Rebound From Bounces to Protect Your Reputation

There’s plenty of information on the Internet about how to manage bounces, but not much about why it’s so important to do so. And if you don’t know the why, will you follow the how?

Although email marketing has countless moving parts to it, one part is key: Deliverability. This can’t be overstated. Email marketers live and die by their delivery rates. You have to do everything you can to maximize your deliverability. Your deliverability is affected by your reputation, and your reputation can be tarnished by a high bounce rate. If you’re at all concerned about your delivery rate, and you should be, take a look at your bounces and how they’re impacting your reputation.

A bounce means your email didn’t get delivered. That’s easy enough to track as far as knowing how many of your emails made it to the inbox. But you need to know why an email bounced and you need to have a plan for managing bounces so you can reduce their occurrence, and therefore work to protect your reputation.

First, understand the difference between a soft bounce and a hard bounce. Think of a soft bounce as temporary: an employee is on vacation and her mailbox is full, meaning there’s no room for your email. Think of a hard bounce as permanent: the employee left her job and the email address is no longer valid.

You’ll get a message from the ISP when your email isn’t delivered telling you why. That will tell you whether it was a hard or soft bounce. Look to those messages to figure out why your emails didn’t go through.

A soft bounce, being temporary, means the email address is still valid and you can try resending your email again another time. That’s a name that stays on your hard-earned in-house list. But a hard bounce might not mean one less name to market to. While there are sometimes ‘false positives’ with hard bounces, most ESPs typically automatically block hard bounces. A hard bounce might occur because the domain name doesn’t exist, the recipient is unknown, or there’s some type of network problem on the recipient’s end. In this last case, there might be a temporary issue that will be resolved so if you’re confident the email is valid, you might want to consider emailing it one more time.

On the other hand, if the email address is a bad, you have to remove the name from your list a.s.a.p. otherwise too many bad addresses could result in an ISP blocking or even blacklisting your IP address. You will always have bounces. The trick is to minimize them and delete the bad emails right away.

Now that you know the “why” behind managing bounces, you’re ready to search the Internet for all the advice on “how”!

– Marco Marini, ClickMail Marketing

One thought on “Rebound From Bounces to Protect Your Reputation

  1. Hi Marco

    I am not sure if that definition of what causes a soft bounce is appropriate anymore.

    In the last five years inbox sizes have dramatically increased so ‘mailbox full’ messages are highly unlikely to occur; Gmail currently offer 7GB of storage! I don??t know anyone who has exceeded their current Gmail or for that matter Yahoo or Hotmail storage limit and even if there are such people, they are hardly representative of the average consumer.
    Even if you are a B2B marketer, full mailbox bounces are unlikely to occur because most companies would not risk bouncing potentially valuable communications because an employee didn??t clear out their inbox.

    The other issue with that definition is that it does not convey that the soft bounce problem is either urgent or or important. After all what can an email marketer do to stop a subscriber??s mailbox filling up while she is on vacation or her server crashing temporarily?

    At Alchemy Worx we take soft bounces very seriously because we believe that the most likely cause of them today is ISP blocking.
    The way ISPs deal with spam has become much more aggressive and incredibly sophisticated. They are very quick to start blocking emails when they identify suspicious patterns of behaviour from a given sender, IP address or range.

    Typical causes of blocking are: lack of authentication or accreditation; poor or unproven IP reputation; fluctuations in the volume of messages sent from the IP address being used and spam complaints attributed to that IP address.

    It’s also important to bear in mind that soft bounces can be caused by the behaviour of other companies sharing an IP address, making the way the ESP handles its shared IP addresses very important.

    Emails blocked in this way are recorded as soft bounces, so soft bounces are important indicators of how ‘Spammy’ ISP??s think you are at a given point in time. They are an indication of a drop in reputation for the IP address you are using, uneven mailing patterns and/or an increase in the level of SPAM complaints your email is generating. All of these things are things that marketers and ESP??s can fix!

    If we want to get marketers to start taking bounces seriously we need them to have a better sense of what causes them and for them to believe that they or their ESP can do something about them.

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