14 Quick Tips on How To Reduce Email Bounces
By Loren McDonald
If you are an active email marketer, managing
and reducing your email bounces (see definition
below) has never been more critical. Actively
managing your bounces can reduce your email
delivery costs and increase conversions/transactions
- improving the ROI of your email campaigns.
Here are 14 quick tips to help you manage
and reduce bounces:
Clean Your Lists: Whether manually or via
a list-hygiene service, check for incorrectly
formatted addresses, invalid domains and typos
Consider Using An Email Change of Address
(ECOA) Service: With many companies experiencing
email address churn of 2.5% a month, an ECOA
service could pay huge dividends. Return Path,
a leading ECOA company, reportedly receives
1,000,000 email address changes a month.
Confirm Email Addresses: Send an auto-reply
confirmation when a user subscribes, registers
or makes a purchase. If that message bounces,
you can attempt to correct it right from the
start. Additionally, you may want to consider
requiring a second email address line (in
your online forms) that confirms the correct
address was entered.
Include Subscription/Account Management Links
in Your Emails: Make it easy for your customers
and subscribers to update their email addresses
by including a link in your emails to your
Web site account/subscription management page.
Prompt Customers To Update Information: When
a customer is completing a transaction in
the shopping cart, for example, prompt them
to verify and update information - particularly
their email address.
Use the Mail or Phone to Update Information:
If you have postal addresses or phone numbers
for customers/subscribers with bad email addresses,
consider contacting them via mail (such as
a postcard) or telephone.
Monitor Delivery Rates By Domain: Track your
open and bounces rates by major domain, such
as AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo, Earthlink and others.
If one is significantly different than the
others, or your experience a sudden change,
you may have a filtering or blacklist problem.
Monitor Blacklists: Regularly check the major
spam databases and blacklists to ensure you
or your email provider has not been added.
Click here for a list of spam blacklists and
here to check your DNS against MAPS and SPAMCOP,
two of the more popular black list databases.
(You will not receive a bounce message as
a result of a blacklist, even though the email
has not been delivered.)
Understand and Monitor Spam Filters: Get to
know the more common things that most spam
filters, including Microsoft Outlook's Junk
Filter. Click here to see a list of many of
the major spam filters. Also, click here to
view the terms reviewed by Spam Assassin one
of the more popular spam filters. (Spam filters
also will not generate bounce messages.)
Remove "Spam Flag" Addresses: These
are often added maliciously. Examples include:
Pretest Your Emails: Prior to distributing
your email to your entire list, send a test
to yourself and others (make sure you include
all the major email services used by members
of your list).
Understand How Your Email Provider Processes
Bounces: Gain a thorough understanding of
how your email provider classifies and handles
soft and hard bounces - and manage accordingly.
Monitor Changes Among ISPs: After mergers,
financial troubles and other announcements,
many users of a particular ISP may decide
to switch to a different account or ISP for
their email. Consider sending an email to
members of your list with the domain name
in question, asking them if they would like
to update their email address and other information.
When All Else Fails, Suppress or Delete Recurring
Bouncers: Determine an appropriate bounce
suppression/deletion strategy for your email
program. With the EmailLabs application, hard
bounces are automatically put into your Trashed
list and will not be included in any ensuing
message distributions, unless they are moved
back into your active list.
Defining Soft and Hard Bounces
A soft bounce is an email message that gets
as far as the recipient's mail server (it
recognizes the address) but is bounced back
undelivered before it gets to the intended
recipient. A soft bounce might occur because
the recipient's mailbox is full, the server
is down or swamped with messages, the message
is too large or the user has abandoned the
mailbox. Most email service providers will
attempt to deliver the email regularly for
a few days. If it is still undelivered, it
becomes a hard bounce.
A hard bounce is an email message that has
been returned to the sender and is permanently
undeliverable. Causes include invalid addresses
(domain name doesn't exist, typos, changed
address, etc.) or the email recipient's mail
server has blocked your server. Servers will
also interpret bounces differently, meaning
a soft bounce on one server may be classified
as a hard bounce on another.