Follow the Bouncing E-mail (594 words)
A hard bounce is something you want to remove from your list; a soft bounce, you'll want to reserve judgment on.
"A hard bounce, generally by definition, means that a marketer can safely and comfortably remove it from their list," says Nussby.
But determining what is hard and what is soft is getting trickier.
"If we couldn't reach the recipient's e-mail server, we don't know that it's not a valid address," explains Chris Curtin, vice president of engineering, SilverPop. "So rather than giving you a hard bounce, we'd rather take the risk that in five minutes or five hours or five days that server will come back online and your message can be delivered."
Further complicating the issue is a lack of standardization in bounce reporting among ISPs. "They may report back the wrong type of bounce," says Sattley. "As a marketer, you're trying to interpret these error codes and do the right thing with your list. You don't want to continue mailing an address you know is bad, but if the ISP isn't giving the right codes back, then it's very difficult to keep track of what's actually going on."
So what's an e-mail marketer to do?
Robinson suggests establishing an equation for how to handle bounces. "If a message to a particular recipient bounces 66 percent of the time," she says, "You should mark that address as a bad address."
Bad bounce decisions can cause problems as minor as higher per-message fees to big issues like blacklisting. Most reputable ASPs will provide bounce management, but it's important to ask before you make a decision.