17 Powerful and Actionable Ways to Reduce Email Bounce Rate


by Gastón Labarthe

You have just sent a campaign, you went and checked the report and you realized that you need to reduce your email bounce rate asap!

I have been there… and all the EXPERTS that have contributed on this post too!

That’s why I’ve packed this guide with QUICK and ACTIONABLE tactics to reduce email bounce rate.

I’m gonna save you lots of time by avoiding long explanations on soft and hard bounce, and all that technical stuff.

And it’s not because hard and soft bounce rates aren’t important things to master.

Sure they are! But…

I PROMISE you that if you stick to these 17 tactics (and with the hidden ones I mention at the end of the post 😉) you will DRASTICALLY reduce your email bounce rate without even needing a technical explanation of the types of bounce rates.

I’ve compiled this powerful list of tactics and I’ll present them in order so you can tackle them, one at a time.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the tactics to reduce your email bounce rate, right now!

1 DKIM and SPF Settings 

You’ve probably heard about DKIM and SPF registers, right?

If not, don’t worry.

I’m going to explain to you briefly what these 2 abbreviations mean and why they are so important to email deliverability.

DKIM Stands for Domain Keys Identified Mail and SPF stands for Sender Policy Frameworks.

DKIM & SPF records

Image: https://www.namecheap.com

These are two methods and the most commonly used to authenticate and improve the email sending rate.

When you send an email marketing campaign, before reaching the inbox of your subscribers GMail, Yahoo and other service providers use these methods to validate that you are a valid sender for your domain address.

Want to know if your domain has these records configured properly?

 

The team at Mailpoet crafted this super simple tool to check if your domain has DKIM and SPF records configured properly.

You have to provide the domain and the DKIM selector and it will return if the records are good to go.

So, if your email service provider allows these methods for validation purposes, go ahead and configure them on your domain to improve your deliverability.

 

2 Investigate Your Email Service Provider

Landing in the spam folder – IT’S BIG DEAL!

So…

You have to choose your email service provider with responsibility.

Don’t just look at the price of your email service provider.

Go beyond that and investigate thoroughly each solution before making a decision.

In Jordie’s words:

“Choose your email service provider wisely, and grill them on the topic of deliverability! There are a lot of options for email marketing software providers. Go with one that has an enough deliverability knowledge in house. You can expect some (tough) ESP vetting questions. But they will know how to ramp up new sending, handle different ISPs bounce codes and categorize bounces and handle any type of new import (of recently acquired email addresses) correctly before there might be a deliverability problem.”

Jordie van RijnJordie van RijnemailMonday

Your ESP will handle most of the aspects of your email marketing reputation.

So, it’s important that the solution you pick follows certain rules to comply with spam laws and prevent your emails from landing in the junk folder.

Some things to keep an eye on when selecting an ESP:

  • Will you get proper DKIM and SPF authentication?
  • Can you see deliverability metrics with your reporting?
  • How does their deliverability team look like and do they manage that in-house?
  • Extra costs for deliverability questions / services?
  • Do they ask you to comply with GDPR?
  • When you signed up for their service, did their welcome emails land in your junk folder? (It happened to me, true story!)

So, keep in mind Jordie’s words… choose your email service provider wisely!

 

3 Email Scrubbing

You’ve selected your email service provider.

You created an account with them, and in the on-boarding process they are asking you to upload your list…

HOLD ON!

If you have been collecting emails, you’ll probably have a beautiful list full of….

  • Typos, things like john.doa@gmail.com instead of john.doe@gmail.com
  • Non-existent emails like a@a.com, test@test.com
  • Role based emails like info@domain.com
  • Emails that had been deleted or changed since you grabbed them.

So, the best move at this stage is to CLEAN your list before uploading to your ESP.

Never send a campaign as a tactic to “clean your list” with the bounces.

Palm face

That hurts your email reputation.

There are plenty of services out there to clean your list before sending a single campaign.

I’m going to recommend you two options: Neverbounce and Emaillistverify.

I’ve used both and they’ve helped me clean up my email marketing lists.

How do these services work?

Simple…

  1. You upload your list.
  2. They analyze it and send you the potential cleaning.
  3. You pay.
  4. They clean.

Now you can upload your list, safely 😉.

 

4 Build a Permission Based Email List

Don’t buy email marketing lists, EVER! I mean it… EVER!

And don’t just take my word on this, check Kath’s recommendation:

“One of the key contributing reason’s for email marketing delivering the highest ROI (according to Econsultancy’s Email Marketing Census 2018) is because generally (with only a couple of exceptions) email is a permission-channel. This means that we are starting from a better place than most other channels, because our audience wants to hear from us. So, change your mindset and look at gaining permission as being a good thing and not a chore. With this new change of mindset, start looking for more opportunities throughout the customer journey to collect permission.”

Kath PayKath Pay – CEO Holistic Email Marketing

At the beginning you’ll feel great buying a “super cheap, legit and ultra targeted email marketing list”.

But, let’s suppose that the above sentence could be true (what I really doubt!).

