Email Bounce Rate: What Is It and How To Keep It Under Control?

Team MessageFlow
5 min read
October 30, 2023

One of the most important Email marketing metrics is message deliverability. You can spend all the time you want crafting the copy, but if, for reasons we discuss down below, it doesn’t even reach inboxes, your campaign’s efficiency plummets. This article is intended to serve as a comprehensive guide to Email bounce rate, explaining what it is, why it matters, what factors are contributing to it, and most importantly, how you can get it in check. Let’s unpack this vital metric to ensure your Emails flow seamlessly and bounces are kept at bay.

In this article you’ll learn:

  • The essential concepts, from the bounce rate formula to distinguishing between hard and soft bounces.

  • Proven strategies to prevent high bounce rates.

  • The importance of reducing bounce rates and the impact it has on business.

What is Email bounce rate (hard and soft)?

At the most fundamental level of Email marketing analytics lies the critical metric known as the bounce rate. It’s one of the first things you should check when attempting to assess how successful your communication campaign turned out to be. In essence, the Email bounce rate is the percentage of Emails that failed to reach their intended destination, serving as a strong indicator of your campaign's health.

Now, there are two types of email bounce you should consider:

Hard bounce

This is essentially an Email ricocheting off an impenetrable wall. A hard bounce is the stern, definitive failure of a message to reach its recipient. This is often a result of an incorrect Email address, defunct domain, or recipient who explicitly blocked communication.

In essence, hard bounce is a permanent issue.

Soft bounce

On the other hand, a soft bounce is akin to a gentle rebound – a temporary setback. It occurs when an Email momentarily fails to reach its destination, typically due to a full inbox, server issues, or a temporarily unreachable recipient. Unlike the resolute hard bounce, soft bounce offers a chance for redemption and re-engagement.

In essence, soft bounce is a temporary issue.

How do you calculate email bounce rate

Now that we've covered the essence of Email bounce rates, let's explain the numbers behind it. The Email bounce rate formula is a rather straightforward, yet potent tool, providing a numerical snapshot of your campaign's efficacy.

Email bounce rate formula

Email bounce rate refers to the percentage of messages sent as part of your campaign that were returned to you.

Bounce rate = (Number of Emails sent / Number of bounced emails) × 100

In this formula:

Number of Emails sent: The total count of Emails dispatched as part of your campaign.

Number of bounced Emails: The total count of Emails that encountered a bounce – be it a hard or soft variety.

Expressed as a percentage, the bounce rate formula gives you an idea of how effective you can expect your communication strategy to be. A low bounce rate signifies a smoother delivery process and wider reach, ensuring your messages traverse the digital landscape seamlessly. A high bounce rate signifies issues with database health or other shortcomings. 

Now, calculating yours, you may be wondering how well you stack up against others or what the average Email bounce rate is. Multiple factors will affect this aspect of your Email marketing strategy but a widely agreed on respectable rate is 2%.

What causes a high bounce rate?

A high Email bounce rate can be a stumbling block in your wider, perhaps cross-channel communication efforts. It warrants meticulous examination to identify the underlying reasons. Some of the common causes of high Email bounce rate include: 

Outdated or invalid email addresses

The main culprit here is the presence of outdated or fake Email addresses in your contact list. Improving the performance of your Email campaigns calls for steady pruning of your addressee database.

Unengaged subscribers

Subscribers who have lost interest or remain unengaged pose a silent threat. Emails sent to disinterested recipients often meet the unyielding wall of indifference, resulting in bounces that echo the lack of connection.

Server issues

Behind the scenes, server malfunctions can cast a shadow on your delivery success. Whether it's your or the recipient's server, technical glitches can manifest as soft bounces, disrupting the seamless flow of your communication.

Content triggering spam filters

Words matter. A poorly crafted message laden with spam-triggering content can lead to email exile. Understanding and avoiding these pitfalls is key to maintaining a healthy deliverability rate.

Overly aggressive sending

Rapid-fire Email campaigns, especially without considering the nuances of different channels, can overwhelm both servers and subscribers, resulting in bounces. Timing and frequency are not to be underestimated for successful communication.

Depending on the complexity of your business operations, the bounce rate issue may require a more in-depth approach, in which case have a look at the following.

Complex data migrations

Navigating intricate data migrations can lead to discrepancies, resulting in undetected invalid addresses.

Dynamic content challenges

Advanced personalization efforts may inadvertently trigger spam filters, causing email deliverability issues.

Global compliance variations

Adhering to diverse international data protection regulations requires meticulous compliance strategies, affecting data accuracy. 

