Managing Bounced and Blocked E-Mail Marketing Messages

By John Arnold

Sometimes, your marketing e-mail is simply returned to the sender by either the e-mail server or the software application. Bounced and blocked are applied to returned e-mail somewhat interchangeably, but the two have some slight differences:

  • Bounced: A bounced e-mail happens on a per e-mail basis when an e-mail is returned because of conditions that make it undeliverable.

  • Blocked: A blocked e-mail happens on an all-inclusive basis when an e-mail is returned because of characteristics that make a particular type of e-mail unwanted.

E-mail is sometimes returned with code that indicates the reason for the block or bounce, and sometimes returned with unintelligible code or no code at all. If you use an e-mail marketing program (EMP), you probably automatically get a bounce report that shows the number of your e-mails that bounced and were blocked as well as the reason for the bounce or block response, such as:.

A summary bounce shows the number of bounced e-mails by category as well as individual bounced e-ma
Credit: Courtesy of Constant Contact
A summary bounce shows the number of bounced e-mails by category as well as individual bounced e-mails and associated database records.

Some bounced or blocked e-mail will never get delivered, but some can be sent again and actually reach their destinations.

Dealing with hard bounces of your e-mail marketing message

A hard bounce is an e-mail that’s returned because a permanent condition makes delivering the e-mail impossible. When your EMP’s bounce report shows e-mails delivered to nonexistent addresses, your e-mail can’t be delivered to that address no matter what action you take. Nonexistent e-mail addresses are either

  • Misspelled (for example, name@hotmai.lcom)

  • Invalid (such as when your subscriber’s e-mail address is no longer in service due to a job change)

You can check your hard-bounce report for obviously misspelled e-mail addresses, although you may not be able to tell. In those cases, you need to obtain a new e-mail address. If your hard-bounce list is too large to contact each individual to obtain a new e-mail address, or if you don’t have any alternative contact information for the subscribers, remove those e-mail addresses from your e-mail list.

Dealing with soft bounces of your e-mail marketing message

A soft bounce happens when the delivery of an e-mail is delayed temporarily because of technical limitations. Examples include the following:

  • A full mailbox

  • A server that’s temporarily down

  • A software application that can’t accept the e-mail

When an e-mail address bounces for a reason that is temporary in nature, try resending your e-mail later or simply wait until your next e-mail campaign to see whether the same address still bounces. If an e-mail address bounces repeatedly for temporary reasons, contact the subscriber by using an alternative form of contact to obtain a more reliable e-mail address.