Improving Deliverability — What’s a Bounce Email and How Can You Fix It?


Email has become an extremely important element of digital marketing efforts in almost every industry. If you get great engagement and customer interaction through your emails, then you’re likely celebrating the fact that you’ve got that part of your advertising down. But, if you’re struggling to achieve that same success, then you may be experiencing a bounce email problem. 

Now, don’t panic. This problem can be fixed by giving your email marketing process a little TLC. But, don’t simply ignore the problem in the hopes that it will disappear. A high bounce rate is definitely something that needs to be addressed. 

Before you step into the ring to face your email delivery issues, you need to fully understand what you’re up against. Get a better understanding of what bounce emails are, the types of bounce backs you may be experiencing and how best to get content into your customer’s inboxes effectively. 

What Is a Bounce Email?

As fun and lighthearted as the term “bounce email” sounds, it’s actually a pesky problem that can snowball into a devastating mess if left unchecked. So, what is it? A bounced email is an email message that gets rejected by a mail server for any number of reasons. When an email bounces, it can’t reach the intended destination. 

When this happens, you may ask yourself, “Why do emails bounce?” “Did I do something wrong?” “What am I supposed to do now?” We’re here to answer these questions!

There are several causes for an email bounce. Here are the most common ones:

  • The email addresses being sent to don’t exist.
  • The recipient’s inbox is full.
  • There’s a server outage.
  • Your email address has received too many spam complaints from recipients, and you’ve been given a poor sender reputation.
  • The email contains flagged content (content marked as spam). 
  • The email is too big for the recipient’s inbox.

Whatever the reason is for your email not ending up in the right hands, it wastes your team’s time and energy and negatively impacts your overall email deliverability. To monitor and manage your outgoing emails and determine what the issue is, you must first understand what type of bounce back you’re experiencing. 

Types of Bounce Backs

Any bounced email falls into one of two categories of bounce backs: a soft bounce and a hard bounce. Here’s a breakdown of each:

Email Soft Bounce 

Soft bounces are temporary email delivery failures. They can occur for a few different reasons like if the receiving server is down or completely swamped with messages, the email content is too large to be properly delivered, the intended recipient has settings that don’t allow them to receive your emails or spammy or suspicious content was detected. 

Essentially, a soft bounce happens when parts of your email campaign are sent to your customer’s mail server and your email address is recognized, but the virtual message then bounces back as undelivered before actually reaching the recipient’s inbox. 

Email Hard Bounce

Unlike soft bounces, hard bounces are permanent. This type of bounce back takes place when the email is rejected because the recipient’s email address is invalid or simply doesn’t exist. When this happens, there’s no way around it — that bounced email address should be removed from your mailing list. 

A large number of hard bounces heavily affects your email marketing efforts — in a bad way. Spam filters can read high volumes of disengaged people or invalid addresses as a signal to block your emails or alert potential recipients of suspicious content. 

How Do You Calculate Email Bounce Rate?

If you’re taking a look at your analytics to understand the health status of your email campaigns, then your email bounce rate is a great place to start. 

Think about your bounce rate as a game of golf: You want a really low score to ensure a successful round of emails. To calculate this number, you can take the total number of emails that bounced and divide that by the number of emails sent. Then, to get your actual rate as a percentage, you multiply that number by 100. 

Email Bounce Rate: (total bounced emails / total sent emails) X 100

For example, if you send out 20,000 emails and 200 of them bounced and didn’t make it to their destination, then you’d have a bounce rate of 1%, which is a pretty good score.

When talking about email bounce rates, you generally want your score to be below 2%. If you find that your score is higher than 2%, you need to monitor your email marketing to determine what the issue could be. When bounce rates are higher than 5%, there’s most likely a significant problem that needs fixing ASAP. 

Similarly, you can find your email open rate — the percentage of readers who actually open and potentially engage with your content — by taking the number of people who opened your email and dividing it by the overall sent emails minus any that bounced (this is the number of emails that were actually delivered to an inbox). Then, multiply by 100 to get your percentage.

