5 ways to reduce email bounce rate

A woman standing holding her hand up as in "stop"

There’s one big hurdle that every email marketer faces. This time, I’m not talking about the content production, email newsletter sign-ups or the constant hunt for clicks. I’m talking about deliverability and the constant feat to reduce email bounce rate.

You work hard on creating compelling emails, but then you see that not all of them even reach the recipients. The problem here is not just that they miss out on your message, but emails that fail to reach the inboxes have a negative impact on the deliverability of your upcoming send-outs. In this post, you learn tips on how to reduce email bounce rate and how to keep it as low as possible.

What is a bounce?

A bounce simply means that the email didn’t get delivered. So the bounce rate is the percentage of failed email addresses out of the email addresses you tried to send to.

There are two different types of bounces; hard or soft bounces.

  • Soft bounce: the email couldn’t reach the recipient due to a temporary issue, for example, if the recipient’s server is unavailable or if the mailbox is full.
  • Hard bounce: the email address or domain doesn’t exist or if the recipient’s mailbox isn’t active. Essentially, this means that the email will never be delivered to this address.
The formula for calculating email bounce rate.

Why is a low bounce rate important?

In 2018, spam emails accounted for 55% of email traffic globally. According to spamlaws.com, 14,5 billion spam emails are sent every day. Just imagine.

This means that there are services out there that want to protect our inboxes from fraudulent emails. One of them is the sender reputation and sender score. When you send emails to several email addresses (aka do email marketing), ISPs “scores” your send-outs. For example, ReturnPath that are experts when it comes to email deliverability, list the following as basis when it comes to score the send-out. 

  • How many recipients mark you as spam
  • The number of emails you send
  • If and how often the emails get caught in spam filters
  • Engagement from your recipients
  • The bounce rate

These factors determine your sender reputation, which has a big say in your email deliverability. If your sender reputation is bad, your emails are less likely to reach the recipients. Now, ain’t that the worst situation for an email marketer?

The key to a good sender reputation is to have high-quality email addresses. By high-quality addresses, I mean legit addresses and recipients that are interested in your content. But keeping a “clean email list” is actually not just about protecting your sender reputation and email deliverability. It also means that you’re focusing on the recipients that are more likely to open, click and convert on your email marketing content. That means improved open and conversion rates and more accurate data insigths about your target group. 

What’s an acceptable email bounce rate?

Although it should be our goal, a 0% bounce rate is hard to reach. The average bounce rate differs depending on what industry you’re in, but most of them lies under or around 1%. But what qualifies as an acceptable bounce rate then? If you happen to use an Email Service Provider (ESP), they might have different limits, but you’re doing ok if your under 2%. At eMarketeer, we advise that if you’re at 5% or over, there’s some action required on your send out routines and email addresses.


5 ways to reduce email bounce rate

The following tips are all about being proactive and how to keep our email lists “clean” from bad and faulty email addresses. Use these tips to reduce email bounce rate and to keep it as low as possible.

1. Collect email addresses using opt-in

You need the recipients’ permission to email them. That’s even required by law. You get their permission by having them opt-in themselves to receive communciations from you, by using sign-up forms. I highly recommend using the double opt-in practice here. That means that you send them a confirmation email upon registering, asking to confirm their email subscription. Sure, a single-opt in (with no confirmation email) might grow your list faster, but a double opt-in gives more quality. Since the recipient takes that “extra” effort to confirm, you know that they really want to take part in your email send-outs and can improve your open – and click rates.


2. Use a subscription center

If you have multiple email campaigns, use a subscription center. With a subscription center, the recipients are in charge of what content they want to receive from you. If they click to unsubscribe in your email, they won’t see “oh no we’re sorry to see you go,” they still have the option to unsubscribe from all your send-outs. But they also have the choice to stay in the email campaigns that interest them.


3. Re-engage the “sleepers”

Although we want to, we can’t please them all, and some of your recipients won’t open your email. But don’t give up on them too easily. Sort out the email addresses that haven’t been active for some time and put them in a re-engagement campaign. According to Smartinsights, 45% of recipients that receive a re-activation email read it. If you succeed in piquing their interest and they confirm that they still want to receive emails from you, go ahead and add them back to the email list in question. Are they still”sleepers” after your tries? Then you can be quite confident that they’re not potential customers or leads of yours at this moment.


4. Be relevant and regular

It’s also important is to take care of your list over time. One way of doing that is to cover topics that are relevant to your recipients. User engagement has a positive impact on deliverability, which means you want them to open and click your emails. The more your recipients engage in your emails, the better the send score. Cover topics that you’ve seen previously performed good and mix up the content formats. Another way to be relevant is to keep a regular send out frequency. If you send out too seldom, the recipients might have forgotten who you are and might report you as spam. A great tool to stay relevant with a regular send out frequency is to use marketing automation. The marketing automation tool puts your send-outs on autopilot, where the recipient has the opportunity to decide their own buyer’s journey. Furthermore, when you use an Email Service Provider (ESP) like this, they do the email send out for you and often have email security standards and technology in place, including filtering out bad email addresses. However, that doesn’t mean that you should use your ESP as a “list cleaning service.” It’s still your responsibility as an email marketer that your email addresses are valid.


5. Work with your list continuously

As you might notice with these tips, “list cleaning” isn’t a one-time project. When you collect more email addresses or there’s a change with the recipient’s address (they might switch jobs!) it also reflects on your email list. Set up a routine for the tips that we’ve gone over here and work with your list regularly. That way, you’re setting yourself up for the best deliverability possible with a high-quality list.

A high email bounce rate does indeed affect the email deliverability. That means that email marketers need to have a plan to reduce email bounce rate and then keep it as low as possible. The first step is that recipients opt-in themselves to receive your emails. Furthermore, you also want to focus on user engagement as it has a positive impact on your deliverability. You do that by offering relevant and high-quality content.


How do you keep a low email bounce rate?

As Digital Marketing Manager, Josefine oversees strategies, production and processes for all content marketing efforts, including social media, email and blog. She also introduced videos into their content marketing strategy, in which she shares her best tips on different marketing topics.

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