As soon as your subscribers receive your first email campaign they’ll realize that an intruder is in their precious inbox.

They will mark your email as SPAM! and that my friend is…

The end of your domain reputation!

 

5 Double Opt-in

There are 2 ways to accept new subscribers on your list:

  • Single opt-in
  • Double opt-in.

Double opt-in requires more effort from your subscribers, but you’ll be sure that:

  • The subscriber is totally aware of the subscription
  • The email is confirmed, so there’s no room for typos
  • Nobody will subscribe a third party without their consent

Double opt-int

Enabling double opt-in on your email marketing list will make your list healthier with better quality subscribers, will improve your deliverability – and as a direct result higher open and click rates.

This is what Philip has to add on this:

“If you are concerned about bounce rate, a great place to start is where you capture email addresses and include a double opt-in. This isn’t my favourite approach, because it requires subscribers to then go and click on the confirmation email, but so long as you clearly explain on the sign-up and thank you page that they will need to go and take action of their own in their inbox, it’s a great way to be proactive in avoiding bounces.”

Philip StoreyPhilip Storey – Founder & CEO Enchant Agency

 

6 Double-entry Confirmation

Chad S. White Special collaboration from Chad S. White, Research Director at Litmus and author of “Email Marketing Rules

Asking a would-be email subscriber to enter their email address a second time in an extra field on an email signup form provides a couple of benefits.

First, it allows you to make sure that the addresses entered are identical.

The chance that a person would repeat the same typo twice is low.

And second, it slows the person down just a little and causes them to scrutinize what they’re typing in and compare it to what they typed into the first email address field.

Both benefits increase address accuracy and reduce bounces.

This is what Tim has to add on signup forms:

“At a minimum signup forms should check email addresses for correct format; only permitted characters, no spaces, includes one @, includes domain and so on. Better is to also check the domain exists and accepts email. Technically that means doing an DNS MX record check on the domain. Even better is to use a real time email verification service. There are many vendors offering such services, examples include Neverbounce, FreshAddress and Webbula. These will not only check the domain exists but will also attempt to check the user exists too. There is no such thing as perfect email address validation but it’s better than no validation. It definitely reduces bounce rates for new users.”

Tim WatsonTim Watson – Email Marketing Consultant at Zettasphere

 

7 Whitelist Your IP/Domain

Perhaps you didn’t realized it, but your IP/domain could be BLACKLISTED 😱

That means that your emails could be rejected by your subscriber’s service provider or arrive in spam folder.

How do you find out if your IP is blacklisted?

You need to use a third party service to find it out.

Here are some available tools to find out if your IP is blacklisted:

Alright, you have just found out that your email IP is blacklisted and you feel like sh*t.

You can change that, but how?

First, you have to find out why are your subscribers marking your emails as spam?

Some of the reasons could be:

  • They did not subscribe to your list.
  • Your emails looks like a scam, too many images, too many links, etc.
  • Your aren’t providing a clear unsubscribe link for your subscribers.

You have to fix this issue first, before sending more campaigns . 

If you don’t fix the root cause, you might recover your domain reputation, but after sending a couple of campaigns you’ll end up in the same place…

On the blacklist!

So, after fixing the main reason on why your subscribers are touching the spam button, you can then go to the service where you’re blacklisted and follow the blacklist removal process they suggest.

This is major problem, solve it before moving on!

 

8 Clean Bounces as Soon as They Happen

Some ESPs take care of the soft and hard bounces, but you can do some homework too!

Email Score Campaign

If you found that your ESP is not cleaning your bounced addresses, clean your list manually as soon as they bounce.

Most of the ESPs will keep sending your campaigns to an address that was reported as a soft bounce.

On some occasions they’ll try up to 14 times before marking a soft bounce as a hard bounce.

And after that, your ESP, usually, automatically removes that address from your list.

14 campaigns are too many campaigns to wait to have a clean and tidy list.

If an address is returning a soft bounce in the past 3 campaigns, go ahead and unsubscribe it!

Whenever you unsubscribe someone, he/she can subscribe again in the future.

So, unsubscribing members from your list is not big deal!

Don’t be afraid to do it!

Unsubscribe members from your list (inactive, nonexistent or bounced) will help you with:

  • Maintaining a healthier email marketing list.
  • Increasing deliverability.
  • Improving domain reputation.

And while doing that you’re saving money with your ESP!

Wise move

 

9 Don’t Forget Plain Text

Some servers will accept just plain text email campaigns.

And for that reason it’s good advice to always send your campaigns taking into account both versions:

HTML and plain text.

Here you have a plain text example 👇

Plain text

Plan text example

Most of the ESPs take care of this step automatically and you don’t even notice that they are sending both versions.

But, some tools don’t have this setting activated by default.

So, check if your email service provider is handling this by default.

 

10 Send Campaigns With Purpose

Matthew Smith Special collaboration from Matthew SmithReally Good Emails

The number one thing I believe you can do to reduce bounce rate is to improve the content of your email marketing to actually solve real challenges your customers are facing.

The email should actually serve the customer and then they will be trained to feel that opening your emails is a valuable exchange rather than a waste of time — a resource they are paying you for by reading your email.

