Hard bounce in email marketing

What is a Hard Bounce in Email Marketing?

Whenever a hard bounce occurs, it means an email cannot be delivered for a permanent reason. When a soft bounce occurs, the issue is temporary.

As soon as you begin email marketing, you’ll realize that you have to learn a new language. The terminology of email marketing is unique for every business, and each phrase means something different.

It is common to hear the term bounced email when talking about email marketing. We’ll be able to get a better understanding of this issue by reading this article and seeing what you can do to fix it.

What is a bounced email?

A bounced email indicates it wasn’t delivered to its intended recipient. This can be due to a temporary or permanent rejection by the mail server.

Your email will be bounced if this happens, and you’ll receive an automatic response notifying you of the failed delivery.

Bounced emails can be caused by several factors. These reasons can include:

  • An incorrect email address
  • Server outages
  • A recipient’s inbox being full

You may also experience bounced emails if you are experiencing problems at your end, as the sender.

In certain circumstances, this may mean:

  • You have been flagged as spam too many times
  • You have a restrictive DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance) record that prevents your email from passing DMARC verification

What is hard bounce vs. soft bounce?

The bounce rate of your email marketing list is a reliable indicator of its health. Emails might bounce for a variety of reasons, but these are usually classified as soft or hard bounces.

Hard Bounce

When an email cannot be delivered for permanent reasons, it is called a hard bounce. There is usually a problem with the recipient’s address being invalid or out of date.

If the domain does not exist, or the subscriber typed the address incorrectly, it may have been an error.

This metric is crucial in email marketing, as a high number of hard bounces can lead to the sender’s domain being blacklisted.

Therefore, it’s important for marketers to regularly monitor their email lists, ensure they’re targeting the right audience, and provide options for users to update their contact information.

When an email is returned, the sender gets a notification about the failed delivery. If the email was returned due to a hard bounce, the recipient’s email address is immediately removed from the sender’s mailing list.

This is because the email address is no longer valid, and any further attempts to send emails to this address will result in more bounces.

In summary, managing hard bounces effectively is key to maintaining a healthy email list and ensuring your marketing emails reach your intended audience.

Soft bounce

According to Big Commerce, Soft bounces occur when a temporary problem prevents an email from being delivered. There are various reasons why soft bounces occur, including a full inbox or a server issue.

You can retry the email a few more times since a soft bounce is temporary. Attempting to deliver the email again will result in a hard bounce, so remove that subscriber from your list.

Does Bounce rate affect email marketing?


Email Marketing


Your email bounce rate affects how well your emails are delivered overall. Senders whose reputation is consistently high can see their reputation drastically diminish. Even for recipients who open and engage with your emails, your emails are more likely to be sent to the spam folder if your reputation is poor.

When this happens, you’ll start to notice a decline in your engagement levels, including lower open rates, lower click-through rates, and ultimately, a lower number of sales.

As a result, you’ll want to keep your email list as clean as possible, filling it with non-bouncing email addresses. This ensures that the majority of your recipients receive your emails in a place where they can see them, rather than in their spam folder.

So, how much of a bounce rate is acceptable? Depending on your industry, the average bounce rate ranges from two to five percent. If your bounce rate exceeds 5%, you should clean up your list or figure out why your emails aren’t being sent.

Ways to reduce hard bounce rates?

Reducing hard bounce rates is crucial in email marketing as it affects the success of your campaigns.

Here, we present several effective strategies to lower these rates, ensuring your emails are delivered to the right inboxes and enhancing your marketing outcomes.

1. Proper Contact Collection

Accurate Contact Gathering is a key strategy in minimizing hard bounce rates in email marketing. It involves using a robust sign-up form to collect email addresses from individuals who are genuinely interested in your content.

This not only helps to decrease hard bounces but also enhances the overall effectiveness of your campaigns. A common issue leading to hard bounces is typographical errors in email addresses. By ensuring the accuracy of email addresses at the point of collection, you can significantly reduce hard bounces.

