Writing and Publishing

Understanding Email Bounce Rate

A third important metric in email marketing is bounce rate. (The first two measurements are open rate and click-through rate.) The bounce rate is the percentage of email messages that bounce back, meaning that they’re not delivered.

A message can bounce for a number of reasons, including it being blocked at some point along its delivery path, the recipient’s email box being full, the email server being down, an unexpected glitch, or a non-working email address. There are many other possible causes as well. Sometimes an email message may bounce back for no apparent reason.

There are two types of bounces: a hard bounce and a soft bounce.

A hard bounce results from a major problem, such as the email address not existing, the domain name not existing, or the recipient’s email server completely blocking the message. For a hard bounce, the problem is deemed to be permanent – though sometimes that may not be the case.

A soft bounce is a less severe problem, and it is likely temporary. Reasons for a soft bounce include the recipient’s mailbox being full, their email server is down, or the message is too large.

All email marketing platforms track bounce rates. For some that’s all they do, and the list owner must decide which addresses to remove and which to keep. Failure to properly remove bounced email addresses results in a drop in the overall quality of the email list, which increases the likelihood of other email messages not being delivered.

Other platforms remove bounces automatically, deleting hard bounces immediately and tracking soft bounces to see if the bounce is a one-time issue or a reoccurring problem. Then it acts accordingly.

It’s important to understand how email marketing platform tracks and treats bounces. The more bounces, the fewer people who see our messages and the greater the chance that certain email providers will block all of our messages to their customers. Bouncing is bad for the individual subscriber and the entire list.

Lower bounce rates means that more messages get through and are indicative of good email mailing list practices. Good bounce rates are in the low single digits, preferably 2 percent or lower.

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Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book Successful Author FAQs for insider tips and insights.


By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.