The Difference Between Hard and Soft Email Bounces

Published on September 25, 2015

So, you’ve put together a great digital newsletter and send it out on the scheduled date, just like you do every week. It’s filled with the compelling content that your audience expects from your brand, and you're feeling primed for success.

When parsing through the newsletter’s analytics, however, you see that four emails have bounced. Upon closer inspection, you find that two hit as “hard” bounces while the other two came back as “soft” bounces. Here’s an introduction into understanding the difference between the two, as inspired by MailChimp:

Hard Bounces

Hard bounces are a hard and fast rejection. There are a number of reasons why an address rejected your email, but it’s typically not personal and is always permanent. The email domain may not exist or the user might have closed it down forever. But, more rarely, there are some reasons why valid email address return a hard bounce. Maybe the subscribers made the enormous mistake of unsubscribing from your brilliant newsletter and is trying to resubscribe as you read this (Ya never know!).

Soft Bounces

Software like MailChimp will try to redeliver an email over the course of three days when it comes back as a soft bounce, an email with a delivery issue instead of a rejection. In this case, the recipient’s inbox might be full or the email might be too large for delivery. It deserves a second chance, right? A soft bounce will be written off as a hard bounce when it is rejected across multiple campaigns, meaning that you won’t be able to use it in the future.

With these concepts in mind, it’s important for digital marketers to prune their email lists accordingly or allow mail delivery services to make the distinction and “think” for the marketer. Without this kind of action, your email list will become unhealthy and your domain could be put at risk.

If this all sounds a little complicated and you’d like some support, get in touch with the Geek Team! We'd love to help.

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