High bounce rates are often the result of a poorly maintained mailing list. It is therefore not entirely unfair that as an email sender you build up bad email reputation with internet service providers (ISPs). And a bad reputation does not improve your chances of ending up in the recipient’s inbox, obviously. Reasons enough to reduce your bounce rate of your emailings.
What is a bounce rate?
The bounce rate is the percentage of emails sent that result in a notification, usually because it could not be delivered to the recipient. There are several possible reasons for the occurrence of bounces, which can be broadly divided into two categories.
- Hard bounces. These usually occur as a result of a permanent problem. For example, because an email address no longer exists. Or worse: because the mail server takes you for a spammer, and you have been blacklisted.
- Soft bounces. These are usually the result of a temporary situation, such as a failure in the receiving mail server. Or because someone’s inbox is full. Incidentally, soft bounces do not always indicate a problem. For example, they can also occur because someone is on holidays and has activated their out-of-office reply.
When reducing the bounce rate, it is especially important to focus on hard bounces, therefore. However, that does not mean you do not need to pay attention to soft bounces. An out-of-office-reply may also include useful information, for example, to prevent a hard bounce in the future. The notification that someone is no longer employed and that their email address will soon expire, for example.
Preventing a high bounce rate
Reducing your bounce rate starts with sound preparation. As mentioned, a high bounce rate is often a sign of a low quality mailing list, and the best way to prevent this is to collect email addresses correctly.
- Avoid people giving you an invalid address. A typo is easily made, and often people accidentally enter an incorrect address. This can be avoided by asking people to enter their email address twice on a registration form. Better still: use a double opt-in, where you ask someone to confirm their registration for a newsletter, for example, via a link in an email.
- Do not recruit too aggressively. If a database contains a high percentage of email addresses, it is often the result of a too aggressive opt-in-recruitment. By only making content available after having provided an address via a web form, for example. Is this the case with you? Then consider making this type of fields optional.
- Observe the law. Do not purchase addresses from third parties. Never. Sending emailings you have obtained in this way is not only illegal, it is also a great way to destroy the quality of your mailing list because have no control over how these addresses have been obtained. Also scraping, an illegal practice where you comb the web searching for email addresses that are posted publicly online is strongly discouraged. This to avoid, among other things, obtaining email addresses that are deliberately placed on websites by ISPs to identify spammers, the so-called spam traps.
Cleaning up your mailing list
To keep the bounce rate of your email campaigns low, it is also important to ensure good mailing list hygiene. Maintain your database carefully, therefore, and pay particular attention to a number of important points.
- Search your mailing list for invalid addresses. Dive into your database and find and delete email addresses that contain obvious typos. Addresses ending in homtail.com, for example, or gmial.com. Also delete email addresses of known providers of disposable addresses, such as SharkLasers or GuerillaMail. Do the same for addresses that are obviously fake, such as firstname.lastname@example.org, or those with non-existing top-level domains.
- Process bounces. Despite the preparations, it can still happen that your email campaigns bounce. In this case it is important that you find out the cause of the bounce, and to use that information to clean up your mailing list. This way you avoid that they result in another bounce next time, and that ISPs view your emails with suspicion.
Making sure that you have a properly maintained mailing list might seem like a lot of work, but if only because of the positive effects on your email reputation, it is absolutely worth the effort. Moreover, there are plenty of software packages that can automatically take care of labour-intensive tasks such as processing hard bounces. So there is no excuse not to reduce your bounce rate!