers have begun taking measures to protect customers on their networks from malicious SMS spam. This means they’re filtering out spam texts just like email providers.

Why carriers mark text messages as spam:

  • Suspicious links
    URL shorteners like bit.ly, tiny.url, etc. are often used in phishing scams.
  • Duplicate content
    Avoid sending messages with the same content sent over and over again.
  • Message length
    Every SMS block is 160 characters long so long messages raise a red flag for carriers.
  • Unnecessary capitalization
    Messages with too many capitalized messages like “SIGN UP NOW FOR FREE” look suspicious and aren’t effective converters.
  • Illegal or explicit content
    Text messages that contain illegal or explicit content are likely to be blocked by carriers.
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5. Your message contains illegal or explicit content

Carriers have the right to block messages that contain illicit or adult content or references to drugs and criminal activity.

To improve SMS texting experiences the CTIA (an association of mobile carriers and industry advocates) has guidelines regarding sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, and tobacco (SHAFT).

The alcohol and legal cannabis/marijuana industries are of particular concern with SHAFT.

If your business provides either of these goods or services you still need to comply with SHAFT standards.

For businesses and organizations, this means adhering to TCPA guidelines and having opt-in and opt-out set up for promotional text messages.

CTIA SHAFT guidelines:

  1. Content regarding controlled substances and adult content must be age-gated.
  2. You can’t disperse content with depictions or endorsements of violence or hate.
  3. Don’t send messages containing profanity or hate speech.
  4. Endorsements of illegal drugs are forbidden.

6. You’re trying to mass text from your personal phone

Texting isn’t the same same as sending a Facebook message or using a messaging app like WhatsApp.

There’s also a big difference between mass texting and group texting. You’ll need an SMS marketing service or mass text app if you’re trying to broadcast text messages to thousands of recipients. A group text on your phone can only reach up to 100 recipients at a time.

Additionally, carriers set guidelines around the type of phone number you’re texting from and how many messages it can send.

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7. Your phone number isn’t carrier-verified for mass texting

There are two types of text messaging — A2P (application-to-person) and P2P (person-to-person). Various types of phone numbers support each.

How P2P and A2P text messaging affect deliverability

P2P (person-to-person) text messages are texts sent from a personal phone using a personal number. Carriers drastically limit how many P2P messages you can send from a personal phone.

Meanwhile, A2P is application or software-controlled text messaging from a business texting service. These messages are often automated and get sent from carrier-verified messaging platforms like MessageDesk.

You’re going to need A2P messaging if you’re a business looking to start text conversations with your customers.

A2P messaging ensures delivery for various types of SMS campaigns including:

  • SMS marketing and promotions
  • Appointment reminders and alerts
  • Invoices and billing confirmations
  • Feedback and review collection
  • And other business-related texts

Your takeaway is this:

Carrier-verified A2P numbers can send more texts than P2P numbers (personal phones). And they won’t get flagged as spam. Text messages have a much higher deliverability rate via A2P messaging.

But only certain types of phone numbers are approved for A2P messaging.

How short codes, toll-free, and 10DLC numbers impact SMS deliverability

If your business or organization needs A2P messaging, then you’ll also need an appropriate type of phone number.

In the past, businesses could only send mass A2P text messages through a short code. Businesses with tighter budgets had to use shared short codes, which carriers are now phasing out.

Now, toll-free numbers and 10-digit local phone numbers (10DLC) can be approved for high-volume A2P text messaging.

Business texting services like MessageDesk can even help. They make it easy to port or host your existing business number for high-volume, carrier-verified messaging.

Your takeaway is this:

Carriers will block mass text messages sent from a regular local phone number unless you’re set up for SMS verification.

8. The recipient opted out of messages or blocked your number

Most business texting services have built-in opt-in and opt-out management systems for TCPA compliance.

In MessageDesk, when someone texts back “STOP,” they’ll no longer receive texts from you unless they opt in again.