Open Rate: (opened emails / [sent emails – bounced emails]) X 100

According to a study done by Mailchimp, the average hard bounce rate for all combined industries in  2022 was .40% and the soft bounces rate was .58%. So, you want to be right around those numbers or just a smidge higher (as long as the number falls under 2%) if you’re going to reach the right target audience and engage well with your customers. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common causes of high bounce rates that may be plaguing your email marketing strategy. 

Reasons for High Email Bounce Rates

Don’t take your high bounce rate too personally. Although it’s a serious matter, it’s not always the sender’s fault — it might just take a bit of time and energy to find the problem’s source. You may experience a high email bounce rate if:

Your Contact List Import Has Errors

When you import your contact list without checking .CSV files, formatting errors can sometimes occur and these cause extra information to accidentally end up in important fields in your list, like the email address field. This can render the recipient’s address invalid and cause a bounce back. To avoid this, check your list’s format to see if any information looks funky or out of place before sending any further emails. 

Your Newsletters or Emails Are Too Big

If you tend to lean on the long side in your email correspondence or you incorporate images, GIFs or videos, then your email file may be too large to be delivered to your customers’ inboxes. If you’re running an email marketing campaign, it’s generally best to avoid using too many words or filling an email with tons of digital elements — even if those items may seem helpful in driving engagement. 

Your Contact List Has Inactive Users

A high bounce rate can occur when your list of contacts is outdated or full of disengaged people. If your email list isn’t used on a regular basis or hasn’t been sent to in a while, then your contacts may have become stale or uninterested in receiving your content. Or, potentially, people may be on your list due to an earlier purchase or interaction with your brand, and they haven’t taken any action since. In these cases, it can be beneficial to monitor who’s actively opening your emails and who may need to be removed or targeted for a re-engagement campaign.

The Intended Receiver Has a Full Inbox

On the less serious side of email bounce back, your customers’ inbox may simply just not have space for your content to be delivered properly. This slightly annoying reason for bounced emails can’t fully be controlled, but you can reach out to anybody with a cramped inbox and let them know you’d like to send some useful information if they’re able to clear up some space.

Fixing Bounce Rates: How To Rein in Bounce Emails

As you’ve probably noticed, there are several reasons your email bounce rate may be higher than you’d like. But, it doesn’t have to stay that way! Here are some helpful tips to lower your bounced email rate and boost email performance:

Create a Re-engagement Email Campaign

If your main issue causing emails to bounce is inactive customers, then it’s time to draw their attention back to your brand. A re-engagement email or stream of emails can switch up the styles of content that these recipients are used to seeing and not engaging with, and deliver a new type of messaging that may interest them more. 

What you’ll incorporate will vary depending on what it is you feel these people want to see. Oftentimes, sending coupons, special offers or new subscription options is a great place to start. This can push inactive users to consider your brand in a way they haven’t before, or give them the means to try out your company for a cheaper price.

It’s also important to note that some disengagement is normal and not cause for concern. If you feel part of your list simply wants to be taken off, then it may be smart to send them a straightforward (but kind) email asking if they’d like to be removed from the contact list. 

Segment Your Audience

Both the quantity and quality of your contact list are really important to your email delivery results. A large list of non-specific people may be hurting rather than helping your efforts. This is where email segmentation comes in handy. Email segmentation is the act of splitting up your contact list into personalized and more intentional groups based on data you’ve collected on them. 

These categories can be compiled according to any criteria you believe can help you deliver more targeted and impactful emails. 

Once you understand who you’re specifically sending your emails to, it may be easier to curate content that actually interests readers and pushes them through the buying process, even while using a cold email or re-engagement campaign. 

Ready To Check Your Email Bounce? 

It’s never too late to decrease your bounce email rates and create great, intriguing email content. 

With a better understanding of success causes and markers and an idea of the metrics that are vital to monitor, you’ll rebound your bounce rate in no time. 


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