When an email bounces, it means it’s not being delivered to the recipient. When this happens over and over again, you’ll see the efficiency of your email marketing plummet. Frequent hard bounces could mean your IP address ends up on a blacklist. Long-term, poor overall deliverability rates will affect your sender reputation.

Also, remember that most email platforms make you pay for your contacts. Which means you're paying for contacts that bounce.

There’s no quick fix, but there are tips and tricks to overcome a poor email bounce rate, from making your email marketing content more effective to overhauling your email list management

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • What email bounce rate means for your email marketing
  • How to analyze your email bounce rate
  • What a ‘good’ email bounce rate is
  • How to reduce email bounce rate to stop spending money on bounced contacts and actually generate ROI from email marketing.

One of the best ways to reduce your email bounce rate is to make sure your list stays clean and healthy. We clean email lists for you. Want to see how we can help your unique case? Book a demo.

Tried everything to get better email open and click-throughs rates?

 Follow our free 26-point checklist to avoid mistakes that hurt your metrics

What is email bounce rate?

First things first… What exactly is email bounce rate

Emails bounce when they are not delivered, and there may be a number of reasons for this. It could be that the contact is unreachable, meaning the email address is incorrect or inactive.

Your email could also be bouncing because your recipients’ email servers are identifying your emails as spam. This could be because of the content of your email, or down to a poor sender reputation.

This causes problems because your email lists are not getting through to your contacts. The more this happens, the harder the problem becomes to resolve, and it could have serious effects on your email marketing campaigns.

Related post: 10 essential best practice to keep your email list healthy.

deliverability monitoring stats on how to reduce bounce rate

Does email bounce affect IP reputation?

A high bounce rate can lead to:

  • Bad email sender reputation: Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Google’s Gmail, AOL, and Yahoo watch out for IP address that consistently have poor deliverability
  • Being added to a blacklist: if your reputation doesn’t improve, your IP address may be given a ‘spammer’ label and blocked from sending to certain domains

If your email deliverability rates are low, your open rates will take a hit, and your engagement rates will really suffer. Every email marketers’ nightmare.

Hard bounce vs. soft bounce

Let’s take a look at what makes an email bounce. There are two types of email bounces; hard bounces, and soft bounces. Here’s how they differ:

What is a hard bounce in email marketing?

Hard bounces

A hard bounce is considered ‘undeliverable’, and is permanent. It is returned to the sender (sometimes called ‘bounce-backs’), and your email service provider will block you from emailing this contact again.

Soft bounces

A soft bounce is usually a temporary issue with email deliverability, that could be resolved before the next email send. An email service provider will usually make several attempts to send this, (usually no more than 5) before giving up and labeling it a ‘soft bounce’.

What causes an email to bounce?

Soft bounce:

  • Your recipient’s email provider is having issues, or the email server is down

  • The email is too large, or contains suspicious information and is flagged as spam

  • Your recipient has a full inbox

Hard bounce:

  • The email address doesn’t exist (it may be written incorrectly or include typos)

  • Inactive mailbox (the person no longer works for the company, or the domain no longer exists)

  • Your IP reputation is poor and is being rejected by the recipient’s email service provider

How to calculate email bounce rate

If 5 of your emails bounce back out of an email list of 100, you’ve got a 5% bounce rate.

Most email marketing tools will divide this into the different types of email bounces; ‘hard bounce’ and ’soft bounce’, so you may have a hard bounce rate of 2% and a soft bounce rate of 3%.

That’s how it’s calculated, but your email service provider should do this for you, and display this in your campaign statistics after each email send.

Here’s what you need to know when reviewing your bounce rates:

What is the average bounce rate for email marketing?

Your bounce rate may fluctuate during the lifecycle of your contacts. You may change your approach, or receive an influx of new email addresses. Keeping your score as low as possible is the goal, but understanding your industry benchmark helps you know when you are reaching worrying levels, and when to review your processes.

In a 2018 study run by leading email service provider MailChimp, the following averages were revealed:

email bounce rate statistics

What’s a good email bounce rate?

The lower the email bounce rate, the better. Campaign Monitor recommends that you keep it around 2% or less. If you start creeping up to 5%, you need to start taking measures quickly to ensure it doesn’t get any higher.

What does a high email bounce rate indicate?

A high email bounce rate means you have a poor email delivery. Your email campaigns aren’t reaching the extent of the audience intended.

A high bounce rate usually indicates that you need to work on your email list management, and may benefit from some data cleaning. You are probably lacking high-quality contacts, have little or no opt-in protocols, and may have lists full of unengaged contacts.

How to clean an email list to reduce bounce rate

The root cause of most hard bounced emails is bad data.

Data cleaning can be a lengthy and manual task. We’ve estimated that it takes a human about 3-5 minutes to clean one data point.

One of our clients, Vetrotech, had over 80k data points in its database. It would’ve taken their staff 4,200 hours to clean it. That's $75.6k and one staff member working on only this, full-time for 2 whole years. By the end of the 2 years, most of the data would've decayed already.

Using a data cleaning tool might be the best solution, depending on your list size and your business’s approach.

