What is Bounce Email? Hard Bounces vs. Soft Bounces : What’s the Difference?

When an email message comes back to the sender or is unable to get delivered to a particular email address from the recipient’s mail server. It is called a Bounce Email.


When I first heard about email marketing, I was blown away by how many terms I was required to learn. I continued drawing blanks on what terms actually indicated, for the first few months I was learning about email marketing.

The terms that gave me the most difficulty? Hard and soft bounces. 

Certainly, I knew that these were email deliverability terms. One was bad, and one was not eternally bad. And somehow I always got them jumbled up with each other (even today, I have to do multiple checks to make sure I’m on-point).

And I doubt I’m not alone. Since hard and soft bounce rates are two of the most important email marketing metrics you should be tracking, here’s a quick overview of these two email marketing terms.


Hard Bounces vs. Soft Bounces: What’s the Difference?

When an email bounces in usual, it indicates it can’t be delivered to an inbox. “Hard” and “soft” indicate the two groupings of failures: one’s more permanent, and one’s less permanent. 

hard bounce is an email that couldn’t be delivered for strong reasons. Maybe the email’s a fake address, perhaps the email domain isn’t a real domain, or possibly the email recipient’s server won’t accept emails. There are lots of reasons that an email could be a hard bounce, but the gist of it is that it’s a permanent failure. You should eliminate all of these addresses from your list (if you’re a Clearalist customer, we’ll ensure hard bounce addresses won’t receive emails from you so your sender reputation remains intact). 

soft bounce is an email that couldn’t be delivered because of temporary speculations. An inbox may be full or the email file might be too large, among different reasons. If they get a soft bounce on an email sent, most email providers will stretch to try to deliver the email over for a few days. You should keep an eye on these addresses — if you see that the same ones are popping up over and over again, it’s best to exclude them.

Try to manage your total bounce rate under 2% because if it gets higher than that, and you’ll begin noticing some deliverability issues. You can use an Email Verification Tool to maintain your email list and stop such bounces.

And that’s pretty much it. Hard bounces = permanent delivery failures, while Soft bounces = temporary deliverability failures. Not as difficult as it first seems, but definitely just as significant.


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