What is Bounce Rate? (+How to Calculate and Keep It Low)

Rob Browne Rob Browne  |  April 18, 2019

No one wants their efforts to go to waste, especially in the time-consuming world of email marketing.

After taking the time to master how to build an email list and establishing your brand with a professional welcome email, you’ll want to make sure that your newsletter subscribers stay attached and engaged with your brand.

One way to calculate whether your emails are reaching the greatest number of subscribers is through bounce rate.

Bounce Rates: everything you need to know

In this article, we’ll go over the basics of what bounce rate is, how to calculate it, and, most importantly, how to keep it low and ensure your emails are received by the highest number of subscribers possible.

Bounce rate basics

As previously defined, bounce rate measures what percentage of your email list is able to receive your message. But why would your message be “bounced” from a recipient’s inbox? There are a few contributing factors to an email bouncing. They can be sorted into two categories: hard bounces and soft bounces.

Hard bounces are permanent delivery failures. A hard bounce occurs when an email is sent back to the sender undelivered and without having been accepted by the recipient’s mail server. A hard bounce can be caused by an invalid email address, an outdated domain, or an address that has fallen out of use and no longer exists.

Soft bounces are temporary delivery failures. They stem from temporary issues surrounding the receiving server, the recipient’s mailbox being full, a server being down when the email was sent, or the receiving server identifying an email as too large to receive.

hard vs. soft bounceWhen a bounce occurs, a return-to-sender message will be sent back from the recipient’s mail server to diagnose the issue. You can use this diagnosis to determine whether the bounce was hard or soft, and whether there is anything you can do on your end, such as determine whether you need to obtain an updated email address from your recipient, to ensure success on a second try.

Regardless of the type of bounce your email experienced, an email bounce boils down to one important reality for an email marketer: your subscribers didn’t receive the information they wanted to get and that you wanted them to see. Keeping bounce rate as low as possible is essential to a successful email newsletter that is able to be accessible to its subscribers.

How to calculate bounce rate

Calculating bounce rate is a relatively painless endeavor as long as you have a quantifiable campaign. To calculate bounce rate, divide the total number of emails that bounced by the total number of emails sent to get the total number of bounces per email. Multiply this bounce per email rate by 100 to obtain your bounce rate as a percentage.

For example, if you sent out a total of 981 emails on Tuesday to different subscribers on your email list, and 11 of these emails bounced, you would calculate your bounce rate as follows:

how to calculate bounce rate

If your bounce rate is above 2%, what is generally deemed as the industry standard bounce rate, you should investigate your campaign to drive this rate lower and ensure that more subscribers are receiving the information that you want them to. If it’s below 2%, you are in the target range for a good bounce rate.

Keeping your bounce rate low

Many aspects of email delivery are out of the control of the sender, however there are a few things you can do to ensure that your bounce rate stays as low as possible.

Make sure you have opt-in permissions from your subscribers

If you obtain your email list through purchasing it or drawing from a source that isn’t a form of direct subscriptions from your readers, you are more likely to see issues with high bounce rates. Build your lists with permission from your subscribers rather than just scraping them or buying them, and always ensure that your subscribers are making a conscious decision via checking a box or signing their name when they are signing up for your newsletter.

By having a higher percentage of subscribers who are invested in actually receiving your newsletter and are not just random email addresses, you’re increasing the chances that your emails will be delivered to real people that want to receive your content. They’ll be more likely to have functioning email addresses and your emails won’t bounce.

Incentivize your sign-ups

It’s tempting to gain a ton of email list sign-ups via special, appealing offers. Many subscribers will sign up for your email list solely to get a one-time offer without plans to continue to engage with your brand. Sometimes, these intentions can lead people to sign up with a fake email address. Be careful about how you are incentivizing subscribers to sign up for your newsletter and whether they have the intention of actually being on your email list.

Send emails from a business domain

Using a free domain send-from address, such as Gmail or Hotmail, can result in a lack in authentication for your email. In this case, it is more likely for your email to be trapped in a spam filter and bounced. To authenticate your emails, make sure they are sent from a business domain. Sending from a business domain will decrease the chances your emails are flagged as spam and bounced.

Send frequently

Maintaining regular, consistent contact with your subscribers ensures that your list stays up-to-date. If you go months between emails, you run the risk of email addresses falling out of use. Keeping a consistent schedule of with your emails will ensure an up-to-date email list and a lower bounce rate.

Monitor your results and take action when necessary

The longer you leave bounce rate issues to fester, the greater the damage to your sending reputation. Monitor the results of your campaigns and react to spikes in bounce rates by making sure your email list is up to date. If you do notice a sudden jump in bounce rate, enlisting the help of email verification software could help identify and remove undeliverable addresses ahead of sending.

Find the best Email Verification Software on the market. Explore Now, Free →

Closing thoughts

Of course you want to make sure that your emails are landing in the inboxes of the highest percentage of your email list as possible. Maintaining low bounce rate ensures that your newsletter is being delivered to your subscribers and your brand is maintaining a consistent presence if the minds of your customers.


Rob Browne

Rob is a Content Marketing Specialist at G2 Crowd writing about all things marketing. Originally from New Jersey, he previously worked at an NYC-based business travel startup. (he/him/his)

Never miss a post.

Subscribe to keep your fingers on the tech pulse.

By submitting this form, you are agreeing to receive marketing communications from G2.