Email marketing is hard. Some might argue that email marketing is even harder today than it was a decade ago.

Whether you agree with that statement, one thing is for sure: email marketing provides different challenges than it did five or 10 years ago.

There are so many factors that contribute to the success of an email program, no matter what kind of campaign you’re running. You have to consider subject lines, content, and graphics. Then there’s the time of day, day of the week, the month of the year. Segmentation, personalization, automation…And perhaps most important of all, email deliverability and email bounce rate.

As it turns out, your ability to actually get your email in front of your intended recipient is a pretty big deal. In today’s post, we’re going to offer two truths and one lie about email bounce rates — and you shouldn’t have much trouble spotting the lie. But first, let’s talk about sender reputation.

What is email sender reputation?

As the name suggests, it is the “reputation associated with your email sending behavior” – specifically, your IP address and domain.

According to SendGrid, your reputation depends on five elements:

  1. Properly formatted email
  2. Consistent volume
  3. Avoiding spam traps
  4. Low email bounce rates
  5. No blacklist appearances

Why is email sender reputation important?

“A low sender score may cause a service provider to divert your emails to the spam folders of recipients within their network. In some cases, the emails might not get delivered at all,” shares NeverBounce. “Maintaining a strong email reputation score is key to optimizing your marketing efforts.”

How can you check sender reputation?

There are several organizations that track and monitor your sending behavior, and others that keep a running blacklist of those with poor sending reputations – email service providers (ESPs) look to both to determine whether or not an incoming email is safe to receive.

Whether or not you are monitoring your sending reputation regularly, it is being monitored. (Hint: You should be too!)

If you’re not sure where to start, here are the tools that we’ve used to monitor our sender reputation:

  • Mx ToolboxMonitor blacklists as well as check the technical set up of your emails.
  • Sender Score – Monitor the overall health of your IP and sending domain.
  • Reputation Authority — This is more focused on domain and allows you to see the volume impact on your sending reputation.

Why do emails bounce?

Driving up your bounce rate is a quick way to damage your sender reputation! Your bounce rate is the percentage of emails that you tried to send to that were rejected or bounced back to the sender. There are two types of email bounces:

  1. Soft bounce – Temporary failure (ex. Someone is out of the office and their inbox is full). Your email may go through if you try sending it another time.
  2. Hard bounce – Permanent failure. Your email will not go through no matter how often you try.

The question is: how and why do emails bounce in the first place?

As with most things email-related, there are many factors. In most cases, sending the email to an invalid email address is the main cause. That can happen for a number of reasons:

  • The recipient has left the company.
  • The recipient’s email address has changed.
  • The email address has a typo.
  • Worse, the email address is completely made up.
  • The email address is a spam trap. (An email address with the sole purpose of catching spammers, or a previously legitimate email address that has been repurposed to catch spammers using outdated data.)

A high email bounce rate is the result of sending emails to multiple addresses that are no longer valid on a consistent basis.

As a rule of thumb, you should be aiming for a bounce rate below 3%. Most ESPs will penalize your sender reputation, impacting your ability to send out campaigns, if your bounce rate is over 5%. Got it? OK – Time for two truths and a lie about email deliverability!

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2 Truths and a Lie about Email Bounce Rates

1. Sending to bad emails can impact your ability to send to good ones.

If you look at the deliverability rate in your email sending platform, it is easy to think, “Hey, 80% of my emails were delivered! That’s pretty good!” … and then leave it at that.

However, not only could your ESP decide to suspend your sending behavior with an email bounce rate that high, but your sending reputation could also get dinged by organizations that are monitoring it.

High bounce rates signal the potential of poor email sending practices. Basically, a high bounce rate says, “Hey! This sender over here does not seem to care about how old or how inaccurate their list is! What else do they not care about? Relevant and helpful content? Maybe. Being CAN-SPAM compliant? Maybe that, too ….”

So, your sending reputation will decline. Blacklist operators could get wind of your implied sending behavior and decide to list you as well. And to be safe, email servers and email filtering services will start to block your emails based on what they know about your sending reputation.

The more frequently you send to invalid emails, the harder that it will be for you to get any of your emails through to your intended recipient – valid email or not!

Fortunately, all hope is not lost! Take some time to validate emails before sending to them and regularly update your marketing database.

Internally, we validate emails as they enter our system in near real-time and quickly filter out the invalid addresses. In addition, we have processes in place in our marketing automation platform to timestamp the last date of email validation, and we validate them on a regular, ongoing basis.

This process does not solve for all email reputation woes, but it definitely takes care of the bulk of them!

2. Organically-obtained emails — like those from web form fills — are the most trustworthy.

This seems logical, right? Someone who wants to download an eBook or – better yet – speak to a salesperson should be most likely to provide a valid email address. Logical? Maybe. Truth? Believe it or not, no.

Here’s the reality: A web visitor might really want your eBook, but they don’t usually need you to email it to them. More often, they’re directed to the asset itself, or a download, regardless of whether their email is valid. So, type [email protected] or [email protected], and repeat.

Sometimes a web visitor isn’t actually a person. Crazy, right? Bots, hackers and the like fill out web forms in mass. Even the most authentic and sincere of web visitors sometimes make mistakes and submit an email with a typo. (Hey, web visitors are people too!)

And even those that submit their correct email – well, that email is only valid for a short period of time. Maybe they leave the company next week or next month when you decide to target them for your next great campaign. Or maybe they get married and IT forgot to forward their previous email address.

Even if an email address is correct when it was submitted via your web form, it won’t stay valid for long. Data typically decays at 30% per year, at minimum.

3. Email data quality is the most important part of your email marketing strategy.

Email senders spend a lot of time and effort on the content of the email: the copy, the layout, the design, etc. Many of them believe that A/B testing these elements is the most important part of their email marketing strategy. I admit, there was a time when I would have wholeheartedly agreed. Not any more.

If a package gets lost in the mailroom or delivered to the wrong address, does it matter what’s inside or how beautifully it’s wrapped? Nope.

The same goes for email: In order for the copy and content to have an impact, your email has to be seen! Having a valid email address ensures that a perfectly crafted, thoughtfully designed email actually makes it to the inbox of the intended recipient.

Additionally, the fewer individuals who receive your email, the lower your open, click-to-open, and response rates will be. So your email performance metrics are not helped by invalid email addresses either.

Refer back to the first truth: Sending to bad emails impacts your ability to send to good ones. Said another way: The more bad email addresses that are included in your email campaign, the more likely that your email will not be received by others with valid email addresses. It will land in the junk folder, or worse, rejected altogether – wasting all of that effort that you put into the subject line and placement of the buttons!

While having good data is not the only factor in determining your sending reputation or the performance of your emails, it is the most important – simply because nothing else matters if you don’t get this piece right.

To learn more about how ZoomInfo can dramatically scale and improve all aspects of your go-to-market strategy, contact our sales team today. We offer the most intelligent B2B contact database on the market.

Read more from NeverBounce: How Sender Reputation Gets Damaged and How to Avoid It

About the author

DeAnn Poe

DeAnn Poe is a marketing director at DiscoverOrg, which acquired ZoomInfo in 2019.

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