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Susan DeMatei
August 21, 2019 | Susan DeMatei

Tips to Lowering Email Bounces

Emails that bounce can be one of the most frustrating situations to deal with in email marketing. A bounced email means that your reader didn’t get the information that they signed up for.

There are many things that can be done to help delivery your emails reach your readers’ inbox.

In this post, we’ll discuss the differences between a “hard bounce” and a “soft bounce”, why they occur, and how to prevent and resolve the issues that cause high bounce rates.

What is an email bounce rate?

A bounce rate is the amount of emails that were returned undeliverable as a percentage of your entire list. A small amount of bounces are to be expected. The benchmark for bounces is 2% or less. If you’re seeing bounce rates above 2%, continuing to send to those addresses without action and investigation on your part will damage your sending reputation globally and will degrade the deliverability of your future email sends.

When an email cannot be delivered, it triggers a return to sender message, or a bounce back message. Bounce rates are the measurement of this process, indicating the percentage of emails that don’t receive your message during a campaign.

The reasons for a bounce can be permanent or temporary, solvable or irreparable, so, when a bounce occurs, the returned error message helps diagnose the issue. There are so many reasons for bounces to happen that they have categories. Bounces are commonly categorized as either hard or soft, depending on how serious the issue is.

What’s the difference between a hard and soft bounce?

Hard bounces are permanent delivery problems. This could be as a result from:

  • an invalid email address (that doesn’t exist).
  • an outdated domain that is out of business or has changed.
  • a closed or deactivated email address.

Typically, if an email address is marked as a ‘hard bounce’ it will be added to a do-not-send list or suppressed from email campaigns moving forward.

Soft bounces are caused by temporary delivery issues and can occur for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • a temporary issue with the email recipient’s server.
  • the recipient’s mailbox may be full.
  • a server under construction.
  • receiving server may have identified an email as too large, or potentially containing harmful files or viruses.

These emails are usually not permanently flagged, and most systems try and resend multiple campaigns before they are deemed “dead”.

How do I reduce my email bounce rate?


  • Tell your subscribers about what they will be receiving, how frequently they will be emailed, and let them know they can unsubscribe at any time. The less vague you are about the kind of emails you will be sending them, the more likely they will stay as a subscriber.
  • Show the value of your newsletter subscription immediately at the time of signup with a thank you email or an immediate first offer.
  • Make sure that your content is relevant to your recipient.
  • Tell subscribers where they can change their email preferences. Giving your recipients the control they want is great for ongoing engagement and developing trust.
  • Give people a reason to sign-up and to stay signed-up beyond any incentives for becoming a new subscriber. Sometimes, people are tempted by a gift or prize but may not really wish to be added to the mailing list. You run the risk of high unsubscribes or fake addresses if they want to take advantage of an incredible offer without receiving future emails.


  • Include an opt-in checkbox at signup. Lists that are not created with opt-in permission of each recipient are more likely to see issues with high bounces and invalid addresses.
  • Make sure unsubscribe links are clear.
  • In addition to opting in on a form, email them a quick and simple set of instructions to activate their subscription. By ensuring that people must activate their subscription with a confirmation email, any erroneous or inactive addresses simply won’t end up in your active subscriber list. This double opt-in method creates lists that tend to be more engaged and active.


  • Monitor the results of your campaigns closely. If you see a spike in bounce rates, diagnose the issue right away. Don’t let such issues continue as it can seriously damage your sending reputation and might ultimatly “blacklist” your email account to where you can no longer send emails.
  • Use a professional mass mailing system, like Mailchimp. Don’t send mass emails via Outlook or your personal email server that is not set up to monitor and manage these metrics.


  • Don’t use a free domain sender address. Free domain email services are more susceptible to being flagged for misuse, which can cause them to bounce or be routed to a junk folder.
  • Ensure your email sending authentication is in place and that your sending address is from the same domain as your website.


  • If your list has been dormant for a period of time or if you have been sending via a system with not-so-great bounce management systems, you may benefit from a third-party list verification service to identify and remove undeliverable addresses. We recommend BriteVerify (link: or Kickbox (link: BriteVerify is already integrated into some Winery Software.

Identifying the undeliverable addresses is a must, but removing them entirely may not be the right step. Having the undeliverable addresses or risky addresses added to a do-not-send list will be a good way to ensure that any mysterious future purchases from those addresses will not pull them back into email campaign lists again.

Proceed carefully with riskier data so that you don’t get a huge spike in bounce rates. This is essential for good email deliverability. Inbox providers and spam filters pay close attention to bounce rates and failed attempts to deliver mail to a bunch of invalid addresses. If your bounce rates are sufficiently high, they may take steps to reject or block your emails entirely, and you could get ‘blacklisted’ where you will receive bounces for legitimate email addresses.


  • Send consistently and frequently – usually once or twice a month. Regular, consistent contact with your subscribers is an integral part of a successful email marketing program. Lists can go stale in as little as 6 months, and lists that have remained dormant over a longer period of time can see issues with engagement and spam complaints, as well as with bounces. If you only email your subscribers a couple of times a year, you should probably connect more regularly with your subscribers so they expect to hear from you on a regular basis and engage when they do.


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