Want to maximize your newsletter ROI? Learn how to create capturing, top-quality newsletters that contribute to your business goals.
email marketing | Jul 7
Masooma Memon on June 17, 2021 (last modified on June 22, 2021) • 14 minute read
A high email bounce rate means several of your subscribers aren’t getting your emails. Put another way, your message isn’t reaching as many eyeballs as you’d like.
Left untreated, the problem only escalates as a high bounce rate impacts your email domain’s reputation. This, in turn, does more damage as fewer and fewer people get your newsletter.
The solution, you ask? We’ve got 9 ways to improve email bounce rate for you. All of these are tactics are expert-sourced and proven to work. So what are you waiting for?
Email bounce rate is the percentage of emails that subscribers from your email list don’t receive. In other words, these subscribers don’t get your emails as they bounce back to you.
Think of sending emails as sending frisbees to your subscribers.
Each time you throw a frisbee or flying disc their way, subscribers’ inboxes catch the frisbees so the subscribers can get your message. However, an email bouncing back to you is like your email recipient sending back the frisbee to you. Hence, the subscriber never gets it.
Calculate email bounce rate by totaling the number of bounced emails and dividing it by the total number of emails sent. Then, multiple the figure by 100 to get your email bounce percentage.
On average, the majority of folks, around 34%, see an email bounce rate of 2-3%. Some 31% also tend to have an email bounce rate of less than 1%.
If you’re experiencing any higher bounce rates than the average, you’ll want to dig into possibly why you are seeing such a high rate. Then, take the corrective steps to bring your email bounce rate down.
There are a lot of reasons why your emails are bouncing back to you. Some common ones are:
Editor’s note: Check if you’re sending way too many emails as that could be overwhelming subscribers resulting in unsubscribes and low open rates. Keep a track of this using this Audience Email Fatigue Dashboard template that gives you a full overview of fatigued subscribers.
Now that we’ve listed some potential causes behind why you’re emails are bouncing, here are nine proven ways to reduce your email bounce rate:
To keep email bounce rate to a low, write a newsletter that’s choke-full of value. Why? Because the more valuable your content is, the more your subscribers will seek it, expecting your newsletter in their inbox and engaging with it each time (or, at least, most of the times) it reaches them.
With subscribers interacting with your emails regularly, the odds of your email bouncing back go down. But first: what’s a valuable newsletter?
There are two components to this that relate to a reduced bounce rate:
If you’re writing for your subscribers, solving their challenges and speaking their language, they’re likely to find it relevant and, subsequently, valuable.
In short, “keep your subscribers engaged by writing quality emails,” Rave Reviews’ Elliot Reimers observes.
“When your audience likes what they read from your emails, they’ll keep opening your emails and interacting with you. That helps ensure that your future emails reach their inbox.”
Reimers summarizes thoughts on a valuable email newsletter structure: “write a compelling email subject line, make sure the content is valuable, and don’t forget to add a call to action and a hook to your next email.”
Eric Florence from Security Tech adds to this, emphasizing the importance of writing an interesting hook to hold your audience’s attention.
“Start each of your emails with an attention-grabbing statement. Most readers lose interest in an email within the first few seconds, especially if it sounds just like everything else that finds its way into their inboxes. If you entertain and intrigue someone, they are way more likely to keep reading and your bounce rate will drop in no time at all.”
From an engaging first few lines, jump straight to the meat of the matter.
“Get to the point,” advises Reminderband’s Christian Nelson. “Don’t take a long time to get to your CVP with fluff and too much imagery. Have a compelling headline to grab their attention and make sure to rapidly arrive at the reason for the email to keep them from bouncing.”
This helps sets expectations. For example, James Clear’s fans know that the 3-2-1 newsletter comes out every Thursday. Now if a subscriber doesn’t get it on a Thursday, they’re probably going to notice the absence and dig into the matter.
Pro tip: Regularly poll your subscribers to ask them how relevant they find your content and what more they’d like to read from you.
This is crucial.
If you’ve put together an email list of people who never opted to hear from you or did so only to get a freebie and you went on to blast them with emails, you bounce rate is going to look ugly.
The solution? Ashley Cummings from Searchlight Content has the answer for you.
