Let’s talk about some things that are cute: Bunnies, Bambie, Kangaroos, and Tigger.

Things that are not cute: Disorganized data, messy databases, and getting marked as spam.

You know what all of these things have in common?


And while it may work for cute little bunnies and Tigger, it doesn’t work for your emails. In fact, it can be pretty detrimental to your over outreach tactics.

Email marketing is still one of the most valuable marketing tactics, but there’s a villain in town: your bounce rate. If you’re seeing a high bounce rate it could spell trouble for your future email marketing efforts. 

How A Not So Cute Email Bounce Rate Is Achieved And How This Negatively Impacts Your Email Strategy

Here’s the deal: Your email bounce rate across various email communications can affect the overall delivery of all your emails.

Definition: A bounce means your message was undelivered due to a problem with the receiving email server. 

Bounce rates measure the percentage of deliverable and undeliverable emails. When an email can’t be delivered, it’s “bounced” back to you—normally with a message that says, “Sorry, we were unable to deliver your message to the following address.” or “Address not found.” 

It’s the same way a piece of physical mail with the wrong address gets returned to the sender. 

There are two to four types of email bounces, depending on your email platform:

  • Soft email bounce which occurs when there are temporary delivery problems—like when the recipient’s inbox is full or your email is too large.
  • Hard email bounce which describes a permanent delivery failure—like an email sent to an inactive or invalid email address, or an outdated domain. When an email hard bounces, it won’t ever reach the recipient.
  • Pending bounce occurs when there are temporary technical issues. Your email will continually attempt to be delivered over a certain period of time. After about three days, the email will move into the “soft bounce” category if it is still not able to be delivered.
  • Global bounce is a permanent hard bounce across numerous accounts. Should this occur, your email provider will no longer send emails from that address across any account.

An email might also hard bounce because:

  • The recipient no longer has access to the email account
  • The email account has been inactive for a long period of time or has been deleted
  • The email server is under maintenance
  • The recipient’s email inbox is full 
  • The recipient has put you on their “blocked” list

Decrease Bounce Rate with a Clean Database

Bounce Rates Matter and You Should Be Concerned

None of the above situations are ideal, especially if you’re part of a sales or marketing team that is attempting to nurture a lead into a customer.

If you’re starting to see the delivery rate of your email decrease more and more each time you send an email, don’t just ignore it.

Bounce rates matter.

If you don’t remove hard bounces from your list and continue to send communications to bad email, you’ll damage the reputation of your IP address which will create a problem for your deliverability long-term. There are a few red flags to be aware of right from the start.

How Does Your Bounce Rate Compare to Others?

Ricky Bobby said, “If you’re not first, you’re last.” Our philosophy is that as long as you are continually improving and are on par or doing better than industry standards, you are a winner.

Your bounce rate will vary based upon your company niche and where you’re getting your initial contact information. If you’re prospecting in an industry like hospitality, which has had the highest turnover rates over the last four years, you might see a volatile bounce rate due to emails one day being valid and the next day not.

In addition, if you are pulling contacts from platforms like ZoomInfo, Apollo, Lusha, Cognition, or Seamless.AI—that may not have 100% verified data all the time—you might be importing bad data into your system to start. (Remember when we mentioned “shit in, shit out” in our previous blog?)

According to various email platform experts, the overall average bounce rate for all industries varies from 0.25%-10%.

Here are recommendations for bounce rate benchmarks based on 2022 email research that has been compiled and aggregated from HubSpot, CampaignMonitor, and MailChimp:

  • Media – 0.3%
  • Retail – 0.4%-7.72%
  • Education – 0.5%-9.36%
  • Manufacturing – 0.5%-13.80%
  • Health – 0.6%-9.45%
  • Financial – 0.6%-8.52%
  • Real Estate – 0.7%-13.32%
  • Business – 0.7%-10.19%
  • Software – 0.8%-12.84%
  • Travel – 6.79%-16.3%

I can hear you now. 

“What the hell, Staci. These are huge variations.” 

Yeah, they are.

 In my opinion, this is extremely crappy data for you to compare your bounce rate against. This is why it’s even more important to set your benchmarks against your business type and your current efforts, not generalizations.

Anything under 2% is the sweet spot for bounces. Anything above 2% for your email campaign should be looked at. If you’re seeing bounce rates over 5%, this suggests a problem that needs to be addressed immediately. You’re at risk of having your IP address flagged as spam, meaning even fewer subscribers will actually receive your email campaigns. 

Or you could be blacklisted and have your entire company’s domain shut down. The horror!

