High email bounce rates are plaguing many email marketers today.
This can be caused by your own email address, your website domain, or it could even be your autoresponder service has put you in a bad neighbourhood!
Further into this post I cover what you can do to find out exactly what is causing your bounce rate and what you can do to fix this.
What Causes High Email Bounce Rates?
Over the past few weeks we in the marketing community have noticed an increase in the email bounce rates. Regardless of the autoresponder service being used, numbers are up.
Aweber was hit with a severe DDoS attacks (Distributed Denial of Service) – which started on Feb. 24 and continued for a few days. They weren’t the only ones. GetResponse and MailChimp were also attacked.
Since then there have been a few interruptions to service causing concern with some of their long time customers.
But this isn’t what is causing your high bounce rates.
The most recent rise in bounce rates is most likely attributed to one or two things. Both which you can do something about.
The first and simplest thing to look at is your return email address on your blast emails.
If you are using any of the free bulk mailing services like gmail, Yahoo, AOL, MSN etc, your email carries no “authority”. Putting you into the same class as a spammer. They used to use “email authentication” to make sure that emails from you are really from you. But that has changed.
Yahoo made specific changes to their DMARC record. The fall out of this is – EVERYONE who uses a Yahoo email address but sends the email from someplace other than Yahoo email (like your third party email service) can expect that email will BOUNCE.
If you would like to know more about the whole Yahoo and their new DMARC Reject Policy, Return Path has an excellent article.
The simple fix for this is to use a domain email address for your third party mailing service. But don’t do that just yet until you have read the rest of this. You have to be careful with how you are using your domain names for email as you will see.
Late last year gmail changed their methods and introduced the Priority Inbox. This squashed the email deliverability for a lot of email marketers. The email didn’t bounce as such, but it got redirected to a folder other than the “important” one that a user sees when they first open their email.
This meant that if your contacts don’t regularly open your emails, gmail automatically puts them into the bulk pile with the rest of the riff raff. One more hurdle for you when trying to get your email in front of a prospect.
Your challenge is to be relevant enough to your subscriber to get them to engage with your email and content.
There are ways to encourage your subscriber to help you stay in front of them. For example; when you send out an email make sure it is something your list is interested in. Have something compelling in your subject area. Because mobile email will show the first several words to preview their email so make sure the first sentence or so of your email is also compelling.
Once you get the person to open your email, invite then to “reply” to you. This will signal engagement. It’s a good idea to send an email back in response as well. Also, request that they “whitelist” your email and to make a special folder so they can keep your emails in one place.
Close to 40% of all emails are read on a mobile device. If your emails aren’t using a responsive theme people will wait to read them on their desktop or laptop. This could mean your emails aren’t getting opened.
As a business person you know that your email marketing service is a big part of how you build your business.
A Bad Reputation
Have you been labelled as a spammer?
The fact is, if you mail out mass emails you are automatically walking a thin line. Even if you are using a reputable 3rd party emailer like Aweber, iContact, or GetResponse, you are playing in the same bathwater as SPAMMERS!
Pay attention to this because email marketing has the highest ROI in the industry – if done right! You want to make sure you have a good reputation. Your reputation is even given a number. This might be news to you but you are watched by the email reputation watchdogs and they score you on your conduct. This is called your “senders score”.
The lower your Senders Score – the higher your bounce rate. You could have the best subject lines, agonized for days over your perfectly copy writing content – just to be flushed out because of a bad senders score.
Fortunately there is a way to learn what your sender’s score is so you can fix it if that is what is causing your high bounce rate. This is done by knowing the IP of your email service.
Senders Score is a service provided by Return Path.
They rate EVERY mail server IP address. This involves the data collection of over sixty million different mailboxes at large ISP’s (Internet Service Providers). If there is a large number of spam complaints or high number of unsubscribes from a particular outgoing mail server, this will lower your senders score.
