Hard bounce vs. soft bounce

Hard Bounce vs. Soft Bounce – What’s the difference?

Marketing professionals sending out their first email marketing campaign are often surprised by how much they need to know. Do you know what the most troublesome term is? Hard bounce vs. soft bounce. Despite knowing that it is a deliverability issue, they still mix hard bounce and soft bounce.

When an email fails to reach the recipient’s email server, it is called a bounce. A bounced email is getting a letter marked “Return to Sender”.

There are two categories of bounces; hard bounce and soft bounce. Hard and soft bounces are two of the most critical email marketing terms you should know. In this article, you will learn about two types of bounces and how you can avoid increasing bounce rates.

Hard Bounce vs. Soft Bounce at a glance

What is a hard bounce?

A bounce is when your email wasn’t delivered to the recipient’s inbox. A hard bounce is a permanent delivery failure. A hard bounce could happen for a couple of reasons. The most common reasons are fake email addresses, the domain doesn’t exist, or the recipient’s email server is not accepting the emails.

Hard bounces usually happen when you are sending cold emails. When an email bounced, the Internet service provider sent back a message explaining why it failed to deliver

Reasons for hard bounces (Permanent delivery failure)

  • The email address is invalid due to a typing error
  • The mailbox is unreachable or disabled
  • The domain has expired or renewed, or perhaps it is no longer active
  • The email address you are trying to reach doesn’t exist
  • A mail server at the recipient’s domain has blocked your server
  • The email doesn’t pass the security policies the recipient’s server
  • Something in the email body or subject triggered the spam filter

Sometimes the response from the recipient’s email service is not specific to categorize the bounced email.

For all of these reasons, there is not much you can do about it. The only solution is to delete the hard bounced contacts to maintain good list hygiene. Before deleting the email addresses from your CRM, make sure to export all the email addresses somewhere else.

What is soft bounce?

A soft bounce is temporary or less permanent. It could happen because the attachment you are trying to send is too big or the recipient’s inbox is full. When it comes to hard bounce vs. soft bounce, the soft bounced emails are less of a worry.

Reason for soft bounces (Temporary delivery failure)

There are many reasons for a soft bounce. Let’s have a look at some of the common ones:

  • The recipient’s mailbox is full or inactive or not configured correctly
  • Your message doesn’t meet the recipients anti-spam or anti-virus requirements
  • The recipient’s email server is down
  • The mail or attachment is too large
  • Unknown reasons prevent email from being relayed between email servers
  • Your message bounced back due to the content

If the email address continues to be a soft bounce in future campaigns, your ESP will consider it a hard bounce.

For each of these reasons, your email will not be delivered. Your email server continues to send the soft bounced emails for up to 72 hours. After it, soft bounces will be converted to the block list. It will protect your sender’s reputation and increase the deliverability rate.


Hard bounce vs. soft bounce


How can you improve your email bounce rate?

Track your email bounce rate to fix the problem that is causing a high bounce rate. Here are some steps you can take to address the problems

1. Require a double-opt-in for the new subscribers

One of the ideal ways to improve your email deliverability rates is to go for a double-opt-in for the new subscribers.

With a double-opt-in, you ask the subscriber to enter the email address for receiving the link. Once they click on the provided link, it will verify their email address, and they will be on your contact list.

2. Clean up your list regularly

A common reason for the high bounce rates is the cluttered list. You may have built the list a year ago. In that time, many have gotten new email addresses. That’s why it is essential to maintain good list hygiene by removing invalid email addresses regularly.

Updating your email list ensures your email list stays healthy and that you only send emails to the individuals who want to receive them.

3. Avoid using the spam language

Even if it seems obvious to you, you may be using spam language in your emails unintentionally. ESP looks for specific words, images, or phrases in content to mark emails as spam.

If you constantly use the word “Act Now” “Free Offer” “Make Money”, your email will go straight to the junk folder. Excessive use of the dollar sign is also a red flag.

4. Don’t use the free service for your email campaigns

Always send marketing emails from a paid ESP. Avoid using free services like Gmail. It will make your emails look unprofessional, which will ultimately hurt your brand image.

Moreover, free email domains usually don’t pass the recipient’s mail server policies. It will result in more hard bounces and an increased bounce rate.

If your email campaigns are working well, it doesn’t mean they will continue to work forever. Thus, it is crucial to monitor the campaign and deliverability rate regularly. It will help you address issues in the early stages.

5. Segment your email lists based on engagement

By categorizing your email lists according to engagement levels, you can increase the open rate of your emails.

This allows you to send personalized and targeted emails to subscribers who are more likely to interact with your content, resulting in a higher overall open rate and more effective email marketing campaigns.

Regular monitoring and analysis of your email engagement metrics can help ensure the success of your segmentation strategy and allow for any necessary adjustments.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about hard bounce vs. soft bounce

When it comes to hard vs. soft bounce, here are some questions that people commonly ask:

Q1. Are bounced emails problematic?

Soft bounces are not as bad as soft bounces. Hard bounced emails can harm your sender’s reputation and negatively affect the deliverable rate. Most ESPs can handle the hard bounces well. You can also remove the invalid email address for list hygiene best practices.

Q2. Where can I find the bounce information?

It usually depends on your ESP (Email Service Provider). You can find the bounce rates on the report of each campaign. Some service providers also tell you the reason why your email didn’t land in the recipient’s inbox.

Q3. Does an unbounced email mean it is delivered successfully?

Unfortunately, the answer is NO! An undelivered email doesn’t show up in the bounce report if the ISP at the receiving end doesn’t send an error message. It is rare to happen, but it is an unavoidable part of how emails work.

Q4. How long does an email take to bounce back?

Hard bounced emails appear first in the report because it is a permanent delivery failure. While soft bounces are a temporary delivery failure, they appear on your list after fourteen hours. It is how long your email server is trying to deliver the message.

Wrapping things up

One thing to keep in mind is when you are looking at the bounce rates, you must keep it right around 2% or under it. If it is over 2%, you might start to see other deliverability issues. Ensure your emails reach your recipients to abide by the spam laws and avoid bounce suspensions.

Now that you know what hard bounce and soft bounce are, you must keep an eye on the bounce details in your email campaign report. Whenever a bounce occurs, it means that you need to roll up your sleeves and dig into the list. Actively managing list hygiene will assist you in maintaining a good sender reputation, which will lead to better deliverability rates.