“One of the best ways to ensure that your messages get delivered to the right people is to use the double-opt-in feature. Not only does this protect your account from fraudulent email accounts and accounts that will bounce, but it also ensures that you are reaching people that want to hear from you.”
Permission-based double opt-ins help ensure you’re doing email marketing right – something that Cummings sums up as: “reaching the right audience with the right message at the right time.”
CocoDoc’s Alina Clark echoes the same. “The simplest strategy to reduce email bounce rates is to avoid sending emails to people from whom you have not obtained permission. If someone has registered with you or subscribed to your newsletter, for example, it is assumed that you have their consent to contact them in the future by email.”
Translation: make sure you have your subscribers’ consent before you start emailing them. It’s for this reason that a double opt-in works so well in helping you grow an engaged subscriber list.
It’s also why Eden Cheng from WeInvoice thinks “one of the most significant ways to reduce the bounce rate of email campaigns is using a permission-based (opt-in) email list. The easiest way to evade email bounce rate is by neglecting and sending emails to those you have not taken permission from.”
“For an example, if someone subscribed or registered to your newsletter, then it is allowed that you have their authorization to contact them by sending an email soon in the future,” explains Cheng.
“Nevertheless, if your subscriber didn’t choose to be on your shared mailing list, the probabilities are higher that you will be on their spammed email option. So, it may result in deteriorating your email reputation and may also simply enhance your email bounce rate.”
To top that, “verifying email addresses before adding them to an email list will help your email marketing efforts,” Clark adds.
OnePitch’s Kendall Aldridge contributes a useful tip too. “Another way to filter out bot or spam emails is to make sure you have Captcha present on all of your forms, which will help to automatically stop those emails from making their way onto your email lists.”
Speaking of opt-ins, “create opt-ins that are hyper-focused to your target audience to ensure you get subscribers that are engaged and there for good reasons,” CocoFinder’s Harriet Chan says.
“For example, people are more likely to give out active emails and continue to open messages if your content is more aligned.”
A highly relevant opt-in also tells subscribers they’re going to get more value like the opt-in so they stick around, expecting and interacting with your emails.
But how can you tell an opt-in is going to be valuable? Revisit your target audience persona to study their interests. Better yet, ask them.
Lots of our expert respondents talked about email list hygiene to reduce email bounce rate.
To begin with, Benjamin Sweeney from ClydeBank Media shares, “the biggest way to reduces bounces is to be proactive about list hygiene. Look for emails address on your list from disposable inboxes like Maildrop.cc mailboxes. These inboxes are used by people to get a lead magnet without having to deal with any of your follow-up messages.”
Make sure you do so on a regular note, “even if it’s just on a quarterly basis,” OuterBox’s Alicia Blessing highlights.
Editor’s note: Get a 360-degree view of your email performance with this HubSpot Marketing Email Performance Dashboard Template. By using it, you can get your email open rates, emails sent, email click rate, emails delivered, and much more in one place.
The question now is: who should you remove?
“As a best practice, it’s helpful to remove contacts from your list(s) that haven’t engaged with your emails in the last 6+ months,” elaborates Blessing. “If a user hasn’t opened at least one of your emails in that timeframe, there’s a good chance that:
Alternatively, remove subscribers who haven’t engaged in the past 3 months.
“You need an engaged audience to make sure that your emails go through their inboxes,” observes David Cusick of House Method. “When they start to ignore your emails, not open them, or not click anything, the email algorithm changes and sends your email to the other spam folder or non-priority inboxes.
If they haven’t engaged with you in the past 90 days, remove them from your list. They’re no longer benefitting from the value you provide in your emails, and they’re only hurting your open rates and bounce rates.”
Case in point: the Conversion.AI team carefully cleanses their email list regularly. Alex Birkett writes, “While it sounds boring, segmentation and regular pruning of your email list is important for email deliverability and hygiene.”
“I like to structure my email automation to be a sort of ‘choose your own adventure’ based on intent.” To this end, “I track the clicks on different types of content offers (that escalate in value and intent each email), and then I segment based on the implicit intent of each click,” Birkett explains.
“If, however, someone clicks on none of these, I’ll keep them on the general newsletter list, but if they don’t engage after 3 months, I unsubscribe them (though I always do a re-engagement campaign email before doing so). This helps keep a list of truly engaged subscribers.”