In essence, accurate contact gathering is a proactive measure that can greatly improve your email deliverability and the success of your marketing efforts.

2. Double Opt-In Method

The Double Opt-In Method is a powerful tool in email marketing to decrease hard bounce rates. This two-step process first involves the user submitting their email address, followed by a confirmation email sent to the user to verify their subscription.

This method ensures the email address is valid and belongs to an individual who is genuinely interested in your content, thereby reducing the likelihood of hard bounces.

By implementing the double opt-in method, you can enhance the quality of your email lists, lower spam complaints, and ensure your audience is truly engaged with your content. It’s considered a best practice in email marketing and is instrumental in optimizing your campaigns.

3. Regular List Cleaning

Regular List Maintenance is a vital practice in minimizing hard bounce rates in email marketing. This involves routinely removing duplicate, fake, or inactive subscribers from your email list.

Maintaining a clean email list is beneficial as it lowers your unsubscribe rate, reduces costs (as many email service providers charge based on list size), and prevents potential blacklisting.

To maintain your list, remove all hard bounces immediately and monitor soft bounces from your recent campaigns – if an email address consistently results in a soft bounce, it should be removed.

Regular list maintenance can enhance your email deliverability, decrease spam complaints, and ultimately improve the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns.

4. Learn From Good and Spam Emails

Understanding Good and Spam Emails is a key approach to reducing hard bounce rates in email marketing. This involves analyzing the traits of effective emails (those with high open rates and low bounce rates) and spam emails (those often marked as junk or blocked by spam filters).

By studying successful emails, you can gain insights into effective content, subject lines, and optimal sending times. Conversely, examining spam emails can help you avoid practices that lead to emails being marked as spam, such as certain words or phrases, excessive email frequency, or poor quality email lists.

By learning from both good and spam emails, you can craft emails that are more likely to land in the recipient’s inbox and less likely to be flagged as spam, thereby reducing hard bounce rates and enhancing your email marketing campaigns.

5. Deliver Value

One effective strategy to mitigate hard bounce rates is to add value to your emails. Here’s how you can do it:

  • Content Relevance: Make sure your emails, including the subject line, body, and any attachments or links, are pertinent to the recipient. Emails with irrelevant content may be marked as spam by recipients, leading to higher hard bounce rates.

  • Customization: Tailor your emails based on the recipient’s preferences, behavior, and previous interactions with your brand. Emails that are customized are more likely to be opened and less likely to be flagged as spam.

  • Regular Interaction: Keep in touch with your recipients regularly, but avoid overwhelming them. This helps keep your brand fresh in their minds and reduces the chances of your emails being flagged as spam.

  • Respecting Recipient’s Preferences: Always include an option for recipients to opt out of your emails. Respecting their choice to discontinue receiving further emails can enhance your brand image and lower hard bounce rates.

  • Prioritize Quality: Concentrate on the quality of your emails rather than the volume. Sending too many emails can lead to recipients flagging your emails as spam, thereby increasing your hard bounce rates.

6. Consistent Emailing

Maintaining consistency in your emailing practices is one of the ways to reduce bounce rate effectively because this allows you to collect enough valuable information about your recipients and adjust your strategy to meet their expectations. Here’s how you can do it:

  • Regular Interaction: Keep a consistent communication schedule with your recipients. This helps keep your brand fresh in their minds and reduces the chances of your emails being flagged as spam.

  • Stable Sender Information: Use stable sender information, including the sender name and email address, in all your emails. Frequently changing sender information can confuse recipients and increase the chances of your emails being marked as spam.

  • Monitor Engagement: Keep track of your recipients’ engagement with your emails and adjust your emailing practices accordingly. A drop in engagement might indicate that your emails are not meeting your recipients’ expectations.

By maintaining consistent emailing practices, you can not only lower your hard bounce rates but also enhance your overall email marketing performance.

