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What’s the Difference Between Hard Bounce and Soft Bounce Rate.

What is a bounce rate? 

The term, bounce rate, can be used as it relates to website traffic and receiving emails. When we are talking about website traffic, the bounce rate is the rate at which people leave your website after clicking your link while for email, it is measured by the number of emails that cannot be delivered and is sent back to the sender. For the purpose of this post, however, we will be concentrating on email bounce rate because a high bounce rate can affect your deliverability performance and ultimately, your ROI. Now, the bounce rate can be categorised into the hard bounce and soft bounce rate. Having said that, what is the difference between the hard bounce and soft bounce rate? 

Hard Bounce 

Hard Bounce is used to describe situations where an email bounces because of a permanent reason and there is really nothing you can do to redeem the situation except to find an alternative means to reach the person. There are different reasons why hard bounces occur. 

  • Invalid email address because the email address is spelt wrongly. A simple error like gmial.com will make an email address invalid. Any error at all made on an email address makes it invalid.
  • An inexistent email address. This could happen because the email address is simply inexistent or it used to exist and has been deactivated. For instance, a person no longer working in a company can get the email address deactivated. Another reason is an inexistent domain. 
  • The server blocks the email. Email servers block emails from getting to their recipient for many reasons, including monitoring their behaviour and blocking emails from senders that they never open. And it could be that the recipient adds the sender’s email address to the block list. 

Soft Bounce

Soft Bounce, on the other hand, is used to describe situations where the email couldn’t be delivered because of a temporary reason. In this case, something can be done to change the situation. What this communicates to the sender is that you can send another email to the address later or resend the email later unlike with the hard bounce where sending it later will not yield a different result. A soft bounce is usually caused by any of the following;

  • Full inbox. The inbox of the recipient may be full and that would prevent them from getting any other mails. And sometimes, some ISPs limit the number of emails from a certain sender to avoid spamming the recipient, so it could be the limit was reached. 
  • Autoresponder is activated. You might get an autoresponder that the recipient cannot get to you at that moment or that they no longer use that email address; this usually occurs in the case of an official email address and they no longer work there. 
  • The email is too large. If the capacity of the recipient’s inbox is limited, it might reject certain emails that are too large. 
  • The server was temporarily down. The server could be temporarily down or misconfigured.

What's the Difference Between Hard Bounce and Soft Bounce Rate

Reducing the bounce rate of your emails will depend on the reason the email to a particular address bounces in the first place. Most times, in the case of hard bounce, you will need to remove the email address from your email list considering the reasons are more permanent. However, you should check the email address in the case of a misspelt address and that would quickly correct that. 

On the other hand, since soft bounce is more temporary, there are a number of things you can do. You should check the messages of the autoresponder to take the appropriate action. If the message says the recipient is currently unavailable, wait till they are and if you don’t get anything back, you can send a follow-up message. Sometimes, the message will contain the next step to take, which you should follow to reach the recipient. If the message is too large, you can either find a way to reduce it or make sure future emails don’t exceed a certain size.

And for others, you might just have to wait to send at a later date. But you should still monitor those email addresses, if the same thing keeps happening, you might have to remove them from your email list. The reason this is crucial is that a high bounce rate will result in unnecessary spending, negatively affect your sender reputation and your ROI. So, you should always filter your email list of addresses that keep bouncing. 


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