Your industry plays a role in what your ideal bounce rate should look like. Do your research upfront to maximize your results but also consider your current bounce rates and how you can get those to decrease immediately with a few key tactics.

Quick Fixes to Immediately Keep Your Bounce Rate from Flopping

The key is to make sure you’re keeping your email list clean so your bounce rate stays low and your reputation stays high. Email lists can grow cold in as little as six months.

Make sure to follow these steps:

  1. Identify inactive or unengaged contacts as this could categorize your messaging as graymail.
    1. Graymail differs from spam. Whereas spam is an illegitimate bulk email sent to people who never solicited the message, graymail is a legitimate bulk email that the contact solicited and finds value in. For example, these could be newsletters or announcements that your contact previously “opted-in” to receive but still does not engage with over a certain period of time.
  2. Identify duplicate records. 
  3. Identify structural errors and incomplete data. 
  4. Investigate bounces. 
  5. Re-engage inactive contacts. 
  6. Segment contact lists. 
  7. Remove inactive or inaccurate contacts.

Doing this on an ongoing basis isn’t only great for your bounce rates, it’s also great for your overall outreach efforts—you’ll know you are contacting real people who will reach back out and contact you.

7 No BS Long-Game Strategies to Decrease Bounce Rate and Reach SMART Goal Benchmarks

1. Keep It Classy, Keep It Clean!

Start with data cleanup by looking at your list. One of the most important pieces of keeping your bounce rates low is having data cleanliness. Do the seven steps above every six months so your list doesn’t grow stale.

2. Opt-In = Consent

If your list is not created with opt-in permission granted from each individual, you’re more likely to see issues with higher bounces. Ensure that your signup forms include a checkbox for opting in. When purchasing email lists, only target people who would be interested in your communications, you can couple on intent data to ensure you are targeting the right segment who are actively looking for your services or products. 

3. Be Straight Forward About Sign Up Incentives

Be smart with incentivized sign up forms as people are often tempted by a reward to sign up but don’t wish to be added to a mailing list. They may use fake or unused email addresses to take advantage of your offer without being engaged with your future emails. Be clear with your subscribers about the offer they’re receiving, and make sure they know they can opt out at any time. 

4. Free Domains Are Not Your Friend

Don’t use free domains such as Gmail or Yahoo to send your emails, as they will likely bounce back or be routed to junk mail. Authenticating your sending domain is one of the most important factors in a strong email marketing strategy. How to go about doing so depends on your email send platform:

5. Are You Memorable?

Interacting regularly and consistently with your subscribers is the key to a successful email marketing initiative. Email lists can turn cold in as little as six months. Send nurturing, engaging, and relevant emails from the start to build a loyal list that won’t be able to resist your communications.

6. Data Doesn’t Lie

Be proactive about your bounce rates–the longer you leave these issues unattended, the bigger the damage to your reputation. 

Segment your list so you can monitor performance and take the necessary steps to improve those results. Sending emails to an old list and receiving a high bounce rate can cause a huge problem for the deliverability of your future communication strategy.

7. Check Your Sources

Trying to manage your contact database and keep it up to date—especially if you’re trying to do it quickly—can feel like an impossible task. But it doesn’t have to be!  Using a contact database will quickly turn the impossible into possible.

8. Review the Data Compilation Processes within Your CRM

A recent study showed that having bad data may cost companies as much as $3 trillion annually in the United States. That’s a lot of money, and if you think it isn’t, we need to chat about that.

This is where data cleansing becomes crucial.

With the current state of CRM data management and by applying data management practices, you can:

  • Increase sales productivity by up to 45%
  • Reduce costs associated with prospecting by up to $2 million per year per sales rep
  • Reduce time spent on non-revenue activities (like searching for information or fixing mistakes) by up to 546 hours per week per rep

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Who doesn’t love saving time and money?

The Benefits of Having an Email Bounce Rate That Doesn’t Suck

A poor email reputation will put you at risk of being automatically sent to spam, creating a negative cycle of non-engagement. Not cute. Consistently running maintenance on your email list and ensuring you’ve received opt-in permission can be the key to mitigating these types of bounces. 

Low bounce rates = better engagement. This translates to more opportunities to nurture prospects and customers and create more loyal customers—which obviously increases conversion and profit.

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Accurate Contact Info Decreases and Prevents High Bounce Rate

Without synchronized processes and contact data management solutions, you could find yourself drowning in unorganized data, counting unproductive hours, and wasting communication efforts on bad emails that no longer exist. Yeah, that’s no fun.

By decreasing your bounce rates, you can ensure you reach your desired audience instead of wasting efforts on contacts that no longer exist.