GTM Dictionary

The Go-to-Market Dictionary: Soft Bounce

Learn about the term "Soft Bounce" in our comprehensive Go-to-Market Dictionary.

Have you ever sent an email campaign and received a notification that your email has "soft bounced"? Soft bounces can be frustrating for email marketers, but they are an inevitable part of email marketing. In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about soft bounces, their impact on email marketing, and strategies to minimize them.

Understanding Soft Bounces

Before we dive into strategies to minimize soft bounces, it's important to understand what they are. A soft bounce is a temporary failure to deliver an email to the recipient's inbox due to a non-permanent issue that prevents the message from being delivered. It's important to note that soft bounces differ from hard bounces, which are permanent delivery failures (such as an invalid email address).

Definition of a Soft Bounce

A soft bounce occurs when an email is returned to the sender because of a non-permanent issue that prevents the message from being delivered. These issues include a full inbox, a temporary email server outage, or a message that exceeds the receiving server's size limit. Soft bounces can be frustrating for email marketers because they prevent messages from reaching their intended audience. However, they are not always a cause for concern because they often resolve themselves without any intervention.

Common Causes of Soft Bounces

Soft bounces can be caused by several factors, including:

  • A recipient's email inbox is full: This is a common cause of soft bounces and can be resolved by the recipient clearing out their inbox to make space for new messages.
  • The email message contains too many images or attachments: Emails that contain too many images or attachments can cause soft bounces because they take longer to load and can exceed the recipient's mailbox size limit.
  • The email message size exceeds the receiving server's size limit: Some email servers have size limits on incoming messages, and if an email message exceeds this limit, it can cause a soft bounce.
  • The recipient's email server is temporarily down or offline: If the recipient's email server is experiencing downtime or maintenance, it can cause soft bounces for incoming messages.

It's important to note that soft bounces are not caused by invalid email addresses, which are considered hard bounces. If an email address is invalid, it will result in a hard bounce and the message will not be delivered.

Soft Bounce vs. Hard Bounce

The main difference between soft bounces and hard bounces is that soft bounces are temporary, while hard bounces are permanent. Hard bounces indicate an invalid email address, which cannot be corrected. Soft bounces, on the other hand, suggest a temporary issue and the recipient email address is still valid. It's important for email marketers to monitor their bounce rates and take action to correct any issues that may be causing a high rate of bounces. By understanding the difference between soft and hard bounces, email marketers can take steps to improve their email deliverability and ensure their messages are reaching their intended audience.

The Impact of Soft Bounces on Email Marketing

Soft bounces can impact an email marketing campaign in several ways, including:

Deliverability Rates and Sender Reputation

Soft bounces can affect your email deliverability rates and sender reputation. If your emails have a high rate of soft bounces, email filters may flag your messages as spam. This can damage your sender reputation, making it more difficult for future emails to reach the inbox.

One way to improve your sender reputation and reduce the likelihood of soft bounces is to ensure that your email list is up-to-date and contains only active subscribers. You can do this by regularly cleaning your email list and removing inactive subscribers.

Another factor that can impact your deliverability rates and sender reputation is the content of your emails. If your emails are not relevant or engaging to your subscribers, they may be more likely to mark them as spam or unsubscribe from your list. To avoid this, make sure your emails are personalized and tailored to your audience's interests and needs.

Analyzing Soft Bounce Rates

It's important to monitor your email soft bounce rates closely. If your soft bounce rate is high, it could indicate issues with your email list quality, email content, or email infrastructure.

One way to analyze your soft bounce rates is to segment your email list and send different emails to different segments. This can help you identify which segments have higher bounce rates and allow you to target them with more relevant content. Additionally, you can use email analytics tools to track your bounce rates over time and identify any trends or patterns.

Reducing Soft Bounces for Better Campaign Performance

To improve your email campaign performance, it's crucial to reduce your soft bounce rate. Here are some strategies to minimize soft bounces:

  • Verify email addresses: Use double opt-in to verify email addresses and ensure that subscribers are active and engaged.
  • Segment your email list: Send targeted emails to specific segments of your email list to improve relevance and engagement.
  • Improve email content: Make sure your emails are personalized, engaging, and relevant to your subscribers' interests and needs.
  • Monitor your email infrastructure: Regularly check your email infrastructure, including your email service provider and email authentication settings, to ensure that everything is working properly.

By implementing these strategies, you can reduce your soft bounce rate and improve your email campaign performance, ultimately leading to more engaged subscribers and better business results.

