Acceptable Bounce Rates and Industry Standards
For email marketers, bounces are an inevitable part of life. Bounces, or rejected emails, can be temporary or permanent and may be caused by a number of factors. Hard bounces indicate a permanent or terminal failure (user not found, bad domain), while soft bounces represent transient or temporary factors like a full inbox or server error.
We often get asked by clients to provide the ideal bounce rate, and truthfully the answer is zero. In a perfect world, mail would never be rejected and all your messages would be delivered. By contrast, bounces are unavoidable in the real world so let’s talk about what to look for in regards to bounce rates.
There is no true industry standard for an acceptable bounce rate. ISPs and mailbox providers track the percentage of mail sent to their network that bounces, but the thresholds for each provider are different and are not publicly shared. Some providers even use dynamic thresholds depending on other factors like reputation and volume.
Most email service providers (ESPs) also monitor bounce rates and may take action if your rates creep too high. A hard bounce rate of 5% or above is enough to cause most ESPs to reach out or take action to restrict your sending, although some allow as high as 8% hard bounces.
The best senders have hard bounce rates below 1%, but even a rate of 3% is unlikely to cause serious issues as long as list acquisition best practices are followed and all other metrics look good.
While these numbers refer specifically to hard bounces, your soft bounce rates should stay low as well. Industry views on soft bounces vary, but a total bounce rate (hard plus soft) above 10% is often cause for concern.