Remember, the objective of email marketing is to foster a robust, positive relationship with your recipients, and consistency is crucial to achieving this.

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7. Know Spam Triggers

Understanding Spam Triggers a vital tactic in email marketing, which emphasizes the importance of recognizing and circumventing elements that could classify an email as spam.

Implementing this strategy not only improves email deliverability but also significantly reduces hard bounce rates, thereby optimizing the overall performance of email marketing campaigns. Here are some tips for you:

  • Steer Clear of Spammy Subject Lines: Certain words and phrases in the subject line can activate spam filters. Refrain from using excessive capitalization, multiple exclamation marks, or words like “free”, “guarantee”, and “no obligation”.

  • Maintain a Balanced Text-to-Image Ratio: Emails that contain large images with little text can activate spam filters. Aim to maintain a balanced text-to-image ratio in your emails.

  • Don’t Overdo Colors and Fonts: Emails that use many different colors and fonts can appear spammy to email filters. Stick to a consistent and professional design in your emails.

  • Avoid Bought Lists: Sending emails to bought lists can result in high hard bounce rates as these lists often contain invalid or outdated email addresses. Always build your own email list with recipients who have opted in to receive your emails.

  • Authenticate Your Emails: Use email authentication methods like SPF, DKIM, and DMARC to verify that your emails are coming from a trusted source. This can help reduce the likelihood of your emails being marked as spam.

By recognizing and avoiding spam triggers, you can not only lower your hard bounce rates but also enhance your overall email marketing performance.

Remember, the objective of email marketing is to foster a robust, positive relationship with your recipients, and steering clear of spam triggers is crucial to achieving this.

How do you handle a hard bounce?

The most difficult aspect of bounce management is that a bounce usually indicates a problem that hinders email communication with consumers.

So, what can you do if you can’t contact your customer to let them know there’s a problem with their email address?

1. Protect your delivery reputation

If you receive a hard bounce or a spam complaint/notification, stop sending emails to such addresses right away.

A high number of bounced emails or a clear disregard for spam concerns can tarnish your delivery reputation. When it comes to handling and responding to bounces, there’s only one rule to follow: send no more than is absolutely necessary.

2. Notify your support team

The simplest way to handle bounces is to set up a system that tells your support team whenever a delivery issue arises.

Even if you automate some bounce handling, you’ll almost certainly still have bounces you can’t handle automatically. Regardless of how complex your system grows, support will always play a part in handling your circumstances.

3. Display a prominent notification to the user when they log in

If your application receives a lot of hard bounces, display a visible notification. Assume a new user registers but misspells their email address.

Their welcome email bounces while they’re looking about and checking out your app, and you’re notified. You can now show a notification to the user right away so they can remedy their error.

4. Log an event or add a note to the user’s account for future reference

Write a note about what happened in the user’s account and process the request. The recipient might not even be aware that their emails bounced, and they may try to figure out why they didn’t receive the email they expected.

5. Let users reactivate delivery

It’s not uncommon for hard bounces to occur because of unusual and temporary circumstances. Let’s imagine a new employee’s email address wasn’t correctly configured.

It may bounce, but that bounce serves as a motivator for the user to make sure the issue is rectified. You should be notified that it’s okay to try again if the email address works.

6. Use other forms of communication

If your app uses SMS or requires users to create and confirm numerous email addresses, you may need to use these techniques to notify them of issues.

7. Notify other users on the account

The simplest method is to notify the appropriate administrators that the user’s email is bouncing.


Anyone can send an email, but the way you handle and recover from difficulties, like most software efforts, makes a huge difference in the deliverability of your emails.

Bounces should be handled with care to safeguard your domain’s reputation and to guarantee that customers have fewer problems. You don’t have to put in place a robust bounce handling solution right once, but you should keep an eye on it and continually build up and improve your bounce handling skills over time.

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