Bounce Basics Part 2: The Reckoning

So, after our last highly informative blog post, you’ve got the skinny on email bounces. But, what do you do with all of that sweet info? Let’s take a look.

First: Watch Your Numbers

Bounce rates vary from business to business, but industry experts suggest that a successful campaign should return less than 5% of emails bounced, with closer to 1% being ideal. Now, that may seem like an awfully low number, but it’s actually quite reasonable (and very attainable) for an effectively run campaign.

If you’re seeing a bounce rate much higher than 5%, there are a number of easily rectifiable issues that could be contributing. Let’s go through each, and talk about how to fix them.

No list maintenance. An unmaintained list could include several derelict email addresses with full inboxes. Log your soft bounces for 3-5 consecutive sends. If you’re seeing the same addresses appear in each report, it might be time to give ‘em the boot.

Additionally, watch your reports, keep track of which subscribers are active, and then start eliminating those who’ve shown no response over your past five sends. If they’re not opening, they may not be worth the subscriber space.

Unconfirmed subscribers. A list full of unconfirmed subscribers can affect sending reputation, forcing some ESPs to bounce your incoming messages. Make sure your new subscribers are completing a confirmation process, and issue a Confirmation Message to any existing unconfirmed subscribers. Those who don’t respond might be worth leaving behind.

Content problems. Senders too often ignore the impact content has on campaign efficacy. If you’re sending newsletters with content that offends SPAM filters, links to pages with poor reputations, or simply has no value, you’ll likely see an increase in bounces. Junk content often yields an increase in SPAM complaints, which can lead to more bounces in the future. Focus on clean, simple, effective content, and you’re much more likely to make it into the inbox.

Dangerous subject lines. Subject lines that are irrelevant to the content or touch on any of those dreaded SPAM filter trigger words can force bounces more often than you might imagine. Don’t get too cute. Keep those subject lines simple and safe.

Second: Leave No Sub Behind

So, now you’ve got a few tips to help you bring down that bounce rate, but what about those subscribers returning bounces that still have some value to your campaign?

Well, on some level, this requires some individual evaluation on your part. As we mentioned above, repeat bounce-offenders would likely benefit from the old Dear John letter, but that may not always be the case. If you’re at all concerned your content may be the problem, try making your adjustments before making your cuts.

If, after several consecutive sends of your leaner, meaner newsletters, those same email addresses are still bouncing back, you might want to consider issuing a special newsletter to those subscribers to try and gauge their interest.

To do so, use the Bounce Details tool on your Bounce Report page (found by clicking the bounce number for any sent newsletter on the Reports page), and then click Export Soft. This will allow you to download a list of all your soft bounces from the newsletter you selected. Next, re-upload it to a new subscriber category.

With your soft bounces list in place. Create a quick newsletters with an eye-catching headline, like “Where did you go?” or “Do you still want to hear from us?” Use the body of the email to ask the subscriber if they’re still interested in receiving your newsletters, and then include a link to confirm their subscription. You can even add a quick teaser for some of the (very valuable) content you’ll be putting in future newsletters.

This ultra slim format should help reach a few more inboxes, hopefully giving those subscribers a chance to see the message, respond, and re-engage.

You can also use this process to reach out to those subscribers who aren’t opening your newsletters. This will help weed out any disinterested parties, increasing your open rate, and likely limiting future bounces.

Finally: Stay Active!

The steps above may sound like a lot of work, but after you’ve gone through the process once or twice, you’ll see how easy it actually is. However, the results won’t be permanent. As your list grows and as time passes, you’ll need to repeat these steps with some regularity. Even if you’re bounce rates are standing pat in that sweet 1-2% range, running some quarterly maintenance will always help build your reputation, and make your marketing more effective.