Know Your Email Bounces

Bounce. Why does such a happy word make email marketers shudder? Because bounce rates impact the deliverability of your beautiful email marketing campaigns. Too many hard bounces can even make the ISPs distrust your intentions and label you as a spammer. To keep your email marketing campaigns performing well, here is a quick overview of what you need to know about email bounces.

Types of Email Bounces

There are two kinds of email bounces: hard and soft. Hard bounces are addresses denied for delivery because they are invalid emails or an unexpected error during sending. These are the bounce types that can really impact your deliverability and ISP ratings. Soft bounces are recognized by the recipient’s mail server, but are returned to the sender because the mailbox is either full or temporarily unavailable.

Why Email Bounces Matter

Regardless of why your emails bounce, ISPs have thresholds for bounces, unsubscribes, and abuse complaints—the three factors that help distinguish spammers for legitimate email marketers. If the ISPs see you bouncing too much mail to too many people, they’ll block you off their network segment entirely. Not just the bad email addresses, but everything.

Email service providers (ESPs) must enforce these thresholds and possibly suspend your account if you exceed them. And you don’t want to be suspended. It can be a long and hard processes to prove you are sending to a valid list.

Bottom line: you need to have a system in place to monitor bounces and deal with them.

Most ESPs can track your bounces and take the name off your list after a certain number of bounces. A good system will also monitor if that address does sometimes receive the message and let you wipe that slate clean. You should be able to easily configure your bounce settings. Regardless of how you go about monitoring bounces, it’s important to do. Deliverability is one of the keys to email marketing success, and bounce rates are directly related to deliverability.

Why Your Email Bounce Rates May Spike

A stale list is the usual culprit of high bounce rates. This could be because you haven’t recently cleaned your list. Or it could be because you purchased a list from a source that didn’t use best practices in creating the list. (Read this article on how to purchase or rent a quality mailing list).

Why Valid Addresses May Bounce

Usually if email address you know are valid bounce, it’s because a spam filter may have interpreted the campaign content as spam. Spam filters can be on the recipient’s computer, on a company’s email firewall, at the ISP/Data center, or all of the above. Following best practices in subject lines and content will help avoid this issue.

Running your email campaign through a spam filter test program is also a good idea. This is also a feature your ESP likely provides.

All of these reasons are why email marketers shudder at the word bounce. But the fact is, if you follow best practices in developing and deploying your email marketing campaigns, you should stay in the good graces of the ISPs and ESPs…and your customers.

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