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How Email Bounces can Affect Deliverability

Email BouncesBounced emails are like all the supervillains in the world combined.

They reduce your income, make your email support provider bill bigger, and can even cause blacklisting of your entire list.

Fortunately, though, things are getting better in terms of delivery for the average sender: an Epsilon study suggests that about 4 per cent of email campaigns were bounced in the 3rd quarter of 2010 (mind that the email bounce rate relies heavily on the industry, though).

Why do emails bounce in the first place?

The most common reason for a bounce is a misspelled email address. Maybe the subscriber uses a local email provider, which doesn’t accept your email due to its size, or has a full inbox. A network failure can also make your email bounce in rare cases, or your sending address might have been blocked by the mail server. It’s also important to distinguish between hard and soft bounces.

Hard bounces are undelivered messages that are permanently kept from reaching the intended recipient. Examples include blocked email, and email sent to mistyped and no longer existing email addresses.

Soft Bounces are email bounces from emails that were sent to a existing address, but were sent back. This can happen due to a full inbox, your message being too large, or because of overwhelmed server capacity.

Bounces can affect your entire list. ISPs can blacklist you because spammers commonly employ a technique known as a “Direct Harvest Attack”, and the respective ISP can mistake you for a spammer if you send email to non-existent addresses, as is done during a “direct harvest attack”.

Needless to say, you shouldn’t send emails after hard bounces, you should delete them right away, and after three soft bounces sending an email becomes a long shot.

7 things you can do to decrease the bounce rate

1. Clean the list you own regularly.
This is a no-brainer. Remove bounced email addresses regularly, and re-engage the customers when doing it can yield returns. Besides, clean email lists give more accurate statistics, and will greatly lower your email bounce rate. For more information on list maintenance, check out our article on email list hygiene.

2. Skim read the bounced addresses.
Chances are that some addresses need correction if you don’t follow a double-opt in system. Even if you do, though, you might want to correct the emails that were mistyped (.ocm, htomail, etc) for the user to get the chance to confirm his or her subscription.

3. Use double opt-in.
Double opt-in confirms each address upon subscribing, reducing the possibility of mistyped addresses to practically zero. In theory, by doing this and you won’t have to do #2.

4. Try a win-back campaign.
Re-engaging inactive subscribers is an option you should consider if your open rates are falling low. A win-back campaign will trim your list greatly, but the result will be a cleaner list with more possibilities to deliver.

5. Send useful and relevant emails.
By doing so you will not only keep your reputation in check, but also potentially sell more, experience fewer complaints and have soaring email open rates. It is tempting to send short-term campaigns with no real value to the customer, because they can work well. But don’t. Just don’t.

6. Make sure your letters aren’t “spammy”.
A letter can be filtered by the webmail client (Gmail, AOL, Yahoo) or desktop email software (Outlook, Thunderbird, etc.), so insure that your email has no phrases like “Cialis, Viagra, sex tape”, and so on prior to sending it.

7. Remove spam traps and maintenance addresses.
Scan for addresses such as help@domain.com, admin@domain.com, etc. Addresses like antispam@stopspam.org are most likely added by people who don’t very much like you or think they are funny. Do your best to remove them.

We would like to hear how you are dealing with bounced emails. Which of the 7 tactics you use?

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