Bounced emails are frustrating! When your emails bounce, it means that a portion of your prospects and customers may never get the email messages that you carefully crafted for them and that they wanted to see. Plus, high bounce rates can hurt your email deliverability, which is why you should closely monitor and proactively manage email bounces. Here, we discuss the important differences between soft and hard bounces, some typical bounce rates to let you see how yours compare, and steps that you can take to prevent your emails from bouncing.
Soft Bounce vs Hard Bounce—What’s the Difference and Why Should You Care?
An email bounce-back occurs when an email is rejected by a subscriber’s email server; the email bounce rate measures the portion of recipients who didn’t receive your email message. The bounce rate is further broken down into soft bounce rates and hard bounce rates:
- Soft bounces are often caused by temporary delivery issues that may be solved by the next email send. These issues include:
- Your subscriber’s mailbox is full
- Your recipient’s email server is down
- The email message is too big.
- Hard bounces will never be delivered. They’re returned to the sending email server because of a variety of reasons that are permanent, including:
- The email address is invalid or doesn’t exist
- The domain name doesn’t exist
- Your subscriber’s mailbox is no longer active.
How Do You Calculate Bounce Rate, and Does It Impact Deliverability?
The bounce rate is determined by dividing the total number of hard bounces by the total number of emails sent. A low bounce rate is a good indication of a high-quality, permission-based email list of active and engaged subscribers. A high bounce rate, however, suggests problems with your email list management and possibly with your acquisition methods. For example, typos in email addresses are frequently the cause of hard bounces, which indicates that your list needs to be cleaned up.
In addition, a high bounce rate can hurt your email deliverability in different ways, including:
- Getting a bad reputation—To determine sender reputations, Internet service providers (e.g., Gmail and Yahoo!) watch for Internet protocol (IP) addresses that repeatedly send messages to invalid email addresses.
- Getting blacklisted—High bounce rates can also land an IP address on the blacklists.
What’s an Acceptable Bounce Rate?
How do your bounce rates compare to other companies of similar size and in the same industry? To answer that question, check out MailChimp’s Email-Marketing Benchmarks (updated March 2018), which used “hundreds of millions of emails” delivered by the MailChimp system to calculate the report’s email campaign stats. Here are some highlights:
- Average soft bounces by industry ranged from 0.12% (daily deals/e-coupons) to 1.39% (architecture and construction)
- Average hard bounces by industry ranged from 0.07% (daily deals/e-coupons) to 0.98% (construction)
- Average soft bounces by company size ranged from 0.42% (26-50 employees) to 0.54% (11-25 employees)
- Average hard bounces by company size ranged from 0.28% (26-50 employees) to 0.38% (50+ employees).
A typical benchmark to strive for is an email bounce rate that is less than 2%. In other words, if you’re seeing bounce rates more than 2%, you should take a look at your email-marketing best practices to see what you can do to ensure that your emails get delivered to your subscribers’ inboxes.
6 Ways to Reduce Your Email Bounce Rate
Here are some important steps that you can take to help keep your email bounce rate low and your email deliverability high:
- When a hard bounce occurs, immediately remove the address from your email list and do not send to it again. Most email-deployment platforms automatically remove hard bounces. But it’s always a good idea to verify that your platform is permanently removing hard bounces, because we’ve seen setups in which it wasn’t occurring as expected. When a soft bounce occurs, however, you can try to resend it. Most email-deployment platforms will try to resend a soft bounced email for a certain amount of times until it is considered a hard bounce and is subsequently removed from the email send list.
- Authenticate your emails. Email authentication is essential to getting your emails delivered into your subscribers’ inboxes. It’s the way you verify that the domain used in the From address is under the control of you, the sender.
- Build and maintain a permission-based email list. This is a cardinal rule in keeping your email bounce rates low. For some great email list–building best practices, read “How to Build a Bigger, Better Email List.”
- Use a preference center. By giving your subscribers choices and control over what types of information and how much email they receive from you, an email preference center can help keep your bounce rate low and ensure the success of your email campaigns.
- Regularly and consistently send emails to your subscribers. By sending to your list regularly, you are not only less likely to see high bounce rates, but you are also likely to experience fewer spam complaints and higher subscriber engagement. People inevitably change their email addresses and abandon old addresses, which can result in email bounces. Contacting your subscribers regularly rather than sporadically will help prevent a high number of bounces occurring at once.
- Keep track of your email deliverability and performance results. The longer you let issues such as high bounce rates and weak subscriber engagement go undetected, the more likely you will get a bad-sender reputation that will negatively impact your email deliverability.