With a mind-blowing ROI of 3,800% in 2020, it’s a shame if you do not indulge in email marketing. Building an email list is a time-intensive process and involves a lot of effort; and it is worth it because of the traction and results that it brings. 

Seeing your emails not getting delivered to your target audience isn’t the situation that email marketers and businesses want to be in. There are a variety of email marketing terms that you will come across when you get started. The terms soft bounce and hard bounce will be on your radar when emails do not reach the intended recipient. 

If you keep drawing blanks when you hear the terms soft bounce and hard bounce, don’t worry; this article will help.

What is an email bounce?

The word ‘bounce’ in email marketing parlance usually means that the message isn’t delivered to the recipient. The email server usually apprises the sender of the incident, and gets categorized as a bounce. Along with the email delivery failure, the following information will be present:

  • The time and date, the message bounced
  • Email server that bounced it
  • The Request For Comments (RFC) code 
  • Reason for the email bounce 

What is soft bounce?

A soft bounce is an email that reaches the recipient’s email server but bounces without getting delivered to the recipient. Thankfully, it is only a temporary deliverability problem. It might have occurred because of the following reasons:

  • The size of your email might be too large
  • Recipient server being down
  • The inbox of the recipient being full

Most email clients re-send a soft bounce email automatically after 72 hours, which is the standard setting. Even though soft bounce is a temporary issue, it is still not good for your email deliverability. 

Tips to reduce soft bounce

There are specific measures that you can take to reduce soft bounce issues. 

1. Send valuable content:

When your audience is intrigued with your content and engages with it, the email client gets the signal that your emails are valuable to the recipient. If none of the subscribers opens your emails for a long time, it may end up being redirected to the spam folder. 

2. Avoid spam triggers:

Ensure that the emails you write and design, pass the spam filters. Your recipients’ spam filters prevent them from receiving unsolicited emails. 

3. Double opt-in:

Always ask your new subscribers to confirm that they will be added to your email list. It helps you ensure that the new subscribers’ email list is valid. 

4. ISP reputation:

Internet service providers use sender reputation scores to determine the trustworthiness of a business that sends emails. If the score is high, your emails will reach your recipients’ inbox directly. 

What is hard bounce?

A hard bounce is a permanent bounce where your recipient will not receive your email at all. Having a lot of hard bounces can be a problem for your email deliverability, as spam filters will view this as a threat. 

Hard bounce can happen because of the following reasons:

  • Invalid or non-existent email address
  • The email you sent has typos (Example: @.co instead of @co)
  • Deactivated recipient email
  • Recipients’ server has blocked you
  • Domain name doesn’t exist

Tips to reduce hard bounce

1. Remove inactive members:

Purge your email list regularly to remove subscribers who do not take any action or have invalid email addresses. Taking them off from your list is the most straightforward action that you can take to reduce your hard bounce rates. 

2. Analyze the source:

Find the most common bounces and see if the source for bad addresses are from a particular source. Take decisive action based on this information.

3. Email blocked by the recipient’s server:

Many corporate and government institutions have strict inbox filter settings that do not allow all emails. It might block 1. emails of a particular size, 2. images, 3. When there is a low ratio of text to image area, 4. or if the email only has text/HTML MIME parts, etc. 

4. Ideal email bounce rates:

While it is normal to have a few emails bounce when you grow your email list because of the plethora of reasons we discussed in the article, ensure to keep it below 2%. If it is over 2%, then you have a sender reputation problem in your hands. 

Email bounce rates vary based on the industry. Here is a list of the email marketing bounce rate benchmarks for different industries, according to research by Campaign Monitor:

  • Advertising and Marketing agencies- 1.10%
  • Media, Entertainment & Publishing- 0.40%
  • Construction, Contracting & Manufacturing- 2.20%


It is important that businesses acknowledge the fact that emails bounce; but constant monitoring and action helps stabilize bounce rates. Ensure that your email list is clean and keep audiences engaged by providing them valuable information. The quality of your data is an important metric that ISPs monitor to decide the sender reputation score. As an email marketing automation tool and contact database provider, Adapt takes continuous measures to preserve freshness of data.