Crush Your Email Bounce Rate with These Proven Tactics

email bounce rateDo you like wasting money for no good reason? Nobody does. But that’s exactly what happens when you let your email marketing result in a needlessly high bounce rate.

I think most people underestimate just how serious bounced emails are. You have to understand that a bounced email has repercussions well beyond just not delivering a message to one given subscriber. 

The longer you let bounces accrue without taking action, the bigger the damage across the board. Over time, more and more of your other emails will end up in the spam folder or not delivered at all. That is to say the less you care about your bounced emails today, the less of your emails you will get delivered in the future.

What is a bounce rate

The bounce rate is simply the percentage of emails that bounce back, that is to say they do not get delivered to the recipient. Obviously, the lower your bounce rate, the better.

email bounce ratePlease consider however that there are two different types of bounced emails, so it’s wise to track the two rates separately.

Hard Bounces:

Meaning: The recipient’s email address is permanently invalid. This means no email can be delivered to that address, either due to:

Misspelled address: A typo in the recipient’s email address prevents any mail from reaching them.

Closed account or domain: The recipient’s email account or the entire domain has been shut down and no longer accepts emails.

Soft Bounces:

Meaning: The email delivery encountered a temporary issue. This means the email might be delivered later, but not immediately, because of:

Full inbox: The recipient’s mailbox is currently full and cannot accept more emails.

Server overload: The recipient’s email server is experiencing high volume and prioritizing messages from senders who have a better reputation than you.

Both rates are important because the way that you deal with each is different. Dealing with a high hard-bounce rate has mostly to do with how you acquire emails, and how you deal with list hygiene. Whereas improving your soft bounce rate has to do with becoming a better and more reputable email marketer.

Why emails bounce, and why it doesn’t matter

The truth is that while there are a myriad of different reasons why emails bounce, the solutions are the same. All that matters is whether it is a hard bounce, or a soft bounce. Exactly why you got a bounce doesn’t matter in terms of the strategies to lower your bounce rate. 

With that said, the most common reasons are:

– Misspelled email addresses because you didn’t validate on opt-in

– The mailbox server is down for any reason

– You’ve been blocked or blacklisted by the subscriber

– That one recipient’s inbox happens to be full

– Issues with the domain or domain name server

– Your email size exceeds what that recipient’s mailbox allows

– A temporary auto-responder set to bounce all incoming emails

– Temporary network or server issues on either end

– Reputation issues on your end

– Spam filters deeming your email to be too “spammy”

– “Greylisting” where a server bounces any first attempt from a new sender

Your bounce rate matters

We kind of touched on this in the introduction, precisely because it is so important. You have to realize that your bounce rate has a ripple effect across your entire delivery for all of your emails.

email bounce rateEvery time that you let your bounce rate go up, your reputation with the inbox providers goes down. In turn, more of your emails end up in the spam filter. And that includes even emails sent to subscribers who love and engage with your emails otherwise. 

So what is an acceptable bounce rate?

The truth is that this is very specific and depends on the business. The answer should be “as low as you can get it”. However, if you’re looking for specific numbers to compare with, understand that it’s normal for bounce rates to go as high as 2-5% given an average email marketer.

Personally I wouldn’t let anyone that I’m advising get there in the first place, but if you’re seeing bounce rates above this range, then it might be time to ring the alarm bells and start cleaning your list.

How to reduce your email bounce rate

Make segmentation a priority

When it comes to your job as an email marketer, architecting your email segmentation is one of your most important, and defining tasks. This is because segmentation is what allows you to treat different subscribers differently, and also constitutes a pre-requisite for the next strategies that we will talk about.

While there are technically an infinite number of ways you can segment, most segmentation will be based around one of two things. 

  1. Based around marketing concerns such as the position in the customer journey
  2. The subscriber’s overall level of engagement with your emails

The second type is directly related to deliverability, in that you want to tailor your deliverability concerns differently with those who are more engaged, and those who barely engage. And especially with those who have become entirely inactive.

However, even segmentation based on marketing concerns directly relates to lowering your bounce rate. This is by virtue of allowing you to send more relevant content, which in turn lowers your bounce rate. But more on that later.

Perform regular list hygiene (along with winback campaigns)

The obvious part here is pruning your list of any emails that involved a hard bounce. If your ESP is any good, it should make this super easy and effortless.

