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Managing Significant Soft Bounces

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Managing Significant Soft Bounces

I've been working on an overview of my company's email marketing since starting use of Marketo and also to compare pre- and post-COVID activities. In doing so, I noticed that all of a sudden (after March), we ended up with significant numbers of soft bounces on our email sends - 13-30% on our larger sends (we used to have a delivery rate of around 98-99%).

 

The following screenshots show the difference in delivery rates before this issue appeared (ignore emails with smaller numbers - those are tests and the filtering in the report doesn't work properly and/or crashes the page):

 

January - March 2020 (most recent at top)

MichelleK_1-1602023946340.png

April - October 2020 (most recent at top)

MichelleK_2-1602024045893.png

 

I'm having a hard time figuring out what could have made these changes happen so abruptly at such a volume. I've taken a look at the Smart Lists for campaigns before and after the change but there's very little difference - if anything, we've added a few more filters to remove people already speaking with Sales or having made a booking (purchase):

Before Change

MichelleK_3-1602024144207.png

After Change

Note: When we have regionally specific emails, we add a Country filter here also

MichelleK_4-1602024222015.png

 

I've set up Smart Lists using the Bounce Category Numbers (amazing guide for anyone that wants it!) to identify Contacts with Hard vs Soft Bounces. I am going to use that to remove the Hard Bounces permanently so we stop sending to them but I'm not sure how best to deal with the Soft Bounces and would love any suggestions/insight. 

 

The soft bounces seem to be around the same number each time we send an email to the same sized list - should I remove them from future email sends? If so, can I bring them back in at some point? Is there anything I can do to clean that up generally? On the email sends of 70,000+ people, we're not reaching ~20,000 people so I'd love to fix this in whatever way is appropriate.

 

Thanks in advance for any help and if there's any other information I can include to help solve this, please let me know!

Michelle

 

PS. I found this discussion that talks about a Soft Bounce Control but I can't find it in the Community. If this is something I can do, and someone has the original post or even the solution, that would be great!

Michelle K
Email Marketing Specialist
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Re: Managing Significant Soft Bounces

I reached out to our Customer Success Manager for some insight into this and he was able to pull a detailed delivery report for me. 

 

This highlighted the soft bounces (as well as the few hard bounces) we had last email send and gave details as to why they had bounced (more than just the category information). This confirmed what the person before me had suspected when these bounces first appeared - that our repermissioning email had connected with a lot of contacts who hadn't been engaged with our emails in a while and almost all of them registered user complaints.

 

With that information, I've moved 21,000+ people into a Marketing Suspended status and as they are mostly Yahoo.com and AOL.com accounts, I am going to do a little digging to see if there is anything we can do to fix this (but if they see us as junk/spam), they're likely to just stay in the suspended status until we hear from them on their own terms.

 

Appreciate the questions and guidance provided throughout the thread too 😊

Michelle K
Email Marketing Specialist

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Level 2

Re: Managing Significant Soft Bounces

EDIT: I can't delete this comment but I solved this - I had Email Bounced instead of Email Soft Bounced as the filters. 

 

Quick update after running those smart lists - I get no results for the Soft Bounces (which is obviously incorrect). Here is my smart list for the Category 3,4 or 9 bounces (for reference, email was sent on September 9) and filters are set to "Any":

MichelleK_0-1602025565697.png

 

The email insights for this send shows the following (Hard Bounces match perfectly):

MichelleK_1-1602025666818.png

Have I missed something?

 

Michelle K
Email Marketing Specialist
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Level 10 - Community Moderator

Re: Managing Significant Soft Bounces

You'll have to slice up your Soft Bounces more by the direct cause of the bounce; there's no general rule that applies to all SBs. For example, a SB can be because a domain (not mailbox) stopped receiving email, which could well be COVID-related.

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Level 2

Re: Managing Significant Soft Bounces

I can't seem to find a way to highlight the source/reason for these soft bounces. Do you have any tips on how to do that? I've seen a few articles about determining the different types of bounces but nothing on how to identify the details in Marketo.

 

For my Soft Bounce smart list, the columns for Email Suspended / Email Suspended At / Email Suspended Cause don't show anything - assuming that's because these emails wouldn't suspend until they met a Hard Bounce category.

 

Your note about things bouncing because of a domain stopping things certainly would fit with the timing as we were fine before the pandemic, and then in the emails after it was declared, the soft bounce rate shot right up. If that is the case, what would you suggest as a best practice here?

