There is no shortage of reasons why email marketing is a crucial form of marketing. For many businesses, it remains their primary customer acquisition channel, and for a good reason; it’s reliable and cost-effective. However, among other potential pitfalls lie bounce rates, which can indeed hamper your email marketing efforts. Such metrics as email open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates may highlight marketing mistakes, but they don’t adequately highlight bounces. Therefore, let us explore how to avoid high bounce rates in email marketing, as well as their root causes.
Email bounce rates
Email bounce rates measure emails that were not delivered, and were instead returned to the sender by a recipient mail server. This can be caused by various factors, such as:
- An invalid recipient email address or a nonexistent domain name
- A recipient’s spam filter
- A recipient’s email server blocking email delivery
- Poor sender IP reputation
In most regards, then, emails function similarly to physical post; failed deliveries will be returned to the sender, or “bounced”. While acceptable bounce rates can be up to 2% across industries, repeated bounces can endanger future marketing campaigns. Depending on the root causes and their severity, email bounces are divided into soft and hard bounces.
Soft bounces refer to emails that bounce back to the sender undelivered, after having been accepted by the recipient’s mail server. This can occur if a recipient’s mailbox is full, or if the recipient’s email server is down or offline. It can also be caused by emails being excessively large; all temporary, non-severe issues, hence “soft”.
Hard bounces refer to emails that bounce back undelivered, without having been accepted by the recipient’s mail server. This can occur due to an invalid email address or domain, or blocked email delivery. Such issues are more severe and require attention, hence “hard”.
How to decrease bounce rates in email marketing
The vast majority of small businesses still rely on email as their primary customer acquisition channel. Thus, this type of marketing is crucial for businesses, and so is avoiding high bounce rates. Having covered the main reasons for marketing email bounces, let us explore some useful countermeasures.
1. Maintain and clean up your email lists
Maintaining optimal email lists is invaluable for marketing efforts, as it ensures you reach out to active, engaged users. But more importantly, in the context of this article, it also helps prevent bounces.
Over time, your contacts may change or delete their addresses. Business emails are particularly prone to this, as it’s not unusual for people to change jobs or be fired. Such cases can cause bounces, and repeated bounces can damage your sender IP reputation. Therefore, you should regularly cleanse your lists from inactive users. In doing so, you will both prevent bounces and ensure you’re focusing your marketing efforts on an engaged, active audience.
2. Request your contacts’ permission to avoid high bounce rates
An automated email that requires a double opt-in from new contacts may sound undesirable. Indeed, double opt-ins can reduce initial registrations by up to 20%, and their failure rate may be approximately 25%. However, it’s both a legal requirement in some parts of the world, and a valuable bounce prevention tool.
Double opt-ins ensure quality over quantity, as they provide an additional layer of assurance. They help create a more engaged email list, without misspelled or fake email addresses. They reduce the number of disinterested contacts, who may be more prone to marking your emails as spam and thus hampering your efforts.
3. Avoid spam filters through clean email code
As mentioned before, spam filters are a factor that contributes to hard bounces. Using a clean email code does not prevent contact from marking you as spam manually, of course, but it does prevent automated spam filters from doing so.
As most marketing emails contain Calls to Action (CTAs), links, images, or other elements, they are “rich text”. Therefore, they contain HTML – and bad HTML can be very visible to spam filters. To ensure your HTML remains clean and simple, keep the following in mind.
- Keep images and other elements at a minimum. Lots of images and other content can result in bad HTML or clutter it.
- Ensure proper formatting. If you’re using text processors or are copying content across marketing tools, make sure to delete formatting leftovers.
- Avoid using words that are associated with spam. Both spam filters and users are more likely to mark your emails as spam if they contain suspicious vocabulary.
4. Send emails frequently to avoid high bounce rates
On the subject of spam, then, it is equally vital that your outgoing email frequency is optimal to avoid bounces. Excessively frequent emails may be caught by spam filters, and very infrequent emails may cause contacts to mark them as spam.
Thus, a healthy email frequency will help reduce bounce rates. The exact frequency will depend on your business and data, as well as potential efforts to branch out to wider audiences. Still, it should strike a balance between avoiding spam filters and keeping contacts engaged.
5. Avoid purchased email lists
Lastly, it is advisable to avoid using purchased email lists; they absolutely don’t help avoid high bounce rates in email marketing. It may seem beneficial to use them, especially for new or smaller businesses, but it does include many risks. Namely:
- Email software may prevent you from sending emails to purchased lists.
- Contacts who did not opt-in are more likely to mark your emails as spam. In turn, spam reports will decrease your sender IP reputation, and may even cause the domain to block your emails entirely.
- In some parts of the world, it may be outright illegal to do so. You may thus open yourself to legal repercussions and fines.
It is thus unwise to use purchased email lists. Other risks aside, they most often entail higher email bounce rates than organic lists.
It should thus be clear that high email bounce rates are not abnormally hard to tackle. With some conscious effort you can avoid them, and increase the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns in the process.