 

11 Avoid Sloppy HTML

Spam filters see your campaigns different than you do.

They read over the HTML content of your campaign and determine if your HTML is well coded or has issues based on HTML standards.

This is a good example:

Clean HTML

Perhaps you are not familiar with HTML, but you can use tools to validate and prevent having sloppy code that could trigger spam filters and affect your deliverability.

 

12 Segment Like a Boss

Dave Sutton Special collaboration from Dave SuttonCEO Top Right Partner

There is one avoidable mistake that everyone makes with email marketing… we indiscriminately send one email to our entire database.

That’s right.

Many marketers do not segment their database and they blast emails out to their entire list hoping that some percentage of readers will open, read, and take action.

What actually happens when an audience member receives one of these irrelevant emails?

According to a study by Campaigner: 60% delete the email, 27% unsubscribe from the brand and 23% mark the email as Spam.

In short, it doesn’t work.

And worse, it tarnishes your brand reputation and hamstrings your ability to create an authentic and productive relationship with your audience.

The good news?

You can avoid this mistake quite easily.

By not making this mistake, you can increase email marketing revenue and deliver better value for your email subscribers.

 

13 Ask Customers to Update Their Information

One of the reasons for a bounce could be an outdated email address.

Be a step ahead and from time to time ask your subscribers to update their information.

Update preferences

Perhaps a subscriber opted-in to your list with a secondary email address and now he/she realized that they want to receive your campaigns in his/her main email address.

 

14 Give Subscribers Options

You can give your subscribers options to update the type of content they want to receive from you and how frequently they want to receive your campaigns.

That will help you keep your subscribers ENGAGED with your campaigns, and it also means higher open and click rates.

 

15 Regularly and Consistently Send Emails

If you are not sending campaigns on a regular basis you are wasting your money with your email service provider.

Not being present with your subscribers, as time passes, increases the chance that more addresses will bounce.

Don’t take my word on this, check these stunning statistics that will convince you to send campaigns on a regular basis:

  • “Sending FOUR EMAILS A MONTH will give you a higher open rate than just sending one”–  (Emaillistverify).
  • “49% of consumers said that they would like to receive promotional emails from their favorite brands on a WEEKLY BASIS” (Statista 2017).
regular campaigns

Image: cnvrtly.com

Email marketing lists naturally decay.

People change their jobs.

Companies go out of business and there are a ton of reasons to have outdated email addresses.

So, do yourself a favor and keep pushing content to your email marketing subscribers to keep them happy, be in the top of their mind and also keep your email marketing updated.

 

16 Unsubscribe Inactive Members

If you have an email marketing list, you have inactive email subscribers.

Period.

And probably you didn’t realized it, but inactive members are COSTING YOU MONEY AND REPUTATION.

You can’t maintain an email marketing list with 100% active members.

The average of our clients had a list of  44.35% inactive members on average (before cleaning them).

That means that those people didn’t open their last 5-10 campaigns.

That’s sad, but true.

Depending on the frequency that you are sending your campaigns, 5-10 campaigns could be a lot of time to wait for a dormant subscriber.

These inactive members are not helping your wallet or your business.

To reduce costs, improve deliverability and also increase your email marketing list reputation, you have to remove these inactive email marketing subscribers.

In David’s words:

“Email marketers need to look at the engagement of their list and purge inactive subscribers. Some ISPs such as Gmail use engagement as part of their inbox placement methodology. Those mailers send to a file that has a large portion of inactive subscribers will have poor deliverability as a result. The latest consumer survey (11/18) by The Relevancy Group found that 27 percent of consumers have changed their email address in the last year, which is up from 23 percent in 2016.”

David DanielsDavid Daniels, CEO & Founder, The Relevancy Group

You can do this process manually, but how?

That will depend on the email marketing service you are using.

If you are a Mailchimp customer, SoapChimp will clean your lists of inactive subscribers on autopilot.

SoapChimp will analyze your last 10 campaigns and let you pick between 1, 3, 5 or 10 campaigns to clean your list.

SoapChimp Dashboard

So, go ahead and clean your email marketing list of those inactive subscribers!

 

17 Pay Attention to Metrics

Bad metrics hurts your reputation in the short term, but even more in the long run.

Mailchimp Analytics

If your list is registering soft and hard bounces you are in danger of being marked as a bad sender.

That could result in a termination of the connection with your email service provider.

But even worse, your IP/Domain could be blacklisted.

That’s the worst thing that could happen to your email marketing reputation.

So keep an eye on your metrics and take action before it’s too late!

—-

Ok, I’ve shared with you 17 actionable tactics to reduce email bounce rate.

But you know what?

If you reached to this point, I really love you 😍.

So, what the heck!

I will share 2 more tactics just with you.

Go ahead and subscribe here and you’ll receive 2 more tactics (both are from super email marketing gurus!).

Don’t miss this opportunity and subscribe for 2 more tactics .

Keep an eye on your email marketing list and apply these 17 tactics to reduce your email bounce rate.

 

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