  • Should I remove these bounces for email sends temporarily?
  • Or just continue to send anyways, assuming that as we move through the pandemic, rates should improve again/go back to normal?

Any help and insight is much appreciated!

Michelle K
Email Marketing Specialist
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Level 10 - Champion Alumni

Re: Managing Significant Soft Bounces

While your list could have issues caused by a change in your Audience, I would suggest a few things.

 

  1. show me an EPR rather than Email Insights. Show it by individual email.
  2. Is the soft bounce rate really 30%? 90% on each send?
  3. Did you also see Hard Bounces increase?
  4. Did you check your email headers? The only time I ever saw 90% soft bounce was we left out the From and Reply email!
  5. Did you check your IP or domain health on one of the many trackers out there?
  6. Did you hit a spam trap?
  7. What do the Email Bounced Reason fields say? Just run Email Soft Bounced and create a view with all the email related fields.
  8. Did your audience change? Could they all be out of work or shut down temporarily?
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Level 2

Re: Managing Significant Soft Bounces

Thanks for the additional considerations @Josh_Hill13! A couple of notes/questions:

  1. How would I do this? Is there a report I can use in Marketo?
  2. Apologies for the confusion - our soft bounce rate has jumped from less than 1-2% per email send to 13-30% (the 98-99% reference was for delivery rates not bounces)
  3. Hard Bounces all look to be within the ranges we have seen pre-Covid - as low as 0.03% to 0.16%. There was only one anomaly, in one of our September emails, that had a 0.32% Hard Bounce but with a similar Soft Bounce rate as all other post-COVID emails
  4. Checked these but this was in reference to my not clarifying that the 98-99% figure was delivery rate!). I didn't think it was possible for Marketo to allow you to forget those items but I will be extra sure to double check those moving forward
  5. I just checked the domain health on DNSChecker.org and it's listed 6 problems (5 warnings and an error). I'm not at all familiar with what any of this would mean but I can send to our IT team to get them to investigate further as a possibly contributor. 
  6. How would I find this out? The suddenness of these results made me wonder that and I vaguely remember dealing with blacklisting when I last worked in Marketo 4+ years ago.
  7. I pulled a report for all Soft Bounces and there's nothing in the Email Bounced Reasons column (the only time information shows in there is for a Hard Bounce) - here's a quick screenshot (used Email Soft Bounced in the last 30 days as filters)
    MichelleK_0-1602194227068.png
  8. We're B2C travel company so while our industry has certainly been impacted by the pandemic, I couldn't confidently say the same for our audience because most of these emails are going to personal addresses (Gmail, Yahoo, etc)

Thanks for all the help and direction on additional places to look for information!

 

Michelle K
Email Marketing Specialist
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Level 5

Re: Managing Significant Soft Bounces

The details of your bounces (like category and details) can be found in the activity. However, this post on the community describes a good way to make them more visible and actionable:

https://nation.marketo.com/t5/Knowledgebase/Maintaining-a-Directory-of-Leads-Bouncing-Emails/ta-p/25...

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Level 2

Re: Managing Significant Soft Bounces

Thanks for the link @Katja_Keesom - I came across that one somewhere else as well (I used the categories in it) and will get that view set up because the Smart List View and Reporting don't show that information quickly/easily (perhaps an item for the Ideas board!). I will see what I can learn from that and share insight as/when I get it.

 

Thanks again!

 

Michelle K
Email Marketing Specialist
Highlighted
Level 2

Re: Managing Significant Soft Bounces

I reached out to our Customer Success Manager for some insight into this and he was able to pull a detailed delivery report for me. 

 

This highlighted the soft bounces (as well as the few hard bounces) we had last email send and gave details as to why they had bounced (more than just the category information). This confirmed what the person before me had suspected when these bounces first appeared - that our repermissioning email had connected with a lot of contacts who hadn't been engaged with our emails in a while and almost all of them registered user complaints.

 

With that information, I've moved 21,000+ people into a Marketing Suspended status and as they are mostly Yahoo.com and AOL.com accounts, I am going to do a little digging to see if there is anything we can do to fix this (but if they see us as junk/spam), they're likely to just stay in the suspended status until we hear from them on their own terms.

 

Appreciate the questions and guidance provided throughout the thread too 😊

Michelle K
Email Marketing Specialist

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