How to reduce e-mail bounce rate when sending newsletters

If you send newsletters to your customers via e-mail, you probably will have noticed that a number of newsletters are returned to you undelivered after every e-mailing. They "bounce" back. This is often due to the fact that certain e-mail addresses are not valid or the recipient's e-mail server cannot accept your newsletter for some reason (the reason could be temporary or permanent). This is a problem that usually escalates with time and that increases as you add more e-mail addresses to your e-mailing lists.

A common reason for invalid e-mail addresses is that the person has changed workplace or changed Internet service provider. Another reason could be that the e-mail address was already invalid when it was first stated i.e. due to a typing error when registering for an online service. Sometimes, the faults are temporary in nature due to causes such as the e-mail account (the mailbox) being full or the e-mail server being down temporarily. Sometimes spam filters can also generate e-mail bounces if your e-mailing happens to be classified as spam.
If you are to achieve optimal results with your e-mailings it is vital that your e-mailing lists contain addresses that are as valid and up-to-date as possible. By actively managing and reducing the number of bounces you can achieve many benefits:
- Faster e-mailings resulting in lower costs per e-mailing
- More customers receive your e-mail, thus resulting in higher sales revenues
- Reduced risk that your e-mails will be classified as spam
- Reduced workload on both your own e-mail server and on other people's e-mail servers

Below we provide you with 11 tips that will help you make your e-mailings more effective by reducing the number of e-mail bounces and ensuring that your e-mailing lists are in good shape.

1. Review and update your e-mailing lists regularly
Make a habit of going through your e-mailing lists prior to performing your e-mailings. Look for incorrect e-mail addresses, invalid domain names and spelling mistakes. One common mistake people often make is that they write the characters in their e-mail address in the wrong order i.e. they might write "" instead of "".

2. Encourage your customers to update their contact details
When your customers make a purchase via your website, subscribe to your newsletter or in some other way register online, you can encourage them to verify and update their contact details, particularly their e-mail address.

3. Use a letter or the telephone to update the contact details
If you have access to the postal addresses or telephone numbers for those customers/newsletter subscribers that have invalid e-mail addresses, you can contact them via a letter (send a postcard, for example) or by telephone in order to ascertain the correct e-mail addresses. This might be somewhat time consuming but it is often worth the effort if you want to make your e-mailings a success. Furthermore, contacting your customers regularly is a great way of improving your customer relations.

4. Monitor the receiving frequency per domain
When you have carried out your e-mailing you can record statistics about how many bounces (returns) you receive from the most common domains, such as msn, hotmail, yahoo, gmail, telia, tele2, spray etc. If the statistics for one or other domain deviate significantly from the rest, or if the number of bounces from a particular domain suddenly increases, there is a risk that you have been blacklisted or that your newsletters are being rejected by spam or virus filters.

5. Monitor blacklists
Check regularly to ensure that you or your Internet service provider (ISP) have not ended up on any of the major databases for spam and blacklists. Checking your IP address against MAPS and SpamCop, two of the most popular databases for blacklisting, can be a good idea. Note that you will not have been issued with a message or notification if you have been blacklisted, even though your e-mail message has not been delivered.

6. Monitor spam filters and learn how they work
Learn how the most common spam filters, such as Microsoft Outlook Junk E-Mail Filter and SpamAssassin, work. Open this page to obtain a list of some of the major spam filters and to see how the most common spam filters operate when trying to assess if an e-mail message is spam. You can read more about spam filters in this article on our website.

7. Delete e-mail addresses that are causing false spam listings
These e-mail addresses will often have been entered purely out of spite and ill will. Examples of such e-mail addresses include, and If you discover such e-mail addresses in your e-mailing lists you should delete them immediately.

8. Test your newsletters
Before you commence your e-mailing and start sending newsletters to your entire e-mailing list, you should send the newsletter to yourself and a few acquaintances who can preview and test it to ensure that everything looks fine and that there aren't any problems with antispam filters. Note that some antispam filters can generate false bounces, so pay attention here.
You should also take this opportunity to ensure that all clickable links in the newsletter are working correctly.

9. Find out how your e-mail provider deals with e-mail bounces
Make sure to gain at least a fundamental understanding of how your e-mail provider classifies and deals with "hard" and "soft" bounces (in other words permanent and temporary faults, please see the definition further down in this article).

10. Monitor any changes that occur among major Internet service providers
Try to read newsletters and magazines that monitor the IT industry. Many users of a particular Internet service provider (ISP) might consider changing to another provider if there have been news reports suggesting that their current provider is involved in a merger or acquisition, or has financial problems or problems of some other kind. Do a targeted e-mailing to everyone that has that particular domain name in their e-mail address and ask them if they would like to update their e-mail address and other contact details.

11. Determine a strategy for managing bounces (returns)
Even though you have taken all possible measures to reduce the number of newsletters that bounce (i.e. which are not delivered), a number of newsletters for which you simply can't ascertain the correct e-mail addresses will no doubt still bounce back. Consequently, you should determine a strategy in advance for how you will handle "hard" bounces (permanent faults) and "soft" bounces (temporary faults) that occur when you carry out your e-mailings.

Definition of "hard" and "soft" bounces

Hard bounces
A "hard" bounce is an e-mail message (e.g. a newsletter) that has been returned to the sender and is permanently undeliverable. A hard bounce may be caused by an invalid e-mail address (spelling mistake, the addressee has changed e-mail address, the domain no longer exists etc.) or by the recipient's e-mail server having blocked your e-mail address or your e-mail server.
Soft bounces
A "soft" bounce is an e-mail message (e.g. a newsletter) that arrives at the recipient's e-mail server (in other words it recognises the e-mail address) but bounces back to the sender before the intended recipient has received the e-mail message. A soft bounce may be caused by the recipient's e-mail account being full, the e-mail server being down or overloaded, the e-mail message being too large or the recipient having abandoned the e-mail account. Most Internet service providers will try to deliver the e-mail message for a few days, but if the message still cannot be delivered within a certain period of time it will become a "hard" bounce.

It should be noted that different e-mail servers manage and classify bounces in different ways, which is why a "soft" bounce might sometimes be considered to be a "hard" bounce on another server.

Note. The abbreviation ISP that has been referred to in this article stands for Internet Service Provider.
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Article written by: Anders Persson Spanish   Swedish