Strategies to Minimize Soft Bounces

Sending emails is a powerful way to connect with your customers and keep them informed about your products or services. However, sometimes emails can bounce back, and this can negatively impact your email deliverability. Soft bounces occur when an email is returned due to a temporary issue, such as a full inbox or a server error. Fortunately, there are several strategies you can use to minimize soft bounces and improve your email deliverability.

List Hygiene and Maintenance

One of the most effective ways to reduce soft bounces is to maintain a clean and updated email list. Regularly remove inactive or invalid email addresses from your list, and keep your list up-to-date by regularly adding new subscribers who have opted in. This will help you avoid sending emails to email addresses that are no longer in use or have been abandoned by the recipient. Additionally, it will help you maintain a good sender reputation, which is crucial for email deliverability.

Another important aspect of list hygiene is to ensure that your subscribers have given you explicit permission to send them emails. This can be achieved by implementing a double opt-in process, where subscribers must confirm their email address before receiving any emails from you. This will help you avoid sending emails to people who did not explicitly request them, which can increase your bounce rate and damage your sender reputation.

Optimizing Email Content and Design

Another way to reduce soft bounces is to optimize your email content and design. Be sure to keep your message content concise, relevant, and clear. Additionally, ensure that your email design is mobile-responsive and easy to read on various devices. This will help you avoid sending emails that are difficult to read or navigate, which can lead to higher bounce rates.

It's also important to avoid using spam trigger words or phrases in your email content. Spam filters may flag your email as spam if it contains certain words or phrases, which can result in a higher bounce rate. To avoid this, use clear and concise language in your emails and avoid using excessive capitalization or exclamation points.

Utilizing Email Verification Tools

Email verification tools can help you identify invalid or inactive email addresses in your list and help you remove them. These tools can also help you ensure that your emails are delivered to valid email addresses, reducing your soft bounce rate. Some email verification tools can also help you identify and remove spam traps, which are email addresses that are used to identify spammers. By removing these email addresses from your list, you can improve your sender reputation and avoid being flagged as a spammer.

In conclusion, minimizing soft bounces is essential for maintaining a good sender reputation and improving your email deliverability. By implementing these strategies, you can reduce your soft bounce rate and improve your chances of reaching your subscribers' inboxes.

Monitoring and Responding to Soft Bounces

Soft bounces are a common occurrence in email marketing campaigns. They happen when an email is returned to the sender because the recipient's mailbox is full, their email server is down, or their email address is invalid. While they are not as serious as hard bounces, soft bounces can still impact your email campaign performance and your sender reputation.

Setting Up Soft Bounce Alerts

To effectively manage your email campaigns and reduce soft bounces, it's crucial to monitor your email campaign performance closely. One way to do this is by setting up automatic soft bounce alerts. These alerts will notify you when a certain number of soft bounces occur, so you can take the appropriate actions immediately. By staying informed of any issues, you can quickly troubleshoot and resolve them, reducing the impact on your email campaign performance.

Evaluating Soft Bounce Thresholds

Reviewing your email soft bounce threshold regularly is another important step in managing your email campaigns. Your soft bounce threshold is the maximum number of soft bounces you will accept before taking action. If your soft bounce rate exceeds this threshold, it may indicate issues with your email list, email content, or infrastructure. By regularly evaluating your soft bounce threshold, you can make adjustments to your campaigns to reduce soft bounces and maintain a good sender reputation.

It's important to note that soft bounces can also be caused by temporary issues, such as a recipient's mailbox being full. In these cases, the email may be delivered successfully on a later attempt. However, if you notice a consistent pattern of soft bounces from a particular email address or domain, it may be necessary to take action.

When to Remove Subscribers with High Soft Bounce Rates

If a subscriber consistently experiences soft bounces, it may be time to remove them from your email list. Continuing to send emails to an address that consistently bounces can harm your sender reputation and impact the deliverability of your emails to other subscribers. Removing these subscribers can help maintain email campaign performance and ensure that your emails are reaching the intended audience.

In conclusion, monitoring and responding to soft bounces is an important aspect of email marketing campaign management. By setting up soft bounce alerts, evaluating your soft bounce thresholds, and removing subscribers with high soft bounce rates, you can reduce the impact of soft bounces on your email campaign performance and maintain a good sender reputation.


In conclusion, soft bounces can impact your email deliverability rates and sender reputation, but they can be managed with proper list hygiene, email marketing best practices, and regular campaign monitoring. By implementing the strategies outlined in this article, you can reduce your soft bounce rate and improve your email marketing campaign performance.