Decrease Your Email Bounce Rate with These 7 Proven Tactics

Decrease Your Email Bounce Rate with These 7 Proven Tactics

Emails bounce over and over again. Every time that happens, it hurts your sending reputation and can negatively influence your future campaigns. Eventually, your emails start missing the inboxes of even legitimate recipients.

There are various techniques for avoiding such a fate, though. Join me as I share some proven methods for decreasing the email bounce rate. Also, check out our ultimate email deliverability toolset to find the needed of tools for improving your email performance.

What does email bounce mean? Why do emails bounce back?

A bounced email indicates that an email was rejected by the email server and therefore failed to deliver to the intended recipient(s). In that case, what is email bounce rate? Quite simply – it’s the percentage of all sent emails that bounced back, and it’s a vital metric for marketing and sales pros.

The reasons bounces occur differ, but they can all be split into two groups: a hard bounce and a soft bounce.

Hard bounce vs soft bounce 

A hard bounce is a permanent failure of email delivery. It means that there will be no further attempt to deliver an email and you need to find a different way to reach the recipient.

Hard bounces usually occur when an email address doesn’t exist. A message can also be rejected straight away by an incoming server. Now, let’s go over what is a soft bounce in email marketing. 

A soft bounce is a temporary failure of email delivery. It also means that although an email failed to deliver, further attempts can be made to complete the mission. If they fail too – a hard bounce will occur instead.

Bounces are impossible to predict, even with the best tools out there. In case you’re wondering what is a soft bounce in Mailchimp or any other top email marketing platform, why they occur, and how they’re dealt with – you can check out a detailed list here.

The most common causes are when a mailbox is full, the sending limit was reached, or a message was too large to be accepted. A connection might have also timed out during transmission and will be retried at a later time. 

How to prevent email bounces?

Whatever type of bounce occurs, you really want to keep them under control. With some easy-to-implement tips, you’ll be able to limit them and enjoy a good sender reputation as your list grows.

What’s considered a reasonable number? MailChimp and Campaign Monitor analyzed millions of emails. According to their data, their clients’ average bounce rate email out-turn revolves somewhere around 1%, including both hard and soft bounces. It’s way above the average in, for example, construction and manufacturing. On the other hand, it’s below the average in retail, media, and publishing. 

You should aim for at least your industry average, but with a bit of an effort, you can surpass most of your competitors.

Send content your contacts want to receive. Use double opt-in.

It might be tempting to add as many contacts to your mailing lists as possible.

Oftentimes, purchasing something in a store puts you on a newsletter list. Other times, you’re asked to leave your email to get access to some content. Out of nowhere, your inbox is suddenly flooded with unwanted offers and content you don’t care about.

It’s highly likely that you’ll ignore these emails, you might even report them as spam sooner or later.

That’s why it’s better to engage only people who want to be contacted. For that purpose, you should always use a double opt-in to explicitly ask if someone wants to receive your emails.

What else could be done to create an effective email bounce program to prevent them from ever occurring in the long run?

Purge the list

While I don’t encourage the type of purge you could see in The Purge movie, it won’t hurt to clean your list every now and then.

As you send more and more emails, observe how your contacts react to them. Many Email Sending Providers (ESP) will automatically delete those that hard bounced. If they don’t, make sure you do it yourself so they don’t mess with your reputation over and over again.

If some contacts soft bounce regularly, consider cutting them from the list too. There’s little hope they’ll improve on the go.

Also, consider cutting those that never open your emails. What are the odds they’ll open your email this time? Rather low. A good tactic can be sending a re-engagement email to such contacts. You can ask them right away if they still want to be a part of your club. Some might take you up on the offer and become active again. Others can just be cut.

Follow a consistent schedule

You may be producing lots of valuable content and it would be a shame for your followers to miss any of this. Resist any urge to send it all at once, though.

Instead, set up a logical schedule for all of your campaigns. Send a weekly newsletter on Tuesdays, follow-up with case studies on Thursdays and send some inspiration right before the weekend. Let readers get used to this schedule so they can anticipate your emails before they’re even sent.

At the same time, ESPs also like companies that have a consistent schedule. They’re less likely to suspect them of unwanted activities which, as a result, will result in fewer bounces.

Give them a choice. Some will want to get all of your emails and will even search your pages for more. Others might prefer to stick only with a weekly newsletter and might unsubscribe or even send you to spam if you talk too much.

A preference center is often a good solution in such a case. Instead of opting out, readers can choose what they want to receive and how often. It will keep them with you longer and will keep your reputation spotless.

Authenticate your emails

Spoofing and phishing are a thing. ISPs (Internet Service Providers) protect their users from malicious content by validating the sender’s authentications. If they don’t find any or something doesn’t add up, they’re likely to hard bounce an email.

Protect yourself by adding SPF and DKIM to your account. The first is used to tie an IP address or a hostname with the sender’s email address. The second adds a digital signature to an email that offers another layer of security.

ISPs also look for DMARC authentication, the most powerful of all three. It’s not widely deployed yet and only about half of Fortune 500 companies use it. But it’s certainly worth having to give your emails some extra credibility.

Don’t send from free domains

Gmail or Yahoo accounts may be okay for casual emails but they’re not suitable for mass mailings. Emails sent this way won’t pass a DMARC check and are likely to be sent straight to the junk folder.

What’s more, sending hundreds of emails this way will look suspicious. Add to this the fact that many spammers use the very same Google or Yahoo servers to send their carefully curated content and you have a recipe for a multitude of bounces on the way.

Use your company domain for all your campaigns. Not only will it look more credible in the eyes of the recipients but it will also help you build a good sending reputation.

Avoid looking spammy emails, write quality content

When determining if an email should be accepted or bounced, ISPs also look at the email subject and body. They’re very sensitive about the kind of words you use. Fill your email with a lot of “Free”, “90% Off”, “Cheap” and “Urgent”-s and a message’s life might be rather short-lived. Try, for example, Automizy to validate your subject line. Our attempt wasn’t quite successful.

(the higher the score, the better ;-))

(the higher the score, the better ;-))

The body also matters. Avoid adding too many images. Make sure you’re linking to legitimate sites. Don’t forget to add a link to unsubscribe from your mailing list.

Also, don’t overdo it with offers. If you send several emails weekly with a discount code for your product, people will start reporting or, at best, ignoring your content.

The 80/20 rule usually works well in this context too. Send 80% of valuable content and 20% of offers. Or mix them up – share a bunch of valuable links and a special offers somewhere in between. No one will mind.

Check out also how you should NOT do email campaigns in another article from our blog.

Test what works and what doesn’t, constantly

Finally, don’t forget to track your performance on a regular basis.

If you see an increased number of bounces or reports after a campaign, try to understand what happened. Have you added some new contacts? Are you really sending what these folks signed up for?

A/B test your content. Try different subject lines, experiment with longer and shorter emails. See if a heavily-visualized email resonates well with a given audience. Maybe they would prefer a plain-text version next time?

Wrapping up

There are no easy answers to many of these challenges. But with a bit of time spent with data, you’ll quickly be able to understand your audience better and improve your campaigns.

Until the next time!



Andriy Zapisotskyi
Andriy is a Growth Manager at Mailtrap, a product that helps people inspect and debug emails before sending them to real users. He has over 5 years of experience in the field of marketing & product. Andriy loves to network with people. Running is his hobby and he enjoys discovering new places. 

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