Soft bounce

Even with top-notch email templates, there’s a chance that your emails might not make it to the right people. Imagine putting all that work into crafting your messages, only to find out that some didn’t even reach their destination… What a bummer! 

Yeah, this is exactly how it feels when your email bounces. 

And there are usually two culprits behind this — email soft bounces and email hard bounces. If these terms are new to you, don’t worry. In this article, we’ll break down both hard bounce vs. soft bounce and guide you in boosting your email delivery success. 

Soft vs. hard bounces 

When an email bounces back, it usually comes with helpful hints about why it couldn’t be delivered. These hints might cover things like:

  • When the email bounce happened (date and time)
  • Which mail server didn’t accept it
  • The explanation for why the email bounce occurred

The reasons behind email bounces can vary based on the bounce you experience. Let’s explore the concepts of email hard bounce vs. soft bounce!

soft bounce vs, hard bounce

Soft bounce email definition 

A soft bounce typically indicates a temporary issue that prevents the email from being delivered at that particular moment. Soft bounces are like little hiccups in email delivery: the email reaches your customer’s mail server but then gets gently bounced back before it can make its way into the inbox. 

Watch out for the following causes of soft bounces: 

  • Mailbox overload
    Uh-oh! Seems like the recipient’s inbox is all packed up and can’t fit any more messages until they make some space by deleting a few emails. 
  • Temporary server issues
    Sometimes, the recipient’s mail server might encounter a minor technical glitch or undergo maintenance. These scenarios could also involve a brief disruption in the Domain Name System, which is like a guidebook for the internet. The good news is that these issues usually get resolved fairly quickly. 
  • Tricky filters
    Soft bounces can sometimes happen due to what’s known as ‘challenge-response errors.’ They pop up when a filtering service, set up by someone like you, aims to sift through emails from unfamiliar sources and avoid spam. This clever filter sends a ‘challenge’ as a question or task. If it isn’t tackled within a specific timeframe, your email might fail.
  • Oops, message too big!
    At times, a soft bounce might happen if your email is just… too chunky. Most email service providers (ESPs) have these rules about how big emails can be to keep things running smoothly so emails don’t slow down or get stuck. The email size rule depends on attachments (pictures, videos) and what you write in the email (words, fancy formatting). If these things add up too much, your email might not reach the other side, and you’ll see an error message pop up.
Pro-tip! If your email is packed with lots of text, you might want to think about keeping only the most important stuff. Now, you can make this process super easy with the AI Email Writer by This tool uses the latest GPT technology to help you craft and polish your emails according to what you need. It works seamlessly within your email sequence, so you won’t have to jump around different tools.
  • Content screening
    Content screening scans the content to decide if it’s trustworthy. Sometimes, it gets cautious and flags emails that seem suspicious. These flagged emails are briefly paused. The filter then checks everything – content, attachments, links – to decide if it’s safe. If it’s good, the email goes to the inbox. If not sure, it’s temporarily held back. Once the filter’s done, it either lets the email go or gives it the ‘all clear’ to be delivered.
  • Rate limiting
    Imagine you’re sending lots of emails to your clients and prospects. Some ESPs have a rule called ‘rate limiting.’ It’s like an hourly quota for sending emails. If you send too many too fast, the service might pause you. Fortunately, it’s more of a friendly reminder to slow down on the email highway than a ban. However, if you go over the limit, some emails might bounce.
  • Auto-responder
    Should your recipient be “out of the office” and have an ‘auto-responder’ active, you might experience a soft bounce. It doesn’t stem from any issue with your email or your recipient’s inbox being overloaded. Don’t worry, though – feel free to attempt sending it again later.
Kind reminder! Even if your email soft bounces, there’s still a good chance it can be delivered later. Most email systems will give it another shot automatically, usually within the next 72 hours!

Hey, it’s great to keep in mind that soft bounces are usually just temporary glitches, but if you keep running into the same issue or it goes on for a while, it could eventually transform into a hard bounce. What is a ‘hard bounce,’ anyway? Let’s dive into the concept!