It's a huge job to do manually. We can do that for you in a snap. To learn more about how we can do this for you get in touch with us to get a free data quality check and to see if we can improve it.

How to reduce email bounce rate

Cleaning your data is the best way to reduce your email bounce rate

We know that a hard bounce can seriously affect your sender reputation and this can cause even more problems with email sending later down the line. The easiest way to avoid hard bounces is with clean data.

To keep your data free of hard bounces, create a process within your email marketing tool whereby hard bounces are immediately removed from your email list so that you cannot send to them again.

Get clear opt-in to reduce your email bounce rate

The ideal email contact is one that is engaged, expects your emails and is keen to read them. To collect contacts like this, the best way is to get them to opt-in to exactly what they want to receive. 

Even better, use a double opt-in method, which requires sending them a confirmation email after they’ve signed up to ensure they want to receive emails from you.

Be transparent, and live up to your promises. When they subscribe, make it clear how frequently your email sends will be, and what they’ll be about. You can do this in a preference center or with the sign-up form, for example, sign up to get our ‘monthly marketing tips’.

If your contacts aren’t expecting the email (they’ve been unengaged for a while, or they didn’t realize they were signing up to receive email communication), they’re likely to unsubscribe. You’re also more likely to end up in their spam folder, or worse, you could get a spam complaint.

3. Reduce your email bounce rate: Use a reputable email service provider

Using free domains like Google’s Gmail doesn't send the best message to your prospective customers, and it puts you at risk. 

Using a credible email service provider or email marketing platform provides the benefit of having a trusted and well-established email server which should bring you a good delivery rate. You’ll also be able to utilize your domain name, which adds credibility. The benefit of using an email service provider is that they will help verify and authenticate your domain for email sending, which reduces the risk of being considered spam.

Depending on the number of emails that you send, you can use their shared IP address, or get a dedicated IP address. The email provider will be able to advise which is best depending on your business’s needs.

If using a shared IP address, you’re relying on the quality of email sends from all domains using their servers (and they have their own protocols in place to protect this). If using a dedicated address, they may advise and support with “warming up IP addresses”. 

This is necessary because Internet Service Providers (ISPs) may block a sudden bulk email send from unknown domains. This process slowly increases the number of emails sent, to familiarize recipient servers with your IP addresses.

4. Pay attention to authentication

Authenticating your emails is key to achieving good deliverability rates, as it helps you meet accepted standards put in place by ISPs.

Email authentication standards commonly used are SPF (Sender Policy Framework), DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance).

  • SPF: validating an email message that has been sent from an authorized mail server. The domain owner can identify the mail servers they are able to send from with SPF protocols.

  • DKIM: a digital signature that provides email validation, verifying that it is legitimate and from an authorized email server.

  • DMARC: ties together both the SPF and DKIM authentication processes into a common framework for additional security. It controls what happens when emails fail an authorization test.

The aim is to avoid ‘spammers’ sending out bulk emails, with perceived (and often false) legitimacy. 

A study by Litmus revealed that marketers who describe their programs as successful are more likely than those at less successful programs to use SPF, DKIM, and DMARC.

types of email authentication tools for reducing email bounce rate

5. Write good quality marketing emails

It goes without saying that the content of your emails is the most important thing when it comes to email marketing. If your message isn’t targeted and relevant, it’s not going to hit home with your prospects. Equally, it’s not going to convince spam filters that it’s legitimate either.

Emails you send out to contact lists should be content that your recipients want to read, and that isn’t out of place in their inbox. If your recipient finds your email to be unwanted, or completely irrelevant to them, you may end up being flagged as spam, or get consistently deleted without being opened, which can affect your sender reputation too.

Pay attention to subject lines, calls to action, and your email template, as well as the content in the body of the email. Spam-like words or elements such as large images or attachments should be avoided too, as they could cause your emails to be automatically treated as spam.

Including an unsubscribe link is essential. Any marketing email without an unsubscribe link is at real risk of being considered spam.

Spam filters adapt their rules over time, so monitor what is working, and what isn’t.

Recap: 5 tricks to reduce bounce rate

1. Clear your data

2. Get clear opt-in

3. Use a reputable email service provider

4. Pay attention to authentication

5. Write good quality marketing emails

How’s your email bounce rate?

Even if your bounce rate is looking healthy, we hope there’s plenty in this article to take away and implement.

Writing good email copy, and authenticating your emails is just good marketing practice, which will improve the overall deliverability engagement rates of your emails.

In future, putting processes in place, such as regularly monitoring your deliverability rates, and cleaning your data will help ensure you are getting the most out of your email marketing efforts.

One of the best ways to reduce your email bounce rate is to make sure your list stays clean and healthy. We clean email lists for you. Want to see how we can help your unique case? Book a demo.

Tried everything to get better email open and click-throughs rates?

 Follow our free 26-point checklist to avoid mistakes that hurt your metrics


Maeva - January 11, 2021

Maeva Cifuentes is a B2B content marketer for tech scaleups and the founder of Flying Cat Marketing. She helps SaaS companies build trust and authority with useful, on-brand and original content.