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The Difference Between Hard Bounces and Soft Bounces

When you’re talking about email bounce backs, you may or may not know that they can be mostly divided into two main types. The first type is known as a “hard bounce” while the second is known as a “soft bounce”.

In this post, we’ll consider the key differences between these two types of bounces and discuss what actions you can take to resolve them.


Hard Bounces

Hard bounces are bad. I mean, they are unequivocally, undeniably bad. Hard bounces occur when the email you sent has run into the virtual equivalent of a two-meter thick, solid steel wall. Essentially, your email has been rejected outright.

This can happen for a number of reasons. The most common one being that the email address you’re trying to reach doesn’t exist now or never existed in the first place. It can also happen if the receiver’s domain name doesn’t exist anymore. It can also happen if you’ve made a spelling error when you input the email address.

The terrifying thing about hard bounces is that they cannot be fixed – well, except for if you’ve made a spelling error. Otherwise, these are the email addresses that you have no hope of reaching and should just discard and move on.


Soft Bounces

Whereas hard bounces are generally terrifying and unfixable, soft bounces are… not. These are bad, but only kinda sorta bad. What we mean is that soft bounces are most often caused by temporary issues and more often than not, these issues are on the receiving end.

Soft bounces can occur for many reasons, like the fact that your recipient’s inbox is currently full and there is no space for your emails. Or it could be that the email server is currently under maintenance or has temporarily crashed. In the first case, you’ll be able to send your email once your recipient has cleared their inbox and in the second, you just have to wait until the server is back online.

In both cases, you simply have to wait. This is what makes soft bounces easier to deal with than hard bounces, however, it does not mean that you can relax entirely. There can be cases where soft bounces persist – for example, it may happen if the user has abandoned their email address – and in such cases, you’ll have to be alert and take them off your mailing list.


Other Kinds of Bounces

While not officially a soft or a hard bounce, you may also encounter “bounces” if your recipient is on vacation/has auto-reply on. In such cases, again, you simply have to wait a reasonable amount of time before you decide to try again or discard the email address.


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