Keep bounce rate grounded to increase delivery odds

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There are plenty of reasons to keep your list clean. First and foremost is reputation management. As your stream of e-mails reaches receiving servers, it is actively monitored to determine whether or not you are a spammer. A high bounce rate is one sure indicator. Bounce management doesn't have to be difficult. With a little programming work or a partnership with the right ESP, you can effectively manage bounces and help keep your odds of reaching the inbox high.

Start by directing or redirecting all of your bounces to one location where they can be processed. On the most basic level, you will want to categorize them as hard or soft bounces. When a hard bounce is returned, it's time to stop mailing to that address. Your options include adding them to your suppression file (not recommended) or marking the address as "held" so that you can query your list later and use offline methods to try to reactivate the person behind the subscriber e-mail address.

There are hundreds of kinds of soft bounces and not all of them should be treated equally. An out-of-the-office reply is different than a temporarily unavailable server. It's important to assign some weight to each type of soft bounce and then set a threshold for consecutive bounces. Pay special note to the concept of consecutive bounces. If you can't reach a subscriber after sending them three messages on consecutive weeks, it doesn't necessarily mean they are unreachable. It is possible they will be reachable on the next attempt. With that in mind, be sure to reset the total bounce score to zero when you successfully make contact.

As you start to develop your strategy for handling bounces, keep a close eye on your list size and deliverability rates. If you are just starting out with automated bounce management, you will likely see high rates to start with that will taper off and stabilize over time. The good news is that your reputation as a marketer will improve and your efforts will pay off.

Equally important, be sure you do something with the addresses that are no longer reachable. A good option is to try to entice a new e-mail address out of them through some sort of offline contact strategy, a phone call from a rep or a postcard with a promo might be a good way to start. Given the incredible ROI for e-mail marketing, it's clearly worth the effort.

David Cacioppo is president-CEO of Emfluence.

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