Managing Soft Bounces

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A "soft bounce" is when an email message is not accepted by a recipient's remote server. They do not indicate a permanent failure as a "hard bounce" does, but Act-On was not able to reach the recipient's inbox.

Soft bounces are typically a small portion of a total email send, but if you're sending a large volume messages it's a good idea to set up a strategy to handle these.

Note: Sending to a soft bounce email address does count towards your Active Contacts Limit for the month, and it can also affect your overall email deliverability. We recommend managing your inactive soft bounces before your large message sends to save on Active Contacts.

Soft Bounce Reasons

A soft bounce means that the remote server did not take delivery of the message for one of the following reasons:

  • Routing errors – The server could not route the message correctly to the proper inbox.The recipient's email host may be experiencing a temporary issue on their network which caused that message to not be received.
  • Policy-related – The recipient's mail server may have restrictions to not allow the delivery of that message. For instance, the recipient's incoming mail server thinks the message is spam, or the sender is not worthy of delivery.
  • Spam-related – The recipient's incoming mail server considers this message to be spam.
  • Message expired – The recipient's server provides no response when attempting to deliver the message. Quota issues - The recipient's mailbox has reached an internal storage limit and cannot accept any incoming messages.
  • Bad Connection - The recipient's mail server was unable to accept the message due to a time-out or inadequate connection quality.

How Act-On deals with soft bounces:

  • The system interprets the soft bounce code that received from your recipient and will show an explanation in the Bounces section of the Sent Message Report
  • Act-On continually updates these bounce reasons as we gather more information
  • We will attempt to send each email for up to 36 hours if there is no response from the recipient’s server – after that time, the bounce reason will show as "message expired" or "no answer from host"

Setting a Consecutive Soft Bounce Threshold

Our system automatically treats hard bounces as invalid addresses and suppresses them from future sends. Soft bounces are not suppressed automatically in this way.

It's a best practice to set up a policy that moves contacts to the Inactive Soft Bounce list after consecutive soft bounces – a repeatedly bounced email address will likely never deliver. This helps keep your list data clean and will also prevent you from using up Active Contacts for soft bounced contacts.

What's the right soft bounce threshold?

Here are some recommended ranges based on your email sending frequency:

  • Daily sends – 10-20
  • Two sends per week – 4-7
  • One send per week – 3
  • One send per month – 2-3

These thresholds allow a buffer for temporary issues (eg. blocklisting) while still removing repeat bounces in a timely manner.

Here's how to enable a soft bounce threshold:

  1. Click Contacts Bounces and Opt-Outs
  2. Hover over the Soft Bounces list, and click Move to Inactive Soft Bounces after...

  3. Choose how many consecutive soft bounces will be tolerated before moving from Soft Bounces to the Inactive Soft Bounces list
  4. Click Save


Removing a Contact from the Inactive Soft Bounces List 

Follow the steps below to remove an address from the inactive soft bounce list:

  1. Navigate to Contacts Other Lists Bounces & Opt-Outs
  2. Hover over the Soft Bounce List and click on Move to Inactive Soft Bounces after…
  3. Change your threshold to ∞ (infinity)
    • This will move all your inactive soft bounces to your Soft Bounce list
  4. Now that your desired contacts are in the Soft Bounce list, Act-On will not automatically suppress them.

Once you successfully send a message to a contact in the Soft Bounce list, Act-On will automatically remove them from the Soft Bounce list. Then you can change your inactive threshold back to what it was originally, to move all of the other inactive soft bounces back in to the inactive soft bounce list.

Moving to Hard Bounces

You can also move an address to the Hard Bounces list to indicate that it's fully inactive.

  1. Navigate to Contacts Other Lists Bounces & Opt-Outs
  2. Hover over the Soft Bounces List and click Open
  3. Locate the particular email address that you'd like to move
  4. Use the icon to the left of the address to move it to the Hard Bounces list

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