How to Keep Your Bounce Rate Under Control

Avatar for Sean Heilweil Sean Heilweil
Avatar for Sean Heilweil Sean Heilweil

January 25, 2022

6 min read

How to Keep Your Bounce Rate Under Control

Are your email marketing campaigns being ruined by bounced emails? Is your sender score being damaged by endless bounces? Is your bounce rate over 2%? Your company’s email marketing strategy might be in danger.

As Globo Gym’s successful small business owner, White Goodman said “It’s a metaphor. That actually happened though.” The above painting is how I want you to picture yourself after you get your bounce rate under control. Step 1, follow the guide below:

Keeping Your Bounce Rate Under Control

A Quick History Lesson

Sun Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher and general, commanded his military for over 40 years without ever suffering a defeat. One could say he was pretty good at his job. He eternalized his strategies and legacy into a book famously known as The Art of War. We’re going to take a tip from him because your fight with your bounce rate is crucial to the success of your company. Sun Tzu says it best:

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.

So, without further ado, let’s know our enemy: the bounce rate.

Know the Enemy…the Bounce Rate

Defining the Bounce Rate

A bounce means that an email can’t be delivered. This can happen for a variety of reasons, and none of them are good. Bounces hurt your sender score, waste your time, and lower your return on investment.

Do you know your bounce rate? We’ve had a quick history lesson, so now it’s time for a quick math lesson. Here’s how to calculate your bounce rate:

As shown in the image above, you divide your total number of bounced emails by the total number of emails sent. Then, you multiply that number by 100 to get a percentage.

The industry standard for bounce rates shouldn’t be higher than 2%. Unfortunately, email lists naturally decay at about 2% per month. Over the course of the year, that’s over 20% of your email list that becomes undeliverable. If you’re experiencing a bounce rate higher than 2%, your sender score will be damaged, leading your email campaigns straight into the SPAM and promotions folders.

We know how to calculate the bounce rate, but what exactly are bounces? Let’s take a look.

Types of Bounces

There are two main types of bounces: hard and soft. Hard bounces are permanent bounces; the email will never deliver to that address. Soft bounces are temporary bounces that can become permanent.

Imagine you’re playing basketball. Your friend passes you the ball so you drive down the lane to make a shot. You take your shot with perfect form. You release the ball, and you’re going to make the shot, until…

7 foot - 2 inch (2.18m) NBA legend, Dikembe Mutombo swats the ball out of the air. Sorry pal, you’re never going to make a shot against him. Trying to make a shot against Mutombo is like a hard bounce; you’re never going to get through to the goal. With a hard bounce, you’re never going to make it into the inbox. A soft bounce, on the other hand, is like shooting the basketball, but it bouncing off of the rim. You might make it to the inbox eventually, but not right now, and not until you spend more precious time on it.

As mentioned in a deep-dive into hard and soft bounces, hard bounces can happen for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • The email address was rejected by the mail server because it does not exist.
  • The email address domain does not exist or is not valid.
    • This can happen if a company changes domains, or closes.
  • The email address does not pass syntax validations.
    • Typos in the email address.

Hard bounces hurt your bounce rate, and the emails causing them need to be removed from your subscriber list.

While soft bounces are temporary, they can still cause your email marketing campaigns problems with high bounce rates. After all, a soft bounce is still a bounce. Some examples of reasons for soft bounces are:

  • Their inbox is full.
  • Too many people are marking your email as SPAM.
  • An unresponsive email server.
  • The email account was suspended.
  • You’ve been blacklisted.

Soft bounces can resolve on their own. However, you should keep track of them because you don’t want them to cause permanent issues.

We know our enemy…the bounce rate. Now it’s time for us to know ourselves.

Know Yourself…and your email campaigns

What are some things we can do on our end to keep our bounce rate under control? Let’s take a look at some strategies we can employ to reduce bounce rates in our email marketing campaigns.

Owning a Strong Domain

Sending your marketing and sales emails from a free domain increases your odds of getting a bounce, and seems unprofessional. Free domains have lower domain reputations, which means that you’ll be more likely to get a hard bounce.

Once you’ve purchased a domain, you should verify it. SPF, DKIM, and DMARC authentications will boost your sender reputation, ensuring better inbox placement. This will help to keep your bounce rate under control.

Collecting Your Emails

One easy way to reduce your bounce rate is to only send emails to your subscribers. Don’t purchase lists. Don’t scrape emails from the internet. Sending campaigns to purchased and scraped lists will undoubtedly increase your bounce rate. As collateral damage, it’ll also decrease your sender score, which makes you more likely to end up in the SPAM folder.

Another strategy you can utilize when collecting your emails is to employ a double opt-in for your subscribers. A double opt-in is when you send a confirmation email to the subscriber, for them to confirm their subscription. This helps keep good emails and true subscribers, instead of fake email addresses and bounces.

Cleaning Your Lists

Before sending out your email campaigns, you should clean your lists so that you’re only sending to deliverable email addresses. As we mentioned earlier, lists naturally decay at 2% per month, and the industry standard bounce rate is only 2%. This means that if you’re not regularly cleaning your lists, your bounce rate is going to be above the industry average.

Email verification platforms will integrate with your CRM, clean your email lists, and provide deliverability guarantees of up to 99% for your marketing campaigns. These platforms will do the heavy lifting for you, so you can focus your attention on your email campaign.

Formatting & Sending Emails

It’s absolutely crucial that you keep your emails from being marked as SPAM. Both internet service providers (ISPs) and subscribers can mark your email as SPAM, so you need to send emails that don’t look or feel like SPAM.

Emails that look and feel like SPAM typically have sensationalized offers, over-the-top wording, and extravagant images. Here are a few examples of SPAM trigger words to avoid:

  • “$”, “$$$”, and other $ related variants
  • “Act fast”, “order now”, “click now”, and other high-pressure tactics
  • “You’ve been chosen”, “You’re a winner”, etc.

Those three bullet points should feel spammy to you. They’re phrases used in crazy emails that your non-tech-savvy parents or grandparents would click on. Try to avoid using those phrases, or anything remotely close to them.

Before you formulate the coolest graphics for your next email campaign, it would be prudent to check in on some email marketing best practices. Make sure that your graphics are correctly sized, have optimized text previews, and visually align with your company’s brand.


Once you’ve collected a good email list, verified it, warmed your IP address and properly formatted your campaigns, it’s time to click send. I can assure you that your email marketing campaign will be a success, and your bounce rate will stay low.

The key to keeping your bounce rate under control is to know your enemy, and know yourself; Sun Tzu told us that much, thousands of years ago, before email marketing was ever invented.

Your enemy: the bounce rate. Keeping a low bounce rate largely depends on sending good emails, from a good domain, to good email addresses.

Yourself: maintain a high domain reputation, collect emails ethically, clean your email lists, and utilize proper email formatting.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to get those bounce rates under control. We know our enemy; we know ourselves; we need not fear the result of one hundred email campaigns.

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