What Is a Soft Bounce in Email Marketing?

How to Understand and Handle Email Marketing Soft Bounces

In an ideal world, you'd only bounce on the trampoline. In this one, you have to worry about email bounce rates, which are far less fun. 2022 also saw a significant increase in bounce rates across industries, so you're not alone if you're concerned.

But not all bounces are created equal. Your emails can come flying back to you for one of many reasons. So what is a soft bounce in email marketing — and what does it mean for your campaign or newsletter?

What Is Bounce In Email Marketing?

What Is a Soft Bounce in Email Marketing?

A bounce occurs when an email is undeliverable and returns to the sender's inbox. This can happen for a variety of reasons, such as the recipient's email address being invalid or the mailbox being full.

The average bounce rate varies by industry and mail service, but no one is immune. A small portion of your emails bouncing is to be expected — even beehiiv’s exceptional deliverability can’t defend against the occasional ricochet.

But keeping your bounce rate low protects your sender reputation and helps ensure email deliverability going forward. It's crucial to regularly clean your email lists and update your subscribers' contact information.

What Are The Different Types Of Email Bounce?

There are only two main kinds, so you could just as easily ask: what is hard bounce and soft bounce in email marketing?

What Is a Soft Bounce in Email Marketing?

A hard bounce occurs when an email is returned to the sender because the recipient's address is invalid, inactive, or blocked. These are permanent “nos” from the subscriber. They may have changed their email, provided a fake address, or simply made a typo when entering it. You can protect against these last two through a double opt-in sign-up process, but doing so will slow down the growth of your list.

What Is a Soft Bounce in Email Marketing?

Be rigorous about cleaning your list, but look at your hard bounces before removing them from your contacts. I know I've discovered a few obvious errors in clients' databases. You can probably find [email protected] at Gmail, and DanhteGreat might be DantheGreat in disguise.

What Is a Soft Bounce in Email Marketing?

A soft bounce arises when there are temporary delivery issues with an email.

While this can be frustrating for marketers, it's important to remember that soft bounces are usually an indication that something is going wrong on the recipient's end.

In most cases, you shouldn't purge these contacts, but keep an eye on any contact who stays bouncy for too long. At a certain point, a soft bounce becomes a de facto hard one. If a subscriber hasn’t cleaned out a full inbox for months, they may have simply abandoned the account.

What Is a Soft Bounce in Email Marketing?

What Does a Soft Bounce Indicate?

What Is a Soft Bounce in Email Marketing?

There are a few common reasons a soft bounce might occur.

  • A full mailbox. If the recipient's mailbox is full, then their mail server won't be able to accept any more emails until they delete some of the existing messages.

  • Vacation auto-reply. If a recipient has enabled an auto-reply feature on their mailbox, such as an out-of-office message or vacation reply, then any emails sent during that period will be bounced back to the sender.

  • Server outages. Occasional technical issues with either the sending or receiving mail server can also cause emails to bounce until these issues are resolved.

How Should You Handle a Soft Bounce?

To resend or not to resend?

You should almost never resend your campaign. Just as with resending to subscribers who didn't open, resending to soft bouncers is courting failure and is likely to do more harm than good.

However, there are exceptions to the rule. For example, if you're announcing a huge development or promotion, you could resend it to vacationers that you think would appreciate the intel. Use your best judgment in identifying likely candidates.

Time for Me to Bounce

After all, the subject of “what is a soft bounce in email marketing” isn’t particularly complex. A soft bounce indicates that a temporary issue has prevented the delivery of your message. Keep an eye on these subscribers, but don’t purge them prematurely.

Now that you’re an expert on bounce rates, turn your attention to other numbers. Learn more about email newsletter metrics, including how to gauge and maximize your open rates, conversion rates, and more.

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