A Marketer’s Guide to Email Bounce Rates
Bounce is bad. Dogs may disagree. As will a hairstylist creating a lively bob. And if you’re a beach ball manufacturer, a life without bounce is a life gone flat.
But if you’re a marketer busily sending out emails galore, you don’t want to see your marketing campaign founder in a sea of returned correspondence. You need your words to impact on their intended recipients. Anything that stops your message getting out is really unwelcome, so let’s take a look at what bounce is, what causes it and what you can do about taking the bounce out of your bounce rates.
Distressingly often, emails that were supposed to go out to contacts find themselves being returned before they get there. The percentage of your emails that come straight back to you like this is called the bounce rate.
Put another way, take the number of bounced emails, divide it by your total outgoing emails, and multiply by 100. Simple. But incredibly annoying. It reduces the efficacy of any campaign by reducing the number of pairs of eyes that get to read your email.
Moreover, you will want to preserve your reputation by keeping your bounce rate to what is widely regarded as acceptable. You’re never going to achieve 0%: this is wholly impossible, for various reasons. But a 2% rate is perfectly respectable. A higher rate will prompt people to take you less seriously as the professional marketing outfit you want to appear to be. And no doubt are.
There are two sorts of email bounce, with their own reasons for happening. Both will have a harmful impact on your business and its attempts to escort clients down that good old relationship funnel.
This is where the receiving email server accepts the email but it gets sent back to the sender undelivered. Reasons for this include a full mailbox, a receiving server that is down or offline, or you simply went on for too long in your email: brevity is an under-appreciated virtue at times and an email that is too large can often be returned to sender by an inbox straining to fit everything in.
Soft bouncing is usually a temporary issue that is easily resolved, either by you (trim that email!) or by the recipient’s service.
This is where the receiving email server sends the email straight back to the sender. Reasons for this include the email address not existing, the domain not existing, or the recipient blocking delivery.
Hard bouncing is a more serious proposition, in that a non-existent email address or domain is probably not going to spontaneously come into existence. And active blocking needs addressing.
However, you handle your task management, you can start straight away on a multitude of techniques to get that bounce rate down.
1. Clean up your lists
A lot of lists get a little unkempt. This is particularly the case with bought lists. They can be replete with dodgy addresses and even spam traps (i.e. email addresses that have never been attached to an individual, but are simply there to detect spam). Thankfully, there are list clean-up services that you can employ to get your list impeccably buffed up.
Lists need updating, too, as people change addresses and jobs. If you notice that you’re getting bounced from an individual for months, the chances are you should remove them from your list. There’s no point having a list full of infertile contacts, whether they are blocking you or have actually moved on.
Seek permission where you can. It’s an effective means of securing engagement and is a legal requirement in many territories. You can do this via automation, of course: when somebody comes on board, an email is triggered that seeks their opt-in for various different kinds of email and other communication.
Some clients will be especially valued and their non-responsivity particularly felt. Try reaching out to them through other means. You can try a free video call, for instance, as a method of re-establishing contact with your client.
2. More is more. Well, within reason
You may be thinking that the fewer emails you send, the less bounce you’ll get. Well, not in terms of bounce rate. This is because if you turn silent for long periods of time, your recipients may not recognize you when you do send. They are then likely to regard you as spam and block you. Different sectors will require different frequencies of emailing, and different individual marketers favor different frequencies, so there is no ‘one size fits all’ with this.
This is one of those times when you need to put yourself in your clients’ shoes. A successful business will always think about the customer journey, and this is the kind of thinking required here. In situations like this, it may be worth considering a user journey mapping tool.
3. There’s always a cost
When you use a free service with an address like hotmail.com or gmail.com, not only does it look a little unprofessional, you also increase your chances of experiencing hard bounce. Why? Because a free domain like this will not pass the DMARC (email authentication) policy for Yahoo, AOL and Gmail.
Another way you can raise the professionalism of your outfit and increase trust is to use email signatures.
4. Verify your domain
This is linked to the previous point, but can be overlooked so it’s worth mentioning. Once you have your custom domain set up, use a verifier like SPF, DKIM or DMARC to add authenticity to your outgoing emails. It basically tells the receiving server that you are legitimate and you have the right to send emails from the sending domain.
5. Keep off the spam
Think about how the email you’re sending out comes across. Does it look like spam? One in six emails ends up in the spam box so let’s not fill it up any further. You can avoid this fate by keeping away from specific words that spam filters look out for. Here are some of the most common: ‘bargain’, ‘millionaire’, ‘no hidden fees’, ‘limited time offer’, ‘save money’, ‘pre-approved’, ‘no purchase necessary’ and ‘real thing’. Oh, and ‘this isn’t spam’. Just in case you were thinking that you were sitting on a genius way through.
6. Personally speaking
Personalization is often cited as the way forward in marketing, and the world of email bounce is no exception. Your emails are less likely to be rejected out of hand if you mention the recipient in the subject line. It implies an existing relationship of sorts which will automatically raise the value of your correspondence in the eyes of the intended recipient. And it’s always nice to see your name up there.
7. Simple succeeds
When you are putting your email together, avoid over-complication. Keep it brief and minimize your use of images and other embellishments. This will reduce the chance of it being rejected due to an inbox not having capacity for it.
8. I don’t like Mondays
It may seem a little implausible, but the day of the week that an email is sent will have an impact on whether the recipient opens it or refuses it. Thursday is often cited as the best day. Mondays are often dismissed because of the double downer of a weary worker coming in to face a new week, combined with an inbox full of material that may have arrived over Saturday and Sunday. Emails may be refused and senders blocked by an individual still mourning the passing of the weekend.
This is of course dependent on what you’re marketing. If you’re in the cinema business, Friday will be a huge day for you as you’ll want to get word out to everybody on what films are weekend must-sees.
Weekends are in general not such a hot time for marketing emails sent to work addresses. There has, of course, been a huge, industry-wide effort to build mobile apps and one of the results has been a growth in emails being viewed on mobiles. Even so, the weekend is not a tremendously fruitful time for these kinds of emails.
Time of day is crucial. Early morning is considered most advantageous in general, but, again, if you’re in the restaurant game you may want to send out emails a little later in the day, when appetite starts to bite. A hotel business may wish to send out emails in good time for peak booking periods. Accommodating demand is what it’s all about.
9. Track performance
Use a tracking system to keep tabs on your bounce rate, as well as email delivery status. Follow up interval success rates and the bounce associated with different types of marketing email.
There are some very sound methods for beating the bounce. Whether you are a hoary old campaigner or a spanking new start-up, stick to these, and your emails will rejoice in a gloriously unbouncy fate. Keep things simple, time it right and think about how your email will look on first contact. And do bear in mind what works for your particular sector, before you go bouncing on in there.