There’s no question that email marketing can be very lucrative… as long as it’s done right. Of course, your email campaign could be the best created but if it doesn’t reach your recipient, then it won’t amount to anything. Before you look at the different components of a great email campaign, you should first make sure that your email will get delivered. This is where email bounce rates come in.

What is an email bounce?

Well, it’s an email sent back to the sender because it cannot be delivered into the recipient’s inbox. Usually, the sender receives an email telling him or her the reason why the email was rejected. Aside from the fact that you should make sure that your customers don’t miss out on your email, you also need to keep your email bounce rate to a minimum because it can cause your email reputation to fall. If you have a low email reputation, you may get flagged as a spammer which lowers your deliverability rate even further. In short, you need to make sure that you keep your bounce rate to a minimum (ideally, less than 2%) to increase the likelihood of your campaign’s success.

Before we start discussing how to reduce email bounce rates, let’s first discuss the two main types of email bounce and what causes them.

What is a hard bounce in email marketing?

A hard bounce is when your email is permanently undeliverable. This means that it has been permanently rejected by the recipient’s email server. There are several reasons this can happen. It could be that the email address is invalid because the domain name is incorrect or doesn’t exist. The recipient email address itself may not exist. Or, the recipient email server has blocked delivery completely. Whichever the reason may be, a hard bounce means that the email address should be removed from your list permanently.  Continuing to send emails to a known bad address will harm your email reputation.

What is a soft bounce in email marketing?

If a hard bounce is permanent, then what is a soft bounce email? It’s the opposite. Soft bounce emails are those that were temporarily rejected. There are also several reasons why this can happen. It could mean that the target recipient’s inbox is already full. It may be that the recipient’s email server is down or that the message is too large for the recipient’s inbox. Another reason is that the email server is busy or there is a data format error.

Take note that a soft bounce can also be caused by a blocked bounce, where the email server temporarily rejects the message because of filtering issues such as when your IP address or domain is blacklisted. This can also occur if there is already a previous complaint from a user or if the spam score of your content is high. It could be that the content of your email appears to be spam.

Generally, the email server will attempt delivery several times over a set period (i.e. 72 hours) until the email is delivered. The email will become undeliverable only if it was not able to successfully land in the recipient’s inbox during the retry period.


Hard bounce vs Soft Bounce

The main difference between email hard and soft bounces is that the former is permanent while the latter is only a temporary delivery failure. When it comes to soft bounce vs hard bounce email, you’re better off with the soft bounce. Also, soft bounces are to be expected though they should be small in number. However, as we’ve already mentioned, a soft bounce can become converted into a hard bounce if the server was unable to successfully deliver the message to the recipient after several attempts over a while.

To reduce your bounces, both hard and soft, you’ll need to make sure that you follow email marketing best practices:

  • Maintain good list hygiene. Regularly purge your list of invalid emails and non-responders. A high bounce rate can cause your sender reputation to fall which can negatively affect your email delivery rate. By keeping your list clean, you help protect your sender reputation and are more likely to achieve higher email delivery rates.
  • Authenticate your email. Email authentication is when the domain you are using in the “From” address is yours and yours alone. It informs the recipient email server that the email is not forged, being used by scammers or phishers to send unwanted or harmful messages.
  • Follow double opt-in procedures before adding email addresses to your list. Whenever a person subscribes to your email list, make sure to send them a confirmation email. This prevents you from including invalid emails into your list. It also ensures that the person wants to hear from you and didn’t just accidentally fill out the wrong form.
  • Build and maintain an email list of people who have permitted you to send them. Don’t buy or rent email lists. It may seem hard to grow your list but it’s worth it. If you use a list that contains email addresses of individuals that you have not interacted with previously, chances are that they’ll consider you spam. Worse, they may consider you as a scammer which can result in IP address getting blocked and blacklisted.
  • Pay attention to your email deliverability. Aside from monitoring your email bounce rates, make sure to check your response rates. What are the recipients saying? Are they marking your emails as spam? By doing this, you can gain important insight into the success of your email campaign. It can help you fix any problems in your campaign early on and fix them to mitigate damage.
  • Segment your list. Make sure that you only send content that the recipient is likely to be interested in based on the data that you’ve gathered. This way, they’re more likely to open your email and engage with your content. Without segmentation, there’s a higher possibility that an email recipient will block your email because they found the content irrelevant or uninteresting.
  • Keep your email campaign simple. Soft bounces can occur because the email was too large to be received in the recipient’s inbox. To avoid this, make sure that your email does not contain large image files or include unnecessary attachments.
  • The catch-all email server helps to manage the bounce rates efficiently and exclude the risks of your email marketing campaigns.

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How Email Validation and verification services can Help Decrease Hard and Soft Bounce Rates

We’ve mentioned maintaining good list hygiene as one of the best ways to reduce your email bounce rate. Now, if you’re using an email-deployment platform, it usually automatically removes hard bounces from your list. However, it is also a good idea to make sure that no email addresses on your list can be considered invalid before you even start sending out your emails. This is where email validation and verification services come in. These services offer you an effective and efficient way to regularly review the email addresses within your list and make sure that they are valid. It ensures that the quality of data that you collected is good in real-time. No typos or fake accounts to worry about. It also reduces spam complaints, prevents you from getting blacklisted, and indirectly helps improve your sender reputation.

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