For some reason it seems that a lot of people are starting up an email marketing program nowadays and coming up against the issues of using a new email list, or an old list in a new program. This has a lot of questions about maintaining a healthy email list popping up everywhere, one of which revolves around bounce lists.
A ‘bounced’ email is an email that is sent out from your email marketing system that is returned by the email server that received your email as ‘undeliverable.’ Think of it kind of like foursquare when you were kids – one kid sends the ball into the other court and they bounce it back. You win when it stays in their court! Same with email – you win when the email stays with the email server as delivered.
There are a lot of reasons that an email would be rejected, and none of them are personal so don’t worry! Bounces are divided into two categories based on the ‘type’ of bounce it is. The first type of bounce is called a soft bounce, which means that the email made it to the recipients email server but it was unable to be delivered to their inbox for some reason. Here are some common reasons for a soft bounce:
- The mailbox was full
- The email server couldn’t process the email
- Message was too large for the email client
A soft bounce means that you have a good email address, but there is something wrong with your email content or the email recipient’s inbox that is stopping your email from being delivered to that specific email box. Most systems won’t remove the email address from your list until your messages are returned undeliverable a few times.
The second category of bounced email is called a hard bounce. This is an immediate failure type of email bounce as it is an error in sending the email, rather than an error in delivering it to the inbox. Using the foursquare example from above, it would mean that the ball didn’t even leave your court. When attempting to connect to your recipients email server, something happened in transmission that ultimately resulted in the inability to send the email. A hard bounce happen for a variety of reasons, including the following:
- Email doesn’t exist (maybe it’s old, or there’s a typo)
- Your email domain has been blocked
Keep in mind that some email servers will interpret bounces differently. So what some email servers would classify as a soft bounce can be sometimes counted as a hard bounce. A hard bounce is typically removed from your email list when it is managed by an email marketing program. This is meant to help you build a clean and healthy email list that you can track results from.
What does ‘clean and healthy’ mean? It means that you can be sure that people on your list want to receive information from you and are engaged in what you have to say. When your list is free of email addresses that don’t work, your email stats will inevitably go up as you’ll only be counting the emails that are good addresses.