How to Fix an Email Bounce Back, However It Happens

How to Fix an Email Bounce Back, However It Happens

How to Fix an Email Bounce Back, However It Happens

If you’ve ever received an email bounce-back notice – otherwise known as an NDR or DSN – then you already know that not every email that you send gets delivered.

The thing is, not all email bounces are the same. Your email could fail to be delivered for a permanent reason (a hard bounce) or a temporary reason (a soft bounce).

The key here is to know what type of bounce you’re dealing with so you can hopefully identify the cause, mitigate the damage to your sender reputation, and take action to prevent it from happening again.

A bird’s eye view of how to fix an email bounce back

A potential solution to an email bounce depends on the type of bounce you’re dealing with. For instance, if your email soft bounced because your recipient’s server was temporarily down, your message may, upon a redelivery attempt, get delivered. Problem solved!

However, if your email hard bounced, there’s no fixing it, hence the permanent part of permanent delivery failure. At this point, you’ll need to focus on damage control and implementing preventative measures to keep this from happening in the future. We’ll cover those in just a bit.

What type of bounce do you have?

It’s pretty tough to fix something without first knowing what it is.

The two main types of bounces are a soft bounce and a hard bounce. If an email hard bounces, then there’s a permanent reason your recipient’s server failed to deliver it. Take a look at some of the most common reasons a hard bounce happens:

  • Your email failed authentication checks (DMARC, DKIM, SPF, etc.)
  • The recipient’s email doesn’t exist
  • The domain name is invalid
  • The recipient’s email has been disabled because it was abandoned/a lack of use
  • You hit a spam trap
  • The server failed to recognize the command due to a syntax error
  • The recipient blocked you
  • Other unknown reasons

Sometimes you’ll receive a Delivery Status Notification (DSN), a Non-Delivery Report, or a Non-Delivery Receipt (NDR) which may include a Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) code giving you insight into why your email bounced. The most common SMTP codes you might come across to indicate your email hard bounced include:

How to Fix an Email Bounce Back, However It Happens

Soft bounce

If your email soft bounces, then it’s a temporary failure of delivery. That could be your fault or, more likely, an issue on your recipient’s end. While many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will attempt redelivery a few times, if the email continues to soft bounce, it could morph into a hard bounce, making delivery impossible.

Here are some of the top reasons an email can soft bounce:

  • Your recipient’s inbox is full
  • The recipient’s server is busy or temporarily down for some reason
  • A processing error
  • Your email was too large
  • The recipient’s mailbox wasn’t configured correctly
  • The recipient’s server received too many emails in a specific amount of time
  • Other unknown reasons

You’ll want to be familiar with some of the common SMTP soft bounce codes.

How to Fix an Email Bounce Back, However It Happens

The data and tools you’ll need to prevent an email bounce

  • Data detailing the email verification status of your email addresses
  • Access to your user engagement rates
  • An email verification tool, preferably one that follows the best practice of a two-step approach to email verification
  • Blocklist inclusions
  • Existence and status/health of your email authentication
  • Access to an SMTP code cheat sheet.

Step 1: Hard or soft bounce? Which one are you dealing with?

You need to figure out what type of email bounce you have, so you can determine the best course of action to minimize damage to your email ecosystem. If you received a DSN or NDR notification, you can start there. That’s where the SMTP codes can make the identification process a tad easier.

For soft bounces, they typically (but not always) involve SMTP 400 codes. Likewise, SMTP 500 reply codes indicate a permanent delivery failure. There can be exceptions, but MOST of the time, 400 error codes indicate a temporary problem, like a disk full on an ISP’s mail server, indicating that it’s safe for your sending platform to re-attempt delivery in a few minutes and MOST of the time 500 error codes indicate that an ISP is telling you that their final answer is that this message will NOT be delivered, and that re-attempting delivery of the message is not allowed.

Step 2: Mitigate the damage

If your email bounces, you need to take action before the damage spreads like wildfire. What that action is will depend on why your email bounced.

The point is, it’s important to take action. If you don’t and continue sending emails to the same email address that caused a bounce, and you continue racking up bounces, this can harm your sender reputation.

Adopt the best practice of a two-step approach to email verification
Knowing the quality of your email data is critical for avoiding bounces and improving your deliverability. If your email lists are old and unverified, there could be troublemakers lurking among your legitimate emails.

It’s an email marketing best practice to commit to a two-step approach to email verification.

How to Fix an Email Bounce Back, However It Happens

That means, first, verifying your existing email lists. And second, you’ll verify all new subscribers at point-of-capture, which will prevent any invalid emails from settling in your databases.

