Email Bounce Rules

Article by Dave Martin CATEGORIES: Deliverability, Email Marketing TAGS:

It’s officially summer! Congratulations, you’ve made it to the height of the travel season. You’re likely seeing many Out of Office notifications from your colleagues and vendors alike. And you’re not alone, your email marketing program is seeing them as well. We won’t worry too much about those auto-replies, but this is a great time to check in on your rules for handling both hard and soft bounces.

One of the first questions we ask new consulting clients is “What are your bounce rules?” More often than not, the marketing team does not know! Do you? Most email marketers leave their bounce rules up to their Email Service Provider. If you’ve delegated this important aspect of your sending infrastructure to your ESP, don’t take it for granted that the rules are set up the way you expect. Removing repeated soft bounces and any hard bounces is critical to your sending reputation. Continuing to send to unknown users or otherwise undeliverable records will add up and contribute to the filtering of your emails to the spam folder.

There are two categories of bounce events that are sent back by the mail server to let you know that your email could not be delivered. The hard bounce category includes those that have permanently failed, such as  unknown users or mistyped addresses. The soft bounce category includes those that have experienced a temporary failure, like the one you might see this time of year for “mailbox full”.

So, what should your bounce rules look like? Most experts, including our own VP, Deliverability, Tony Patti, will agree that a single hard bounce warrants being removed from your sending program immediately. There is no benefit to retrying a permanently undeliverable record. In fact, it may actually harm your ISP reputation. Soft bounces are more of a gray area. Generally, you can allow up to 3 consecutive soft bounces in a two-week period before you should remove the record from your active subscriber list. This rule can vary greatly and should reflect your own sending cadence. If you only send one campaign a month, you may stretch that allowed time period to the point at which a record could have received three campaigns.

Don’t set off for your summer vacation before confirming that you have bounce handling under control. And if you need help, let us know. Drop us a line at sales@edatasource.com