With more people than ever interacting with brands via social media, mobile websites and new channels that pop up every day, email remains one of the most effective ways to communicate with your target market.
With an effective email marketing campaign, you can appeal to users on mobile or desktop platforms, keep your audience informed about your business and even drive online and in-store sales with coupons.
Marketers prefer email over other channels for brand awareness, customer acquisition, conversion and retention when engaging with your existing audience because email goes directly to your most engaged audience – customers and subscribers who have already opted in to hear from you.
However, one of the most common challenges with email marketing is finding ways to ensure your emails arrive in your recipients’ inbox and not amass a high bounce rate, which could limit your reach.
Let’s unpack what bounce rates are and explore tactics to reduce them so you can achieve higher conversions with email marketing campaigns.
What Is Bounce Rate?
An email bounce rate is the percentage of emails from your campaign that could not be delivered. Obviously, a lower bounce rate means more of your contacts will actually see your email. Inversely, a high bounce rate can negatively impact your sender reputation, which affects your ability to send emails. (In short, email servers look at your sender score to determine what to do with your emails; the lower your sender score, the harder it becomes to get emails into your audience’s inboxes.)
When an email bounces, it means it can't be delivered to an inbox. The two designations of delivery failures are called "hard" and "soft.” One's more permanent and one's less permanent.
A hard bounce is an email that couldn't be delivered for permanent reasons. Maybe the email address is fake, the contact no longer works at their former company and the account has been deactivated or perhaps there’s a typo in the domain.
There are lots of reasons that an email could be a hard bounce but the core of it is that it's a permanent failure. You should remove all of these addresses from your list.
Many email service providers (such as HubSpot or MailChimp) will automatically ensure addresses who have previously hard bounced won’t receive future emails from you so your sender reputation stays intact.
A soft bounce is an email that couldn't be delivered because of temporary reasons. The contact’s inbox may be full or the file you’re sending is too large to process. The good news is that soft bounces aren’t permanent.
If you get a soft bounce on an email send, most email providers will continue to try to deliver the email over the period of a few days. You should keep an eye on these addresses – if you notice that the same ones are popping up on multiple campaigns, it's best to remove them.
That's pretty much it. Hard bounces = permanent delivery failures. Soft bounces = temporary deliverability failures.
In a modern world with constantly evolving technology, users frequently change their email addresses and no email marketing campaign can have a zero percent bounce rate. Nonetheless, to ensure solid bedrock for future campaigns, do your best to keep your bounce rate as low as possible.
What is considered a “normal” bounce rate? Even if email bounce rates (hard and soft) vary for each industry, typically, a total bounce rate of roughly 2% is considered average. If your bounce gets much higher than that you'll start noticing some deliverability issues.
4 Tactics to Reduce Bounce
Now that you know what an email bounce is and how to evaluate your results, let’s focus on the most important part of bounce rates: reducing them.
The tips below will help you lower the bounce rate and increase deliverability of your email marketing.
Start with a reliable sign up form
In order to send emails to contacts, you've got to get contacts. One of the best ways to do this is by using a sign-up form that allows users to input their information and email address. Make sure you've got a good captcha system in place to prevent fake sign-ups by spammers or bots.
Double opt-in forms are a great preventable measure to keep your bounce rates low and build an excited, engaged send list. Although they demonstrate slower contact growth, double opt-in forms outperform single opt-in forms in the long run because they accrue audiences who are more highly engaged.
Some of the best places to use an email sign-up form are on your homepage, a pop-up capture, your blogs or educational resources and in the footer of your site.
Don’t use your first email campaign as a way to “clean” your list
Validating your list by trial and error is a surefire way to lose good contacts. Your email service provider is not designed to clean your lists for you.
A little time spent on validating your list with an email validation service and making it as good as it can be before you actually send the campaign will mean a lot of saved time later as you work to repair the damage done to your sender reputation.
Clean your list often
You should remove outdated or invalid email addresses regularly. Cleaning your list for gray contacts should be a routine task to help maximize your delivery rate and increase your ROI.
If you’re still getting a bounce rate over 2% after cleaning your list, don’t delete your contacts just yet! It may be time to go back to the drawing board for how you’re segmenting your contacts. Less engaged audiences may want to hear from you, just less frequently. Save their information for annual sales, major announcements or special offers. Winning them back with a re-engagement campaign may prove worthwhile.
Make sure that your email doesn’t look like spam
Spam filters work in a very simple way: checking whether or not your email looks like spam and validating the reputation of the sender.
Spammers are always changing their tactics, so the rules that say what does and does not look like spam are changing too. You need to make sure that your template remains up-to-date and hasn't taken on any characteristics that could land you in your audience’s spam folder.
You can use tools like mail-tester.com to help you stay on track or understand what changes to format, wording, links or content will make sure your emails aren't treated as spam. And tools like subjectline.com will coach you to avoid subject lines that are too long or use spammy words like “FREE” in your titles to help raise delivery rates.
By knowing what an email bounce is, understanding the difference between hard and soft bounces, verifying your email list and keeping an eye on your contacts, you’ll be on your way to reducing email bounce rates – which means more opens, more clicks and more conversions.
While email is a powerful tool, it delivers the strongest results when working in concert with a multi-channel marketing campaign that incorporates other channels like social media, web traffic, direct mail and special offers.
For help improving your email send performance or incorporating email into a larger marketing campaign, contact us.