The real reasons why your emails are bouncing- The science behind it

It takes a good deal of effort to launch and run an email marketing program. After weeks, maybe months of toiling away, collecting your data, creating the perfect email and then sending it across to see that they aren’t delivered, is heart breaking for an email marketer. Email Bounces are an important metric in the email marketing matrix. Leaving aside all the technical aspects of spam trapping and other such issues, sometimes, we are left wondering, what exactly went wrong for why your emails are bouncing.

Bounce messages are typically divided into two major types.

Soft Bounce– A soft bounce happens when an email is sent to an active verified email address, but does not get delivered. This is mostly a technical issue. The email inbox may not be available temporarily due to server outage or maybe the inbox is full (this happens more than we think it does) or some other technical issues that are not in our control. Usually, the mails are delivered after trying for some time. Most email service providers ensure that soft bounce emails are sent again for a certain amount of time.

Hard Bounce– This is when your email encounters a permanent delivery failure and does not reach the intended inbox at all. This failure is final and hence it is irredeemable. The reasons can be multiple. It may be because the email address is invalid, does not exist, or has errors in it. It can also be caught in spam traps. Sending the mails over and over again does not solve the issue.

 Stopping the bounce phenomenon

 Temporary bounces or soft bounces do not actually affect your delivery and IP reputation. They are normal for any email marketing campaign and should be viewed as such. Since it does not affect your delivery rate, soft bounces are classified as no threat.

The real threat if from hard bounces. It can hurt you hard. Hard bounces are an indicator of several things. Firstly, if your hard bounce rate is high, you need to stop sending out your emails, lest you affect your sender score and compromise your IP and the entire campaign. Most ESPs have warning mechanisms that slow down or stop campaigns if the hard bounce rates reach a certain level.

Understanding the reasons for your hard bounce is half the job done. There are many reasons for hard bounces. Notwithstanding bad email marketing practices and spammy attempts, email marketers should understand the reasons first before trying to diagnose and treat the issue.


A bad list

One of the most common and persistent reason for a high bounce rate is a bad list. Now, a bad list can be defined as one that has bad data, is not verified, contains errors and has spam traps in it. These are all red lights for good delivery. Most times, email marketers have a high opinion about their list. Sadly, most lists do not live up to expectations.

A bad list can be due to the fact that you may have purchased it from a shady list broker. This is the biggest mistake any email marketer can do. You have to make sure that you have high quality data that is exactly what you need for your campaigns. Most data is old, outdated and not relevant. This means that you are not going to reach your targets effectively. The older your list, the higher your hard bounce rate.

How to solve this?

Reconfirming your list is the best exercise you can do. Sending out mails that ask your audience if they are still interested in your products and services allows you to make sure that your list contains only subscribers who are actually interested. It may decrease your list count, but it increases your delivery and chances of engagement increase.

Use a double opt in process. This ensures that you have an interested receiver base and they will white list you. This increases your delivery, decreases hard bounce and improves IP and sender reputation. Double opt-in is the pinnacle of permission based marketing. It allows you to be 100% sure that the email address is in fact valid. No other process can give you this result.

Monitor the responses you get. This ensures that you catch and remove hard bounces, as and when they happen. You can eliminate all these issues if you have a good list to start in the first place. Engaging inactive subscribers by using good content allows you to make your list smarter.

  1. Remove hard bounces immediately from your list before using it again
  2. Cleanse and append your list periodically
  3. Unsubscribe requests need to be fulfilled immediately
  4. Create a repository of all hard bounces and match your lists every time before sending out campaigns.
  5. Validate all email addresses by verification via email while signing up
  6. Send out campaigns that ask your email subscribers to verify or update their email addresses.
  7. Ensure all infrastructure settings are set up including SPF, DKIM, DMARC.

Bounce rates need to be taken seriously as it can jeopardize your email campaigns permanently. Exercise caution and do not take warning signs lightly. There is a huge difference between soft bounce and hard bounce. Understand this well and set you your email campaign parameters accordingly. A low bounce rate is a sign of a good list. It increases sender score and improves IP reputation.

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