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Email Soft Bounces – The Mysteries Of Failures

Mailgun Team
5 min read

If you’ve been keeping up with the blog in the last few months, you’ve probably noticed us talk about email bounces and email bounce rates a lot. These are negative metrics that senders face every day, so we figured it would be good to give a little insight into them. There are two types of bounces: soft bounces and hard bounces.

We recently went into more detail on hard bounces and what they mean for your bounce rate, but we haven’t touched soft bounces yet. As we’ve said before, your email bounces are a sign of poor sending practice, and soft bounces are the biggest symptom of that.

your deliverability when you have a high bounce rate

But before we can get into the finer details of soft bounces, we have to define it first.

What is an Email Soft Bounce?

A soft bounce is considered to be a type of temporary failure, and as the name suggests, means that your message cannot be delivered due to a temporary reason.


Pretty vague, right?

Unlike hard bounces which have permanent reasons for not sending, soft bounces can technically change for the better. There is a myriad of reasons for a soft bounce, anywhere from the email message being too large to the mail server is unavailable.

So what does an Email Service Provider (ESP) do about it? Here at Mailgun, we’ll attempt delivery a few more times after it bounces, but to keep your sender reputation intact, we will stop after several delivery attempts. All this to say that there isn’t a one size fits all solution for soft bounces.

Problem Solving for your Soft Bounces

In order to better your email deliverability and protect your sender reputation, you need to look at the root cause of the soft bounce. Some solutions are simple; if an email is too big, rework your template to make it smaller. Other soft bounces are a little harder to solve since there are multiple issues it could be stemming from.

One of the most common soft bounces senders see is the recipient’s inbox being full. In the case of a full inbox, sometimes an email list is old and that address isn’t being used anymore. To fix that, all you have to do is clean your list out and remove disengaged users.  

However, full inboxes can also be the sign of a bought list, which we’ve spoken on time and time again as a terrible practice for your email marketing. In that case, the whole list shouldn’t be used. If they haven’t opted-in to hear from you, you won’t get good engagements and all your deliverability is bound to dive.

Overall, if you follow sending best practices and keep your list clean, soft bounces won’t be that prominent of an issue. If you need a little bit more help getting your sending up to speed, let us know and we can find a solution that best fits your needs. Feel like you're ready to start sending? Sign up below -

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Last updated on September 22, 2020

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