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Home / TRENDING / Email Marketing: Difference Between Soft and Hard Email Bounces

Email Marketing: Difference Between Soft and Hard Email Bounces


This article seeks to help the user understand the difference between Soft and Hard Bounces in email marketing.  We sometimes get questions that sound in a similar fashion: “I have uploaded my list, sent a campaign and now I see my subscriber’s number has dropped. Where did they all go?”

While this may seem puzzling at first, seasoned email marketers will jump straight into the campaign report to see what happened there. If you have been taking good care of your list, the only reason why the subscriber number might drop must be the Unsubscribed tab.

However, there is also this mysterious Bounced tab. What is it doing and why some subscribers ended up there you might wonder.

In this article, we will guide you through the world of bounces and how to deal with them.

The meaning of bounced email

In short, bounced emails are addresses that could not be delivered successfully to recipients of email marketing campaigns. For various reasons, the recipient’s server will return the newsletter to the sender, hence the term “bounce“.

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When asked to explain bounces, I remembered a funny video: “Why does the ball bounce?” – a famous comedian once asked Kobe Bryant. While Kobe’s reply explains the reason (air) for a specific object (basketball), the same reason does not apply to a different object (room).

The same goes with bounces – some emails are affected by them, while others are immune. Let’s find out why!


What is a soft and hard bounce in email marketing?

All bounces can be divided into two main categories. When you open up a campaign report, you will notice 2 bounced tabs – soft bounce and hard bounce.

A soft bounce is an email message that gets as far as the recipient’s mail server (it recognizes the existing address) but is bounced back undelivered before it gets to the intended recipient. It is a temporary issue.

A hard bounce is an email message that has been returned to the sender and is permanently undeliverable.

Soft bounce reasons

Here are the possible reasons for soft bounces and how to deal with them:

1. Full mailbox

Some of your recipients’ mailboxes have limitations in terms of capacity. If this limit is reached, your newsletter will be bounced back. The subscriber will remain active in your MailerLite account and you can try resending the campaign to this subscriber the next day.

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2. Server timeout

As servers are not 100% issue-proof, sometimes the message will not be delivered. It can happen due to recipient’s server being overloaded, temporarily unavailable or under maintenance. In such case, we recommend resending the campaign to such recipient at a later time.

3. Message too large

Although this normally never happens, some recipients’ inboxes might have sensitive filters, that restrict the message size. Check your campaign, make sure it’s not a kilometre long heavily loaded with huge images and .gif files.

Hard bounce reasons

Here are the popular hard bounce reasons:

1. Email address does not exist

This is the most common hard bounce reason. Normally this happens if the email address has a typo in it or the owner has disabled the address or maybe switched providers. If you notice a lot of hard bounces in your first campaign to a new list – you will have to verify the rest of the list with an online email validation tool, such as BriteVerify.

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2. Email blocked by recipient’s server

Some corporate, government, institutional domains have stricter spam filter settings. While sometimes your sender domain authentication can solve the issue if you are still being blocked – contact the recipient and ask to add your sender email address to their inbox address book.

Tips and general advice

Bounces, especially hard ones, are actually damaging your sender reputation. If your bounce rate is high (above 5%), it means that you also have a lot of non-existing email addresses in your database.

By sending to a non-existing email address you can hit a spamtrapThis would result in a significant damage in terms of deliverability. Your campaigns would land into the spam folder and some stricter spam filters might block them altogether.

Bounce-free list leads to better deliverability, higher open rates and bigger profits. Use these tips and knowledge to your advantage.

Good luck and happy mailing!

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