How to Deal With Bounces in Your Campaign?

Avatar for Miguel Nogueira Miguel Nogueira
Avatar for Miguel Nogueira Miguel Nogueira

September 15, 2022

8 min read

How to Deal With Bounces in Your Campaign?

As a business, we understand that strategizing and executing a successful email marketing campaign is a challenge and it requires hard work. Without proper and careful planning your campaign could quickly derail, not only affecting your business in a negative way but also causing a cascade of potentially critical issues in the medium to long term.

So why do we do it? For the massive rewards, of course!

Email marketing is also one of the most powerful strategies you can implement in your business, with amazing each and a potentially magnanimous return on investment - the amazing results of email marketing are undeniable.

Knowing this, we put our efforts into making great campaigns.

Remember when you were taking proactive steps to ensure success and growth, crafting and perfecting just the right message, and going to great lengths to segment customers to the right product, all of this while picking the right day and hour?

But then… you bounced. Your message was undelivered.

There is very little that is more frustrating in the email marketing world than dealing with bounces. Not only are they negatively impactful and threatening to your campaigns, but it can be a bit daunting to prevent them in the first time without the right techniques and tools.

But fear not, we are here today to help you and provide more insight on understanding, preventing, and dealing with bounces in your email marketing campaigns.

What are bounces, anyway?

Email bounces are emails that cannot be delivered to the intended recipient of the message. These emails, upon failure to deliver, are then returned to the sender accompanied by additional information on the nature of the bounce. Most services provide bounce report errors to their users, so they may diagnose exactly what is preventing the email from being delivered.

There are two types of bounces: soft and hard bounces.

Soft bounces are temporary errors that cause the email not to be delivered.

These types of bounces are often outside of the control of the recipient and can happen for various reasons, such as:

  • Service temporarily unavailable

The recipient’s servers could be temporarily disabled or undergoing maintenance, these are usually temporary and your message is likely to be delivered at another time.

  • Mailbox is full

The recipient’s mailbox is completely full, so there wasn’t any space left for your message to get through - trying again at a later time may result in your email getting through and being delivered.

  • Generic processing errors

Random and unexpected errors do happen, trying again later usually works and your message is delivered.

It’s important to note that while every bounce negatively contributes to your sender reputation, soft bounces aren’t particularly punishing because they originate from events that the sender’s control, which heavily mitigates their impact.

With that being said, it is still best to avoid them whenever possible.

If the term “Sender Reputation” sounds alien to you, please make sure to read more about it, we’ve got some useful resources you can check out on the subject. In essence, sender score is a very important factor in email marketing and bounces directly correlate with your overall reputation and campaign success.

The other type of bounces you can get are hard bounces. These bounces are very impactful in a negative way if you get them, as they directly and heavily affect your sender reputation.

Avoid hard bounces, always!

Hard bounces are permanent failures and more than often relate to motives that are generally within the control of sender, provided they are proactive and thorough in preparing their email marketing campaigns.

Hard bounces have a long list of motives associated with them, some recurrent ones are:

  • The address does not exist

This is probably the most common and upsetting hard bounce there is. Essentially, you are trying to email an email address that does not exist, which is impossible to do, so your bounce is guaranteed.

  • The email server doesn’t exist

You’re emailing a server that no longer exists, which is slightly different from an address not existing, but still constitutes a critical failure and results in your message not being delivered to your recipient.

  • Content issues

Something in the content of your email is triggering security and spam filters. It’s very important to know what this could be, identify it, and remove it or adjust it according to best practices.

It is paramount to avoid hard bounces, not only in the sense of improving the metrics of your campaigns - since fewer bounces equal to better return on investment - but also to actually protect your ability to execute these campaigns.

Most email service providers or customer relationship management tools and solutions have strict policies about hard bounces, and it does not take an extraordinary amount of them to cause issues in a user account, including temporary deactivation or permanent removal from the platform.

Even if you own your own servers and do all emailing yourself with an in-house built system, a hard bounce is still impactful on your email marketing, as spam filters from various domains will start to block your messages because of your low reputation, causing even more bounces. This then becomes a circular situation - you have more bounces because you have lowered reputation, and your reputation keeps lowering because you’re getting more bounces.

Don’t let this happen to your email marketing efforts.

How can I prevent bounces?

There are many ways to prevent bounces, thankfully - most of which are either simple to do or someone else has made it their business to make it simple to do.

The best way to make sure you prevent hard bounces is to email existing email addresses. This is a simple concept, but making sure you’re always emailing an existing email address is not simple at all - let alone when you have tens of thousands or potentially millions of emails to send, some of which were collected years ago.

