Email Bounce Rates: Shifting Focus Away From Failure

Written by Mailgun Team

Categories: Best Practices

3 minute read time

Oh, the elusive email bounce rate, the bane of email marketers everywhere. Everyone is eager to crack the code of email bounces and say what the ideal rate should be for any given sender. It’s easy to understand why given that you want your emails to land in the inbox and have great deliverability. More bounces mean fewer emails in the inbox, and that leaves just about any sender diving deep into their analytics to figure out what went wrong.

Weeeeeeeeee!

We could go on and on about the differences of hard bounces and soft bounces, but that’s a whole other post in our opinion. Instead, we think it’d be more fruitful to focus on your email deliverability, and that means looking at a high bounce rate from a different perspective. Before we can even do that, let’s understand bounce rates at a fundamental level.

Breaking down the bounce rate

The bounce rate, at its most basic definition, is the rate in which your emails fail to make it to the recipient email server. Hard bounces and soft bounces make up your email bounce rate, and it directly correlates to your deliverability.

A high bounce rate is alarming, especially if it comes out of nowhere. Senders are left scrambling when they’re hit with a sudden bounce rate increase, and will immediately start looking for why it’s happening. It can look (and feel) a little like this:

Chances are an unexpected email bounce rate increase could be a sign of some sort of outage on the ESP or the ISP, something in the email itself busted, or any of the myriads of reasons an email bounces. Still, what about an average, run-of-the-mill, always there, “good” bounce rate?

The “good” bounce rate

We get this question a lot, especially when it comes to email marketing campaigns. As you can tell from our quotation marks, we aren’t huge fans of the term “good” bounce rate. Sure, you want a low bounce rate ideally under 2% as a standard, but to some senders, 2% could be abysmal bounce rate.

In an ideal world, there wouldn’t be any bounces, and you would deliver your emails straight to inbox every time. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen, and then senders get stuck on statistics like a 2.1% bounce rate wondering what went wrong. A 2.1% bounce rate arguably isn’t that worse off than 2%. Also, some senders would say that 2% is far too high — what’s the deal?

The point is people fixate too much on the bounce rate and not enough on their deliverability.

The bounce rate analysis paralysis

It is way too easy to get hung up on bounce rates when you should pay closer attention to your email deliverability. We’ll bite and admit that yes, decreasing your bounce rate would increase your chances of landing in the inbox, but proper email sending best practices will do that heavy lifting anyway if you have them in place.

For example, when you improve your email lists by cleaning them up and use subscriber list generation methods that involve opt-ins and double opt-ins, you’ll have a lower number of bounces.

Shifting the focus away from solving the bounce rate and more about establishing a better sending practice will allow you to hone in on building better email campaigns and less on numbers. If you create engaging content that resonates with your recipients, great analytics are bound to follow.

Changing the mindset

Focusing less on your bounce rate can be a challenge, especially if that’s been one of your more important metrics over time. A good way to make this change is auditing your sending policy.

When was the last time you cleaned your mailing list? Have you authenticated everything to avoid hitting spam filters? Are the file sizes reasonable? These are just some questions to get you started, but they’ll quickly resolve some of your bounce rate troubles.

Following best practices allow you to clean up your sender reputation and increase your email delivery rate. More deliveries and better deliverability will mitigate your bounce rate problem in no time, and you’ll spend less time stressed out looking at an analytics page. Win-win.

Modified on: March 13, 2019

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