The ability to actually get your email in front of your intended recipient is a pretty big deal.
Many factors contribute to the success of an email marketing program. You have to consider subject lines, content, and graphics. Then there’s the time of day, day of the week, and month of the year. You must also consider segmentation, personalization, automation, email deliverability, and perhaps most importantly — email bounce rate.
Let’s take a look at two truths and one lie about email bounce rates — and you shouldn’t have much trouble spotting the lie. But first, let’s talk about bounce rates and how they affect sender reputation.
How high bounce rates hurt your sender reputation
Your sender reputation is the rating assigned to your IP address and domain based on your send behavior.
According to SendGrid, your reputation depends on five elements:
1. Properly formatted email
2. Consistent volume
3. Avoiding spam traps
4. Low email bounce rates
5. No blacklist appearances
Properly formatted email addresses, consistent volume, and avoiding spam traps contribute to a low bounce rate. This, in turn, keeps your email domain off blacklists and your sender reputation intact.
Why do emails bounce?
Your bounce rate is the percentage of emails that were rejected by the recipient. There are two types of email bounces:
Soft bounce: Temporary failure (someone is out of the office and their inbox is full). Your email may go through if you try sending it another time.
Hard bounce: Permanent failure. Your email will not go through no matter how often you try.
The question is: How and why do emails bounce in the first place?
As with most things email-related, there are many factors. Sending the email to an invalid email address is the main cause. That can happen for several reasons:
- The recipient has left the company.
- The recipient’s email address has changed.
- The email address has a typo.
- The email address is completely made up.
- The email address is a spam trap. (An address created solely to catch spammers or a previously legitimate email address that has been repurposed to catch spammers using outdated data.)
What is an acceptable bounce rate for emails?
As a rule of thumb, you should be aiming for a bounce rate below 3 percent. Most email service providers (ESPs) will penalize your sender reputation if your bounce rate is over 5 percent — harming your ability to send campaigns.
Why is it important to monitor your bounce rate?
A high bounce rate is an immediate red flag for email service providers. Over time, it may result in a low sender score.
Once your ESP deems your sender score to be too low, they may divert your emails to the spam folders of recipients in their network. In some cases, the emails might not get delivered at all.
Maintaining a strong email reputation score is key to optimizing your marketing efforts.
How can you check your domain’s sender reputation?
Several organizations track and monitor your sending behavior. Others keep a running blacklist of those with poor sender reputations. Email service providers look at both factors to determine whether or not an incoming email is safe to receive.
You should be monitoring your sender reputation regularly. If you’re not sure where to start, here are the tools that we’ve used to monitor our sender reputation:
Mx Toolbox: Monitors blacklists as well as checks the technical setup of your emails.
Sender Score: Monitors the overall health of your IP and sending domain.
Spam Haus: This helps you check your IP address, domain name, and whether you’re on a blocklist.
1. Sending emails to incorrect addresses impacts your sender reputation
If you look at the deliverability rate in your email sending platform, it’s easy to think, “Hey, 80 percent of my emails were delivered! That’s pretty good!” … and leave it at that.
However, a bounce rate of 20 percent could cause your ESP to suspend your account, and your reputation could get dinged by other organizations.
If your sender reputation declines, you could wind up blacklisted. And to be safe, email servers and email filtering services will start to block your emails based on what they know about your sender reputation.
The more frequently you send to invalid addresses, the harder it will be for you to get any of your emails through to your intended recipient.
You can take steps to prevent that from happening. Take time to validate email addresses before sending to them and regularly update your marketing database. Better yet, use an email validation service such as NeverBounce Sync, which automatically cleans and updates the emails in your database.
Internally, we validate emails as they enter our system and quickly filter out the invalid addresses. We also re-validate them on a regular basis.
This process doesn’t solve all email reputation woes, but it has the biggest impact on safeguarding your sender reputation.
2. Organically obtained emails from web forms are the most trustworthy
This seems logical, right? Someone who wants to download an ebook or speak to a salesperson should be most likely to provide a valid email address.
Here’s the reality: A web visitor might want your ebook, but they don’t usually need you to email it to them. More often, they’re directed to the asset itself, or a download, regardless of whether their email is valid. So they type in “firstname.lastname@example.org” or “email@example.com” or some other dummy email address. (Without a double opt-in at the point of collection, there’s always the possibility of incorrect email addresses polluting your database.)
Sometimes a web visitor isn’t a real person. Bots and hackers can fill out web forms in bulk. And even the most authentic and sincere web visitors sometimes make mistakes and submit an email with a typo.
For those that submit a correct email, that address may only be valid for a short time. Maybe they leave the company before you target them with your next great campaign. Or maybe they get married, change their name, and IT forgets to update their email address.
Finally, data typically decays at a rate of at least 30 percent per year. Even if an email address is correct when it was submitted, it won’t stay valid for long. Real-time email verification using tools such as NeverBounce Verify can help avoid high bounce rates due to data decay and prevent your domain from falling prey to blacklisting.
3. Data quality is the most important part of your email marketing strategy
Email senders spend a lot of time and effort on their email content: the copy, the layout, and the design. Many of them believe that A/B testing these elements is the most important part of their email marketing strategy. But that’s not the case.
If a package gets lost in the mailroom or delivered to the wrong address, does it matter what’s inside or how beautifully it’s wrapped? Nope.
The same goes for email: For the copy and content to have an impact, your email has to be seen. Having a valid email address ensures that a perfectly crafted, thoughtfully designed email makes it to the intended inbox.
Refer back to the first truth: Sending to incorrect email addresses impacts your ability to send to good ones. The more bad email addresses included in your email campaign, the more likely your email will not be received by others with valid email addresses. It will land in the junk folder, or worse, be rejected altogether — wasting all of that effort that you put into the subject line and placement of the buttons.
Having good data — verified email addresses — is the most important factor for determining your sender reputation and the performance of your emails. Nothing else matters if you don’t get this piece right.
NeverBounce offers a range of email verification products that can help ensure your emails are delivered. You can clean your email lists in bulk, verify emails in real-time at the point of entry, and automatically sync email cleaning with your database.