Advanced filtering technologies

Sophisticated spam filters and security measures can misinterpret legitimate Emails, leading to higher bounce rates.

Rendering discrepancies

Varied rendering capabilities across platforms may lead to formatting issues, affecting how Emails are displayed and potentially causing bounce rates to rise.

Dynamic IP address management

Managing dynamic IP addresses for sending Emails necessitates advanced configuration to avoid deliverability challenges.

Real-time data accuracy

Businesses relying on real-time data face the challenge of maintaining accuracy, especially during peak communication periods like Black Friday.

Email bounce rate in the context of email marketing

Although Email bounce rate is directly related to a specific communication channel, the repercussions of neglecting it can be far-reaching for your organization.

What is an acceptable email bounce rate?

While there's no one-size-fits-all answer, as previously mentioned, an acceptable average bounce rate typically hovers at around 2%. However, industry nuances and campaign specifics can influence this benchmark. The key is to monitor, analyze, and consistently strive for improvement, taking into account the specifics of your particular business environment.

How does it affect business?

The impact of bounce backs extends beyond mere numbers. It's a litmus test for your campaign's health, influencing Email sender reputation and deliverability. A spike in bounces can tarnish your brand image and hinder the seamless flow of communication.

Why is reducing email bounce rate important?

Reducing your bounce rate is synonymous with enhancing your communication strategy. It's not just about the numbers – your goal should be to forge meaningful connections. A lower bounce rate signifies a streamlined path for your Email messages, ensuring they reach the right audience at the right time.

12 best practices to reduce your Email bounce rate 

If you’re wondering ‘how do I improve Email bounce rate?’, we’ve got something for you. Let’s first examine a number of essentials that’ll mitigate bounce rate and pave the way for uninterrupted communication.

1. Prune and update your Email list

Cleaning your Email list regularly by removing invalid or outdated addresses is essential to making sure you're reaching only the actively engaged audience members.

2. Engagement-centric campaigns

Craft compelling, relevant Email content that resonates with your audience and gets the Email open rate up. Engaged recipients are less likely to bounce.

3. Authentication protocols

Implement SPF, DKIM, and DMARC Email server authentication protocols to verify your Emails, enhancing trust and reducing the likelihood of bounces. 

4. Segmentation for precision

Segment your Email list and tailor messages accordingly. Understanding diverse preferences minimizes the risk of disengagement.

5. Optimize send frequency

Strike a balance in your sending frequency. Avoid inundating subscribers, which can lead to fatigue, higher unsubscribe rate, and increased bounces.

If you have all those covered and would like to see the bounce rate drop a bit more and improve your Email deliverability, try the following tactics.

6. Predictive list maintenance

Utilize predictive analytics to proactively identify potential bounce risks, allowing preemptive steps to maintain a good Email list health.

7. Behavioral segmentation strategies

Implement advanced behavioral segmentation to tailor content, ensuring heightened open rate, engagement, and minimizing bounce rates.

8. Customized sender authentication

Leverage customized sender authentication methods beyond standard SPF, DKIM, and DMARC for heightened email security and deliverability. 

9. Real-time engagement monitoring

Employ real-time monitoring tools to track engagement metrics, enabling swift adjustments to campaigns and reducing bounce rates.

10. Localized engagement metrics

Implement regionalized engagement metrics to account for diverse audience behaviors and preferences, improving click-through rate and wider communication strategies accordingly.

11. Dynamic content adaptation

Utilize dynamic content adaptation techniques to ensure Emails render optimally across diverse devices and platforms, reducing the risk of formatting-related bounces.

12. Integrated cross-channel analytics

Establish a comprehensive analytics framework that integrates cross-channel data, providing holistic insights for refining communication strategies and minimizing bounce rates.   

Final thoughts on email bounce rate and deliverability

It’s not really up for debate that getting your Email bounce rate in check is fundamental for an overall successful business communication. In this article, we went on to define what bounce rate is, provided a formula for its calculation, stated what a good Email bounce rate is, and dissected some of the reasons behind a high bounce rate to steer you towards improvement.

Armed with a better understanding of the metric’s effect on your business and knowing best practices for reducing Email bounce rates, you can now take steps to reduce email bounce rate and improve the performance of your future Email marketing campaigns.

If you’re seeking a platform for mass customer communication, consider MessageFlow as your Email service provider. With its global orientation grounded in local foundations, top-notch API, and Email authentication protocols, we step in as your partner in ensuring Email delivery to audiences worldwide, boasting topmost sender reputation and Email deliverability. Talk to us at today and let's sculpt a communication strategy that actually gets your messages delivered, on time.

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