Information is gathered daily. Scores are based on a 30 day rolling average.
Receiving email servers gauge the value of your email based on this score. Your email could go to spam or be refused and bounced. According to Return Path, your reputation score is over 80% of the reason your email will get bounced.
Your score depends on the following markers:
A complaint rate is simply the number of complaints divided by the number of emails accepted. The kicker here is – it’s the entire IP address that is measured. Not just you.
The total volume is looked at to calculate the complaint rate. A high number of emails sent with a low complaint rate is fine. However there are other issues with high volume emailing aside from the Senders Score that I get into later on in this report.
This compares the IP address you are on with the Senders Score Reputation Network of a diverse range of external whitelists and blacklists.
Tracking the frequency that a particular IP address will try to send an email to an address that doesn’t exist and can return the error’s of “invalid address”, “no such user” or “unknown user”. The Unknown User Rate comes from the incoming SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) logs of cooperating ISP’s. Again compared to the other IP logs seen by the Sender Score Reputation Network.
The frequency the sent emails are rejected. This can be caused by blocked sender, spam filter, blacklisted etc. The number is compared to other IP’s in the Sender Score Reputation Network.
How Senders Score Affects Your Email Bounce Rate
This tells you on average what percentage of your emails are getting into the inbox.
Data Credit * http://landing.returnpath.com/sender-score-benchmark-report
The higher your score the better your email delivery rate will be.
Finding Your Senders Score
You can check your senders score simply by going to senderscore.org and plunking in your IP.
To find your email IP address you can simply ask your ISP or look it up for yourself.
One simple way to find your email providers IP address is to make sure you are on the list. Open the email and find the message source code. In gmail click on the little button to the right of your return mark and select “Show original”.
The source code will open in a different tab and you will see the email provider and IP address
If you have a lower score you can check to see if your IP is blacklisted.
Just for fun I tested three different third party emails.
The first was mine – using the Aweber service. Score 98.
The second was from someone whos list I had never signed up for. They were using GetResponse. Score 64.
The third I found in my junk mail – I assume they were using a scraped list of sorts and their own email server. Look closely at the graph on the right. I’ll talk about this in a minute.
How to Improve Your Senders Score
YOU and your email proclivities are ranked by your email autoresponder service based on your open rates, content blocks, and spam complaints. Based on these Aweber will rank you and puts you on a better or worse IP block.
If you’ve been bad they will move you to a lower ranked server. If you’ve been really bad you’ll probably lose your account.
If you haven’t been spamming and your score is low, call them and tell them you have a low senders score and want to be moved to a better IP. They have several IP’s. Remember you are paying them a premium price for a service.
Some autoresponder services do offer a dedicated IP and there is also the option of building your own autoresponder system on a dedicated server.
Domain authority is also important as well as your mailing patterns. If you look at the graph to the right on the low 19 score you see that the mail outs were all over the place. High volume one day and low the next. The sender score dropped on a high volume day. It’s probable that there were a high volume of complaints to go with the mass mail out.
Mailing in a consistent pattern helps to keep your score up. This would include such variables as how often you mail, consistency, volume, and the times you mail.
Email Engagement on Cold List
Sometimes you can experience an increase in your complaint rate with mass mailings to newly acquired subscribers. If you have been advertising and driving traffic to a new offer, many of these people are from cold media sources. They aren’t familiar with you but opted into your list for something you were promoting.
By the next morning they have completely forgotten who you are and open their email to see a newsletter from you. BOOM! They get angry and click on the “Report Spam” link. Your reputation takes a hit with both your email marketing service provider and your Sender Score.
Protect Your Email Reputation
Use a double optin email list.
This will prove the person complaining did indeed sign up and verified it. It can also protect you from spammers who might try to purposefully sabotage your email marketing efforts by tarnishing YOUR reputation.
There is vandalism everywhere including email spamming trolls.
This is what they do to try and ruin your Sender Score and reputation.