“Email lists are like plants: you have to prune them!” comments Kristin Ides Hope of KristinIdes.
“Don’t get caught up in the vanity metric of how many subscribers you have. What matters is the engagement rate.” Now, to keep subscribers engaged and to make sure they want to get your emails: why not ask them?
Hope makes this point: “to lower bounce rates, send emails to subscribers that haven’t engaged with your last three campaigns. The CTA is to tell you (either by a reply or a button click) that they want to keep receiving your content. If they don’t open these campaigns, remove them from your list.”
In addition to cleaning your list, consider segmenting it.
“I currently use Klaviyo and have segments set up to my lists for ‘engaged’ and ‘not engaged,’ shares Crystal Diaz from Lights On Creative.
“I usually use the definition of ‘opened at least the last 5 campaigns and still wants marketing.’ Creating an organic segment means its constantly changing and filtering out customers, so you get one list that has your most loyal customers. That way, when you send your emails, the bounce rate is nearly 0% because they want to open your emails,” Diaz continues.
That said, segmenting takes works. Webizz’s Isabella Federico talks about it. “Email segmenting means that you have to focus on valuable content even if this will require more time and more resources. But this also means that you have to produce different valuable contents for your different audience segments.”
This is another good way to lower your email bounce rate simply because it shows you as a credible email sender.
Sharing their experience of this, Chris Kindler from Alight outlines, “My organization sends promotional emails to thousands of audience members, donors, and volunteers across the country, so we have to accept that there will be some emails that bounce.”
“That said, making sure we send emails from a quality service provider is key,” Kindler explains. “When our IP address and domain are verified, we see much lower bounce rates. When we look good on the back end, it’s unlikely we will come across as spam on the other side. Thus far, this tactic has allowed us to continue growing our readers on a daily basis.”
In this regard, Vinpit’s Miranda Yan suggests you “invest in an efficient bulk email verification tool that keeps your email address list updated and clears out the spammy, fake addresses on its own.”
“Scanning your recipients list once in a while will help you get rid of the addresses that have blocked you which ultimately results in bouncing back of the mails that you sent,” Yan notes. “Moreover, these tools aren’t too pricey and come with attractive free trials to test waters before opting for them.”
“A/B tests can assist you to figure out how well your emails are received by your subscribers,” insists Joe Baker from Boots Empire.
“This implies sending two slightly different versions of the same email to a subset of your contacts, with the version that receives the greatest engagement winning the right to be forwarded to the remainder of your contacts,” Baker points out. “Alternative subject lines, text links vs. buttons for your call to action, and different placement of the lead material are all things you may experiment with.”
So what does split testing help you with? Put simply, A/B tests show you what’s working and what’s not, helping you identify what resonates with your audience so you can create relevant content to keep subscribers engaged.
As Baker puts it, “A/B tests can help you reduce bounce rates by revealing which emails are seen as spammy and, more importantly, which ones your audience enjoys engaging with the most.”
This one’s a hat tip to Laura Cerbauke from Omnisend who opines, “improving your email deliverability is a fantastic way to reduce bounce rates.”
“Although email deliverability involves several elements, a robust deliverability system is the foundation of your email campaign success. Why? Because it ensures that emails get to recipients’ primary inboxes instead of the spam folder,” Cerbauke explains.
“As a result, it helps improve bounce rates. But if your email deliverability has some issues, most of your emails may end up in subscribers’ spam folders. However, note that email deliverability and delivery rates are two separate metrics.”
To briefly recap, “the delivery rate indicates the ratio of emails subscribers received. That includes those that landed on both their inboxes, spam folders, and other non-specified folders. In contrast, email deliverability is your ability to ensure that the emails you send get into recipients’ primary inboxes.”
“Thus, your delivery rate may be great, but your deliverability may have some concerns that need attention,” writes Cerbauke.
Therefore, an action step for you is to “examine your email campaign deliverability to find possible issues that negatively impact your bounce rates and rectify them accordingly.”
To reiterate, focus on sharing quality content that’s relevant to your subscribers, segment and cleanse your email list regularly, and go for a double opt-in to grow an engaged email list of interested subscribers.
Keep in mind, reducing your email bounce rate whittles down to engaging your audience so they are interacting with your emails.
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