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Hard Bounce, Soft Bounce and Filtered? Why don't all my emails reach the inbox?

Tue, 10/03/2015

Now that it's common practice for email list suppliers to offer money-back guarantees on emails which do not reach the target's inbox, you might find yourself sifting through returned emails, wondering what sort of bounce back will get a refund and what the mailing list company will refuse.

Here are Electric Marketing's definitions:

Hard Bounce - you have the wrong email address. Check the spelling of the person's name, the company name, that the address has an @ and a proper ending. It is easy to type .con instead of .com. Or the person has changed their email or left the company. If you have bought the list, email your list provider with all the addresses which hard bounced and get a refund. If you've bought your mailing list from Electric Marketing, we'll correct the addresses we can (we phone all the companies on your list), send you the corrected email addresses and refund you for the remainder.

Soft Bounce - your email has hit a server which is down. Your software will probably try to send it again during the next 24 hours. If it doesn't get through, try again the following week. The soft bounce is much less common than it was 10 years ago which I put down to better performing servers and technology. But a broken server is not the fault of your list supplier, so there is no refund on this one.

Access Denied - if your email bounces back with this heading, your email has been blocked by a spam filter. Again this is not the fault of your email list supplier but you can often fix this problem by looking at the message you sent and seeing which elements triggered the spam software to give your email a high spam score.

Filters work by giving each individual message a 'spam score'. Marked out of ten, the higher the score, the more likely your message will be put in the spam filter. You no doubt use a spam filter yourself and know that you can choose the degree to which you set your filter, high, medium or low. The inboxes which reject your e-shot have their filters set to high, which means that even emails which get a relatively low spam score will be rejected.

For advice on writing an email which will evade a high spam score, see our page on Email Deliverability but the top 5 things to remember are

1. No hyperbole. Limit use of exclamation marks, capital letters and repetition.

2.Try not put too many links in the email. This is a characteristic of spammers. Balance the number of links to the amount of text.

3.Try not use images that contain text as this also is a characteristic of spammers. Filters cannot read text in images, so the spammer will hide his FREE MONEY BACK GUARANTEE in an image. Spam filters now filter out emails with images that contain text.

4. It is best not to send the email as one big HTML image. Balance the number of images to the amount of text.

5.Try not talk about lots of money. Big prices give you a big score by the spam filter.

Of course, rules are made to be broken.

You might find that you get a better response to your email by using lots of images or lots of links. And that on balance, it is better to live with a higher percentage of returned emails in order to make more sales to the people whose filters accepted your email.  Bear in mind that the person who sets their filter to the highest level might not be your best sales prospect.