This is must-know information for virtual assistants!
Email deliverability can have a direct impact on converting leads into clients and customer retention.
Let’s start with the difference between a soft bounce and a hard bounce.
When you send an email from your standard inbox, and the email can’t be delivered, you will often receive an automated email reply if delivery is not possible due to a full mailbox or the email address not being valid. You won’t always get notified, however, if your email has ended up in their spam folder or if the recipient’s email server (e.g., Microsoft or Google) has blocked you.
When emails are sent from a CRM like Keap Pro, you will have a lot more insight into the reasons why, so you will know what action is required to resolve the issue.
Soft bounces reflect a temporary issue with the recipient’s email account. It normally indicates a temporary delay in message delivery.
Delivery will be attempted several times over a period of hours or days and will only consider the email to be undeliverable after the retry process times out.
What can cause a hard bounce?
- Mailbox Full: The recipient’s email box is full, and their email server has limited the storage space they are allowed on their account. Most of the time, the recipient just needs to clear out (delete) old emails, but this could mean that the recipient no longer actively uses the email account even though it still exists.
- Message too Large: Your email content (e.g., images or attachments) is causing your email size to exceed the limit of the recipient’s email server.
- DNS Failure: The email cannot be delivered due to an issue with the receiving server. This is most likely an issue with the nameserver settings for your domain. Contact your domain administrator for assistance. The issue may be related to the SPF records.
- General: The specific reason for the bounce has not been detected.
- Auto Reply: Your email has been delivered, but the recipient has an auto-reply enabled on their account. The bounce status will be removed as soon as the recipient opens the email.
When an email is permanently undeliverable, a hard bounce error will be returned, and delivery will not be attempted again.
Hard bounces will automatically disable your email delivery platform (e.g., Keap Pro or MailChimp) from attempting to send emails to that address again.
What can cause a hard bounce?
- Email does not exist: Self-explanatory – you can’t send emails to an address that does not exist. Check for typos in the email address.
- Your SPF records haven’t been configured: Your email delivery platform should have given you instructions on how to authenticate your domain. Doing this tells the recipient’s email server that your email delivery platform (e.g. Keap Pro or MailChimp) has permission to send on behalf of your domain.
- Mail blocks: The recipient’s email server blocks an email message completely. It rejects it before it tries to deliver it to their inbox. So it doesn’t get in the front door, let alone the spam folder.
What can be done to improve email deliverability?
This list is not exhaustive, but we recommend spending time on the following to improve email deliverability:
- Set up SPF and DKIM records.
- Clean your email list regularly and only continue to email recipients who engage with your content.
- Do not send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org or similar addresses – these are often spam traps, and once you send an email to them, many email hosts will block your entire domain from sending emails to any of their customers.
- Use every opportunity to remind your audience to save your email to their contacts
- Encourage your audience to take your emails out of spam (provide instructions – e.g., this page for Google).
- Only send emails to people who want to hear from you, and don’t spam! If enough recipients share an email host (e.g., Google or Microsoft customers) and mark your emails as spam, then that email host will start automatically moving your emails to spam folders for ALL of their customers!
- Warm-up brand new email domains – if you have set up a brand new email domain, gradually increase the volume of emails you send over several days or weeks. This will establish a positive sending reputation with email hosts (e.g., Google and Microsoft).
What can I do to fix hard bounces?
When a recipient’s email address returns a hard bounce, you won’t be able to email them until the error has been resolved.
If you are sure that the email address is correct (exists and does not have typos), you may find success in resolving hard bounce issues by following ALL of these steps:
- Ask the recipient to save your email to their contacts.
- Ask the recipient to whitelist your email address/es with their email provider – this is DIFFERENT to saving you in their contacts, so you may wish to provide links based on who hosts their email, e.g.:
- Contact your email deliverability platform (e.g. Keap Pro or MailChimp) – you will need to chat with support and request that the email address is removed from their hard bounce list before you can attempt to email them again. Be ready with a screenshot that proves the email address is real (e.g., a screenshot of an email you received in your normal inbox from them). Don’t waste time doing this until the recipient has first confirmed that:
- They have not found your email in spam; AND
- They have added you to their contacts and whitelisted your email address/es with their email host.
Need more help with email deliverability?
Get in touch with our Thought Penny team for advanced tech support.