But list hygiene goes much further than just cleaning your list of the hard bounced addresses. You have to realize that most of the time an email address doesn’t become a soft bounce out of nowhere. There are typically early warning signs, such as a lack of engagement. These are what we refer to as “inactive subscribers”.

email bounce rateWhen you’re holding onto subscribers who haven’t opened one of your emails in a while, you’re basically asking for trouble. It’s just a matter of time before some of them end up as a soft bounce, or even worse, block you, or report you as a spammer. Yes, some people use that “report spam” or “block” button as a way to unsubscribe.

In either case, the solution is simple: you need to rid yourself of this dead weight. Now, I know this can be hard seeing that you’ve invested time and money to acquire those subscribers. The good news is that you don’t have to do it straight away. 

You can give them one more chance with a so-called “winback campaign” which seeks to revive inactive subscribers before removing them from the list.

Avoid looking spammy by staying relevant

Notice I didn’t say “do not spam”. I already know that by reading this article, you are a legitimate sender. You’re sending emails to people who asked to hear from you.

The problem is that the definition of “spam” has expanded over the years, to where now “spam” can mean “any email that annoys me, or I do not find relevant”. In fact, many consumers mark emails as spam even if they asked to be on that list.

Furthermore, the inbox providers have widened their definitions as well. The spam filter doesn’t really care if the person asked to hear from you or not. They’re checking for signals whether your emails are unwanted at the present time. It doesn’t matter if months before they were super excited about signing up for your emails.

All of this is to say that it is your responsibility to stay relevant and valuable for your subscribers at all times. You can’t get lazy and say “well they gave me permission to send them stuff”. That won’t cut it anymore.

What you need to do is ensure that your emails stay relevant over the entire customer lifecycle. And just how do you do that? You focus on creating engaging content delivered at just the right time. 

One might ask “so how do you do that?”. This is where the magic of personalization comes into play. If you’ve done the work of architecting your segmentation, the personalization stuff is fun. Whether this is using our smart personalization feature, or some of the more advanced techniques, you can be assured that it never gets boring.

The main issue is more that people tend to rush to the fun personalization stuff before they’ve built their foundation, and that is proper segmentation.

Curb your enthusiasm, persuade first, sell later

We’re all in this to make more sales and money with email. But the paradox is that the more you focus on selling prematurely, the less sales you will make. 

One of the best analogies I’ve heard involves dating. It says that most rookie marketers are like a person walking up to strangers and asking them “Will you marry me?”

email bounce rateThe reason that email marketing works so well is that it allows you to build a relationship of trust and authority before you ask for the sale. There’s a time and place for hard-selling, but it is not with fresh new subscribers on your list.

So how does this relate to your bounce rate? Well, one of the main causes of triggering the spam filters is precisely this mindset. It is when you get so impatient that you use spammy looking subject-lines, content that sounds like a telemarketer wrote it, and an impatient focus on sales before engagement has been achieved.

And even if your spammy looking subject lines and email body do not trigger the spam filters, the way that you annoy subscribers might lead quite a few of them clicking that block button. Remember, the secret to all email profits is in engagement. Master that first and see your bounce rates drop as your sales and profits rise.

Choose an email platform that prioritizes deliverability

I think the best hack to lowering your bounce rate and improving your deliverability is choosing a platform designed specifically to help you boost your deliverability. 

The sad fact is that most platforms don’t actually care if your emails get delivered or not. This is despite the fact that an undelivered email earns you zero profit. You have to realize that most platforms are in the business of selling you overpriced plans with toy features that you do not need.

It’s what works to increase their revenues, not yours. Which is why deliverability is often an afterthought with most email sending platforms. Emercury is the exact opposite. 

We also have all the fun and cool cutting edge features, but the emphasis is on putting deliverability and core features front and center. This in turn allows you to focus on what matters most, making more sales with your email marketing.

Get A Strategic Partner On Your Side

There’s no need to go at this alone. While we do put out a lot of free content to help you, nothing beats a one-on-one conversation. In these articles we try to help clarify things as best as possible. However, every business is different, so we have to generalize.

If you want to understand better how to implement email marketing in your specific business, let’s have a chat. At the moment I am still able to do some free demos, so be sure to book one while I can still do these.

I would love to hear about your specific needs, challenges and any confusion you might have about email marketing strategies. And then, help you see how you can use Emercury to improve your bottom-line.

Alternatively, or in addition to booking a free demo, you can also grab a username for our forever-free-plan while we still have it. It’s probably the most generous email marketing automation plan on the planet. We include almost every feature in this plan, with very few restrictions.

Remember, you get to keep this plan for life, for free… Provided that you grab a username while registrations are still open. Note that we might decide to pull this way-too-generous offering at any point. So click that link to check if we still allow registrations.

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