Similarly, if a recipient blocks your phone number, your message won’t be delivered. This is the likely explanation if you don’t see a “Delivered” or “Read” message notification.

professional working at desk and phone screenshot showing sms opt in compliance

9. The message recipient reported your message to a carrier

Still getting undelivered messages? There’s a chance the recipient reported your message to their carrier.

It’s also possible they reported a message that looked similar to the one you sent. So the carrier could preemptively block your message.

10. The message recipient didn’t pay their carrier bill

It’s possible that you’re texting someone on a pre-paid texting plan who has an outstanding balance on their account.

Many carriers offering pre-paid plans block these accounts from receiving messages until the balance is paid.

How to Make Sure Your Text Messages Get Delivered

1. Choose a business text messaging provider

The first step to getting good text message delivery for your business or organization is choosing a business text messaging provider.

There are many great business texting services out there, including MessageDesk. But you’ll want to find one with SMS verification and number tools for A2P carrier-verified delivery.

Looking to get your whole team texting? Then you’ll also want a service with a shared team inbox.

MessageDesk offers a specific range of features designed to suit all of your business texting needs.

MessageDesk Team Inbox

2. Create a free account

The next step is to create a free account. You can do this with MessageDesk by starting a free trial.

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3. Text-enable a business phone or select a new text number

Next, you’ll need to select a number or existing business phone line. Platforms like MessageDesk automatically give you one as soon as you hit “send” on your first message.

To text from your existing business number or landline, you’ll need to submit a number porting request.

Here’s an example of where to do that in MessageDesk:

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Note: It will likely take from 1-7 days to successfully text-enable your business number once you submit your request. Sometimes, this process is referred to as number hosting (not to be confused with number porting).

4. Get your SMS number verified for carrier-verified delivery

You can register for A2P on a toll-free or 10DLC phone number through MessageDesk’s registration service. Start by going to the A2P 10DLC Brand Registration plugin and click Begin Registration.

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Then enter your organization’s information. You’ll need to provide your business contact information, your EIN, and your contact information.

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After we get your information, we’ll submit it to the Campaign Registry, an organization that handles registration with carriers. Most people who submit a form with a tax ID that matches their business name get approval.

If you need help setting up your MessageDesk account and getting verified, contact one of our messaging experts. They’ll walk you through a product demo and answer your questions.

5. Vet your contact list through a verification service

As your business collects numbers, some of them will get deactivated. It’ll also turn out that some people submitted invalid numbers.

This is why you’ll want to run your contact list through a phone verification service. Phone verification providers can process a list of numbers for you.

6. Improve your message quality

After you verify your number and vet your contacts, you’ll want to check your message quality.

When you send out more meaningful business texts, you’ll minimize the chance of recipients blocking your number.

Try these strategies for sending messages your list will want to read:

  • Follow TCPA guidelines: First things first — not following TCPA rules can lead you to legal issues. But, as a bonus, these guidelines also help you send higher-quality texts.
  • Create a conversational messaging strategy: Write your promotional and transactional messages with text message etiquette in mind and include a conversational tone to make them more welcoming. You can also insert tags for personalization.
  • Use a message template: Feeling stumped trying to write messages your customers will enjoy? No worries. Use one of these text message templates as inspiration.

MessageDesk will help you follow all three ‌tips with these features:

  • Built-in TCPA compliance features like automatic opt-in mechanisms
  • A team inbox for easier conversational messaging coordination among your team members
  • Pre-saved templates with personalization tags for faster and customized messaging

You can’t remove the chance of someone blocking your number instead of opting out of your messages. But, these tips will keep more people sticking around.

Plus, besides boosting your delivery rates, sending out higher-quality messages will increase your open and response rates.

Get carrier-verified text message delivery. Try MessageDesk for free.

Final thoughts and next steps

MessageDesk makes it easy to improve your deliverability rates by helping you get a verified number that passes new messaging guidelines. Its features also assist with filtering deactivated numbers on your list and improving your message quality.

Give it a try by starting a free MessageDesk trial or meeting with a messaging expert.

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