What Is a Hard Bounce in Email Marketing?

What Is a Hard Bounce in Email Marketing

Even the best email marketing campaign can run into problems. No matter how well-crafted your message is and how much time you spend on it, there are some issues that may lead to the campaign failing. For instance, some of the messages might not reach the intended recipients. This is clearly very bad news. Yet, how big an impact it has on your marketing largely comes down to how you deal with it.

The first step in doing this well is in understanding why the email didn’t get to where it was sent. So, how can you tell what the reason for this is and what can you do about it?

The first thing you need to understand is what a hard bounce is. After that, we can look at the other type of error, which is the soft bounce.

Why Does This Happen?

A hard bounce is a permanent error that means that this email address simply can’t be delivered to. The overall reason for a hard bounce in email marketing is that the recipient’s address is wrong in some way.

The domain name might no longer exist, or a spelling mistake might have been made somewhere along the way. Either way, the email address that you sent the message to just doesn’t exist. When this happens, you are notified that the email can’t be delivered. This will typically happen right away.

Why Does This Happen

Is there any point in keeping this incorrect email address on your marketing list? After all, the address doesn’t even exist so there is no chance of getting your message to the person either now or in the future.

What to Do Next

As you can imagine, there is no point carrying on trying to send to an address that has produced a hard bounce. In a lot of cases, the email marketing software won’t even try to deliver it. This is because suffering too many bounces harms your reputation.

Do you have a different email address or communication method for that person? Is there an obvious spelling mistake in the address that can be fixed? You may be able to get hold of the correct email address with some luck, but in most situations it is more likely that you have to just give up.

You may simply have to accept that you need to remove this address and lose the lead. There is certainly no reason for keeping them on your list if their email address is wrong. A hard bounce will never come good no matter how many times you try it.

What Is a Soft Bounce? 

Another possibility is that you get a soft bounce. How does this differ from a hard bounce? Do you need to deal with it differently?

The end result is the same – the message doesn’t get delivered to the person it was sent to – but the reasons for this are different. Therefore, the way that you deal with it will also be different from when you deal with hard bounces.

A soft bounce can be due to a number of different reasons, which are usually temporary in nature. One example is when the recipient’s inbox is full and can’t accept any more messages to it. It might also be that the server was down when you sent out your emails. Another possibility is that your message was too big to be delivered.

Since this is a temporary issue, you might be able to send your message correctly later on. So, it is usually worth keeping this person on your mailing list and trying again in the next campaign. Yet, you might decide to eventually take them off your list if you keep getting soft bounces.

How to Tell the Difference

We have now seen that there are both hard bounces and soft bounces in email marketing. These are produced for different reasons and you will deal with them differently. So how can you tell the difference between them?

When an email bounces the sender gets an error message sent to them, confirming that the message couldn’t be delivered. This message will explain why there was a problem in delivering it.

Some people have also noted that hard bounces tend to have an error code that starts with the number 5. On the other hand, soft bounces often start with a 4. However, you shouldn’t rely on this, as it isn’t always the case.

How to Avoid Hard Bounces

How to Avoid Hard Bounces

Ideally, you will avoid hard bounces altogether. Your marketing campaigns are likely to be more successful if you have few or none that come back to you in this way.

There is no real secret to keeping your bounce rate down to a minimum. Having said that, there are a few tips that can help you to do this smartly.

  • Clean out your email list regularly
  • Remove addresses after the first hard bounce
  • Send a confirmation email when someone first signs up to your mailing list
  • Track your delivery rates constantly

By making sure that you deal with hard bounces correctly, you will be laying the foundations for more successful marketing campaigns in the future.

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