One important note is that there is a natural bounce rate - around 2% - which is fair to say is the industry standard for what an organic bounce rate should be, anything below this and you’re doing great. Anything above… well…

You can easily calculate your bounce rate by diving your bounces by total recipients and multiplying it all by 100%.

Like this:

Bounce rate = (Bounces / Total recipients) x 100%

The best way to make sure you’re sending emails to the right addresses and avoid bounces is to verify your contact lists with a reliable, accurate, and feature-complete email verification tool.

Email verification software goes a long way toward preventing all types of bounces, not only can you detect and distinguish valid addresses from invalid ones, but you can also get a sense of the overall quality of an email address.

It is important to consider that with so many types of domains, different characteristics, and configurations, not everything is so black and white.

Having functional solutions, such as email verification, to help distinguish the good from the bad is an important card to hold as an online marketer, especially one who is looking to prevent or reduce bounces from happening.

Preventing and handling bounces doesn’t stop at email verification, however.

You can also take additional steps to prevent hard bounces, to complement email verification.

Here are some examples of such things you could probably do now:

  • Add a double opt-in method

You can add a double opt-in method such as email confirmation. Whenever a new user signs up, they must first confirm their email address by taking action on an email sent to their registered address.

This is easy and essentially cost-free to implement, but it will immediately be very helpful in avoiding fake sign-ups.

  • Email personalization

Email personalization is known to improve your chances of avoiding the spam folder and it’s important in the sense that it builds better relationships with your customers.

Email personalization can be as simple as adding your customer’s name to the email you’re sending out, but personalization can be so much more than that if you have a good imagination.

It’s important to find what is most valuable to your customers and make it clear that you know what that is, segment them properly, and aim the correct campaign to the right audience and all of your customers will quickly join the best customer profile - a happy customer.

  • Improve email deliverability

Improving your email deliverability is essential in avoiding the spam folder, bad reputation, and consequent bounces from it. There are many ways of improving your deliverability, from authentication protocols to content redesign and adjustments.

Look for tools that can help you analyze and improve your email deliverability by reporting on the content and technical aspects of your emails.

Consistency and frequency can also improve your deliverability, you’re less likely to be stopped by a filter if you’re frequently delivering quality content that is interacted with by your recipients on a consistent basis.

Whatever you decide to do, the most important piece of information you can take away from this article is that avoiding hard bounces will critically improve the success of your email marketing campaigns.

What if you get bounces?

As we mentioned earlier, if you get soft bounces due to factors outside of your control it is not the end of the world. If you’re getting a significant amount of soft bounces, it is important to press on and add more strict rules about which email addresses you send messages to.

On the other hand, if you get hard bounces during your campaign at a percentile bigger than the natural rate of occurring bounces (2%) then it is important to revise the situation and use some of the suggestions present in this blog post so you may immediately tackle these unwanted bounces. Your campaign will thank you for it.

Generally speaking, when getting bounces on your emails it’s important to remain calm and go back to basics, it’s never too late to improve your sender score and improve your campaign metrics.

You can’t prevent bounces forever at a 100% success rate. As long as you’re taking all necessary preventive measures and abiding by best practices, you’re already on your way to being a successful email marketer.


Let’s review some of the information presented in this blog post.

We discussed what bounces are and how they happen, in summary, this is the information you should make sure you leave this blog post knowing;

  • Bounces are failures that occur when sending out emails to your customer base, and when they happen they threaten the success of your email marketing campaign, your results, and your sender reputation, which can harm future campaigns.

There are two bounce types:

  • Soft Bounce: temporary errors, not a huge problem for the reputation
  • Hard Bounces: permanent failures, these are to be avoided, always

You’re still going to get a natural of around 2% bounce rate and that’s okay

We also spoke a bit about how to deal with bounces, when they do happen - but more importantly, we give you suggestions for actions you can take, right now to prevent bounces from happening in the first place:

Here is a recap of those techniques

  • Verify and clean your email lists
  • Improve Deliverability through content
  • Improve Deliverability through technical means
  • Double opt-in is your friend

With these techniques, you can benefit from reduced bounce rates, which lead to:

  • Better results on your campaign
  • Improved ROI (Return on Investment)
  • More accurate campaign metrics
  • Improved campaign metrics
  • General happiness

Okay, that last one is a bit exaggerated, but as you can see there are various desirable benefits of reducing bounces in your campaigns. Happy emailing!

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