Step 3: Take preventative measures

Monitor engagement & remove inactive subscribers (if necessary)

How are your subscribers interacting with your emails? Are they opening them and then clicking through? Purchasing your new service or responding to your call to action? Or, are they reporting you as Spam or even blocking you outright? Low engagement can signal to an ISP that your sending behavior is similar to a spammer’s. And that could get you blocked.

You’ll want to monitor your engagement rates so you can remove any inactive subscribers before they bounce or end up becoming spam traps, which can mar your sender reputation and cause issues with both delivery and deliverability in the future.

Reaching out to them via a re-permission campaign can give you valuable feedback. If they want to opt-in, great! If not, you can let them go. This way you don’t run the risk of a spam complaint (because they don’t want to get your emails), or continuing on the low-engagement train and risking a blocklisting.

Conduct spam-filter testing

Do you have a history of racking up spam complaints? Maybe you’ve been sending irrelevant content (from your recipients’ perspectives) or sometimes your email campaigns contain a spam URL or the domain reputation of a URL, or other problematic signals that can make the emails you send bounce.

If you want to see how different ISPs are treating your emails, then conducting spam filter testing and inbox placement testing is a solid place to start.

Witnessing how your emails fare against over 21 of the major spam filters is just one of the advantages of running our spam filter testing before you launch your email campaign. Another is the practical and actionable feedback you’ll receive from popular spam filters like Barracuda, Spam Assassin, and more.

How to Fix an Email Bounce Back, However It Happens

With Kickbox, for example, our inbox placement testing will allow you to see any inbox issues across all the main inbox providers, which is essential for observing and tracking trends with your deliverability rate.

How to Fix an Email Bounce Back, However It Happens

Discover the power of blocklist monitoring

A blocklist spells bad news for your sender reputation and the health of your deliverability rate. For starters, there can be any number of reasons your sending IP address ends up on a blocklist, and none of them bode well for your email sending practices.

While ending up on a blocklist won’t always mean the emails you send will bounce, if you find yourself on some of the major blocklists like Spamhaus, Invalument, Barracuda, and more, you can almost bank on a bounce.

No matter if a user complaint got you there, or a spam filter, or some other reason, you need to know when you’re on one so you can delist as quickly as possible.

How to Fix an Email Bounce Back, However It Happens

Our blocklist monitoring tool will alert you in real-time of any blocklist inclusion. Along with that, you’ll get helpful resources that will walk you through what you need to do to delist.

The damage a bounce can cause

Why is it so important to tackle the causes of email bounce backs?

Well, aside from indicating your emails are not being delivered, bounce backs can cause significant damage to your sender reputation and inbox placement rates. Here are a few ways that can happen:

Tarnishes your sender reputation with an ISP

When your email bounces, that’s an indicator that you may not be the type of sender an ISP can trust.

As a result, a bounce can mar your sender reputation, which, in turn, can negatively impact your deliverability rate in the future. Or, in simpler terms, you won’t reach your recipients’ inboxes, much less continue building a relationship with them.

Disrupts your inbox placement

Ideally, you need to aim for an email bounce rate below 3%. Of course, the less, the better.

We can’t stress enough how much an email bounce (especially a hard bounce) can interrupt your deliverability rate (aka, inbox placement).

An ISP sizes up your credibility as a sender based on many factors that include your sending behavior. If you send emails that are bouncing left and right, you’ll be less likely to pass through a recipient server’s gates. Or, if you do make it through, then you could still end up in Junk mail.

Interferes with your relationships with your subscribers

If your email campaigns land anywhere but the inbox, you’ve failed to connect with your subscriber. You can’t maintain a business relationship from the spam folder (or after their server blocks you), which over time can impact your email marketing ROI.

Ready to make email bounces a thing of the past with Kickbox?

You need to feel confident knowing that your emails reach your subscribers every time you press Send. An email bounce is nothing more than a wall between you and your subscribers. That’s one wall you’ll need to tear down asap.

At Kickbox, our suite of deliverability tools will help you monitor and track the data relevant to helping you keep your inbox placement on the up and up.

You know when your deliverability rate is high, you’re reaching your subscribers. And you can’t build a long-lasting relationship with them unless you connect first.

When you sign up, you’ll have access to spam-filter testing, blocklist monitoring, and more. If you’re unsure how these tools will benefit your company or if you have questions or need advice about the best strategy to take, you can always contact our deliverability consultants and book an initial consultation.

How to Fix an Email Bounce Back, However It Happens

With over 30 years of combined deliverability expertise, they would be more than happy to guide you through the murky water of email deliverability best practices, so you can redirect your time and energy towards fortifying those business relationships.

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