There are a couple different kinds of spam traps. One is domain emails that are .gov or .edu types. Spammers will used these authority emails to sign into your list and subsequently an authority site is marking all your emails as spam, blocking your IP, or complaining to your provider.
Another type of spam trap are email addresses set up specifically for this purpose. This is a PURE spam trap. The only way a person is sending an email to this address is if it is spam.
Another spam trap is a little less severe. Companies like Yahoo will turn dormant email addresses into spam traps. They know from their monitoring that an email address hasn’t been used in a long time so the emails it is getting are probably spam.
If one of your competitors uses a scraped list and sends out a blast with your autoresponder return address – your spam complaints would peak and you could lose your account.
This is also a good reason to monitor your list. Remove emails that bounce too many consecutive times and suspected dormant or abandoned email addresses. At the very least move your “non-opens” to a different list and put them into a warming up sequence.
If you want to safeguard your list against authority domain spam traps, some will allow you to block email address’s like .gov.
How Affiliates Hurt Your Senders Score
If you use the same domain for your traffic getting blog and offers promoted by your affiliates, you could be damaging the reputation of that URL. If your site IP gets blacklisted so will your email address be blacklisted. This can happen if one of your affiliates is a spammer and sends thousands of useless hits to your affiliate offer or buys a big mailing list and spams them with a link to your site and they complain. You can control this by NEVER having your affiliate offer on your main business blog.
Hard Bounce vs Soft Bounce
HARD BOUNCE – This is a bad email address and should be removed from your list. This means the email address doesn’t exist.
SOFT BOUNCE – This can be caused by technical reasons so you can test it a few times. Spammers will repeatedly send emails to someone who doesn’t exist so if it keeps bouncing remove it from your list so you aren’t acting like a spammer.
If you have a email marketing service provider who is concerned about their reputation, they will likely remove these bad emails from your list for you automatically.
How Mailing Pattern Affects Bounce Rate
Keep track of your open rates and if you have people on your list that haven’t opened your emails for awhile you can move them to a different list and put them into a livening up sequence. You can delete them from you list if this didn’t work but keep in mind that emails not opened could have been read in the “preview” function of their email service.
High volume isn’t a bad thing but more prone to spam complaints. By carefully segregating your list you will have smaller mailings and more likely to do a better job providing targeted content. This also leads to better open rates.
There is a big list of words that are spam trigger words. Weight loss, meet singles, f r e e, fast cash, win etc. Be mindful when using them.
For an awesome BIG list of SPAM triggering words check out Hubspot’s Ultimate List of Email Spam Trigger Words
Keeping Your Email Bounce Rate Down
When a person is new to your list its a good idea to set the expectations right away. Let them know exactly what they can expect from you so they will react to your emails and content in a way that you want them to. One way you can do this is by sending them a video explaining to them what they are going to get and when.
Example: “Tomorrow morning you will receive an email from me with a link to the webinar you signed up for. Then twice a week on Monday and Thursday, I will be sending you emails with your personal stock tips.”
Tell them how to whitelist your emails. Request they make a special folder for your emails and why they want to do that. Explain to them that they are not obligated to keep getting your emails and they can unsubscribe anytime they want to. Show them how to do this.
*IMPORTANT* Once you set their expectations make certain you stick to the plan.
You can reduce your unsubscribes too by providing more options on the unsubscribe page if this option is offered by your email autoresponder service.
Along with paying attention to spam triggering words there is also the content. Your authority domain and your content should mesh. If you are sending out a weight loss email and the return address your main site is about something completely different – this could potentially be flagged.
A fairly new development is the cadence of the message inside the email is now being monitored. Without getting into the whole privacy argument there is a certain pattern to commercial intent emails. These emails are identified and they are being flagged as such. You can take steps to try and avoid this by being more conversational in your emails.
Tie your email into your social network. Be a real person behind the emails and don’t use a “noreply” email response.