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A Beginner's Guide to Email Marketing

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Hard Bounce


What is a hard bounce?

A hard bounce is a term used in email marketing to describe an email that was returned to the sender. Hard bounces occur when the email is undeliverable—whether because the email address is invalid, no longer exists or the recipient's email server has blocked delivery. It’s important for businesses to understand what hard bounce is, since this occurrence can directly impact the success of their own email marketing campaigns.

The email analytics term hard bounce has been around since the early days of email. It originated from the need to differentiate between temporary and permanent delivery failures. Over time, the definition has evolved to indicate more specific reasons and repercussions for email delivery failures.

What constitutes a hard bounce?

An email is defined as a hard bounce when:

  • It’s returned to the sender due to a permanent delivery failure.

  • The recipient's address is invalid or doesn’t exist, making the email undeliverable.

  • The email server rejects the message due to issues like domain errors, spam filters or authentication problems.

How to use hard bounce to improve email campaigns

Although hard bounces aren’t ideal, they happen. And when they do, they can not only be fixed, but actually help improve your business’s email marketing strategy.

Here’s how:

  • Once you remove an invalid, inactive or fake email address following a hard bounce, it will improve the strength of your email list. A sparkling clean and active email list leads to less spam deliveries and decreased bounce rates.

  • Believe it or not, bounce rates reduce spam complaints and improve email deliverability rates by preventing unwanted emails from being delivered.

  • Hard bounces help businesses maintain a positive reputation with internet service providers (ISPs) and avoid being marked as spammers.


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What’s an example of a hard bounce?

An example of a hard bounce is when a business sends an email campaign to an outdated or invalid mailing list. The messages sent to invalid emails will be returned to the sender with an error message stating that the recipient's address does not exist.

How to avoid hard bounces

It’s always a good idea to stay on track of your email marketing bounce rates, to ensure your campaigns are reaching your audience. Although hard bounces are good indicators of when a business needs to clean up its email list or send out a re engagement campaign, it’s always best to minimize them from the get-go.

Here’s how your business can avoid hard bounces:

  • Regularly clean and update your email lists to remove invalid or inactive email addresses.

  • Use double opt-in methods to ensure your subscribers provide valid email addresses and confirm their desire and intent to receive your emails.

  • Monitor bounce rates and take appropriate action to resolve delivery issues, such as contacting ISPs or removing any problematic email addresses.

Hard bounce FAQ

What causes a hard bounce?

A hard bounce can be caused by several factors, including invalid or non-existent email addresses, domain name errors, spam filters or authentication issues.

What is the difference between a hard bounce and a soft bounce?

What should I do if I receive a hard bounce?

What's the long term impact of a hard bounce?

Should I try to re-engage with recipients who hard bounce?

Is there a limit to the number of hard bounces I can have before it affects my email marketing efforts?


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