Soft-bounced Emails Explained

There are two broad categories that are used to classify the many causes of email bounces. These are hard-bounced emails for unrecoverable failures and soft-bounced emails for sporadic, transient, or reputational problems.

Creating and maintaining your sender reputation won’t happen overnight, just as it won’t happen when you expand your list. The effectiveness of your email marketing efforts also heavily depends on how you handle bounced emails.

Read on to find out more about soft bounced emails, how they might affect your email marketing campaigns, and what you can do to protect your reputation as a sender.

What are soft-bounced emails?

A soft bounce occurs when an email delivery attempt is made to a mail server, but the email is not immediately accepted and is instead rejected. This can happen due to various reasons, such as a full inbox, a server outage, or a message that is too large to be delivered.

Depending on the soft bounce type, the email may remain in the mail queue and be automatically retried at a later time, perhaps leading to successful delivery to the inbox.

Similar to hard-bounced emails, soft-bounced emails can occur for a variety of reasons, such as the following:

  • The email box is entirely filled.
  • Technical problems exist with the mail server.
  • There are limitations on the sender’s rate.
  • The email message is very long.
  • Too many people have marked your emails as spam.

Sometimes mailbox providers set sender rate limits; they use this to limit how quickly you may send emails to them, and it has to do with sender reputation. Generally speaking, the faster you can send emails, the better your sender reputation is.

Rate-limiting isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, and with time, it will get faster for you to send emails to Outlook, for example. When you’re a new sender, utilising a new sending domain, or transmitting from new IP addresses, rate-limiting is commonly found.

Hard or soft, which is worse?

The majority of ESPs will automatically suppress hard-bounced email addresses for you, which helps to keep your lists clean even if hard-bounced emails are more damaging to your sender reputation than soft-bounced emails ever would be.

The fact that emails are being refused because your domain and/or transmitting IP addresses are banned or the content you’re sending seems to be spam doesn’t mean that bounced emails are never a problem.

Making a judgement call about which is “worse” is not the best course of action, and as long as you pay attention to the reasons why emails are being rejected and then take the appropriate action to address the issue (e.g., suppression, blacklist delisting, etc.), your sender reputation will continue to improve as you send more email campaigns.

How can you prevent it?

Due to the nature of email, there are a lot of factors that senders have little control over that contribute to soft bounces, but there are steps you can take to get your campaigns off to a good start and keep them there.

Use double opt-in.

It’s tempting to add users to your database as soon as they subscribe since you want to reach as many people as you can. If you do this, though, you can encounter the issue of invalid or improperly written email addresses.

Double opt-in is a suitable choice in this situation. It acts as a safety net, avoiding the occurrence of this issue. Prior to being added to your list, a double opt-in will ensure that the right email address has been entered and validated.

Obtain agreement

According to the GDPR, you need a legal justification to send someone an email; an illustration of this is when a person subscribes to your monthly newsletter and grants their consent.

Without a valid reason, you run the danger of not only damaging your company’s reputation but also coming under investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Ensure appropriate list maintenance.

People who aren’t interested in getting emails from you should be frequently removed from your email list. You are far more likely to get spam complaints if your email list is made up of uninterested parties.

It’s possible for dormant email addresses to turn into recycled spam traps, which may be extremely detrimental to your operations, especially if one of the major mailbox providers blocks you.

Don’t use spam triggers.

Mail filters don’t care that you’re not intentionally attempting to produce content that seems spammy. They give the content a good whiff, and if it smells like spam, they handle it accordingly.

It’s a good idea to test your content with Mail Tester, which performs several health checks on it and provides input on how you might be able to enhance it.

Here is a quick summary of some additional issues to consider while creating the content for your emails:

  • Add exclamation points and question marks carefully rather than “shouting.”
  • Verify for accuracy.
  • Spam has a spam-like odour.
  • Avoid using phoney topic line prefixes like “RE:” or “FW:.”
  • Personalisation might help you concentrate your messages.
  • Avoid using general phrasing like “Dear Member” or “Dear Friend.”
  • Avoid ordering people to “act now” or using any such coercive language.

Avoid attempting to obfuscate language or using spaces to bury sentences.

Put the knowledge you’ve gained to use.

Although no sender wants an email to bounce, when it does, consider it a chance to utilise the information to make things right. This might entail purging your list, deleting IP addresses and domains, or reviewing the content of your emails to make sure they don’t contain any “spam” language.

Oh, and keep in mind that not all emails that are “delivered” remain “delivered,” so make sure you also look at those asynchronous bounces.