Hard bounce email definition

A hard bounce happens when an email can’t be delivered to someone because of a permanent issue with their email address. This might occur for reasons like:

  • Invalid email address
    When an email address keeps bouncing for a while, it’s typically labeled as ‘non-existent.’ But should you give up on it right away? Of course not! Feel free to take a second look at those email addresses and see if there are any obvious typos. If you’ve managed to fix the spelling and the email still seems to be bouncing, consider removing it from your lists.
Pro-tip! To make sure those frustrating hard bounces happen less often, keep your email list fresh and up-to-date. Manually handling this stuff can be a hassle, but guess what? You can make your life a whole lot easier by using tools like’s Email Verifier – and the best part? It’s totally FREE!
email verifier
  •  Full mailbox… again!
    You’re already familiar with the scenario: when an inbox gets too crammed, the ESP fires off a ‘Mailbox Full’ message. This usually happens when mailboxes aren’t checked often and max out on storage. While it’s possible your recipient hasn’t given their email inbox a proper check-up lately, it could also be a signal of an abandoned mailbox. 
  • Angry spam flters
    Some ESPs keep an eye on how recipients interact with your emails. So, if someone doesn’t open your emails, the next one you send might take a detour to the spam folder. And if someone hit that ‘spam’ button on your email before, future ones might also end up in the spam folder, even if they genuinely signed up for your mailing list! 
Pro-tip! For consistent inbox placement and optimal email visibility, it’s vital to set up your sender account correctly. Don’t overlook the email warm-up process! New accounts lacking reputation can trigger ESP’s suspicion.’s Email Warm-up tool is effective in enhancing email delivery, avoiding spam folders, boosting sender and domain credibility, and preparing your account for email sending. 
  • Blocked email addresses
    ESPs have some rules to make sure everything’s safe and sound. They check things like where the email is coming from and if it’s a trustworthy source. Sometimes, if an email doesn’t quite meet all the requirements, it might not get through. This can happen for a few reasons, for example, it could be some technical things issues with your DMARC, DKIM, or SPF settings. 

How to reduce soft bounce & hard bounce emails 

To maintain an excellent sender reputation and ensure your emails consistently reach the inbox, regularly keep an eye on any bounces – both soft and hard. By doing so, you can take the right steps to keep your email deliverability rate healthy and strong. Here are a couple of handy tips to help you along the way:

  • Email hygiene first!
    Make sure to tidy up your email list by removing invalid emails and people who haven’t been responding. When too many emails bounce back, it could impact how trustworthy your emails appear to be. 
  • Leverage double opt-ins
    When users subscribe to your list, send them a confirmation email. This serves a dual purpose: first, it verifies the validity of their email address, ensuring that you have accurate contact information. Second, it confirms their genuine interest in receiving your messages. This simple step can contribute to higher email deliverability rates and a more meaningful connection.
  • Tame spam triggers
    When you’re putting together your emails, steer clear of anything that might trigger spam alerts. Spam filters are there to keep unwanted or harmful emails out of your recipient’s inbox. That’s why it’s important to make sure your emails are crafted in a manner that helps them pass through filters smoothly.
  • Watch your content
    The key to making sure your emails reach their destination is by crafting content that your readers will truly enjoy. When your subscribers eagerly open and interact with your emails, it signals to email platforms that your messages hold value. 
  • Use list segmentation
    Segment your list based on subscriber behavior, interests, or demographics. This helps you send relevant content and reduce the chances of sending to incorrect or outdated addresses.
  • Regularly update subscribers
    Encourage subscribers to update their email addresses or preferences if they change. Provide an easy way for them to update their information through your emails or website.
  • Use email authentication
    Implement authentication mechanisms like SPF, DKIM, and DMARC to establish your domain’s authenticity and reduce the likelihood of your emails being flagged as spam.
  • Avoid purchased lists!
    Never use purchased email lists. They often contain outdated or invalid addresses, leading to a higher likelihood of hard bounces.
  • Analyze bounce reports
    Monitor bounce reports from your ESP and act on the information they provide. Identify patterns and recurring bounce types to proactively address any issues.

Wrapping up 

Don’t underestimate the value of keeping an eye on both soft and hard email bounces in your email campaigns. It’s not just a tech thing – it’s like a secret to keeping your email list healthy and following the email rules. Soft bounces show you where things can be fixed, and hard bounces help you clean up your list and keep it sharp!

By keeping track of both, you’re not just solving problems, you’re making your email campaigns more exciting and powerful!

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