Jargon can be a problem for those engaged in email marketing. All you want to do is to increase the size of your email lists but it sometimes seems that you need a dictionary beside you all the time. Terminology can be confusing especially if it uses familiar words to describe events where they have little relevance. Take hard and its antonym, soft.
A bounce is a bounce. Why should it need qualifying?
The reason is that a soft bounce differs considerably from a hard one and, more importantly, should be dealt with differently.
First the good news: soft bounces need little attention. They are generated for reasons such as an email server being off-line or an inbox being full. It is a temporary fault. The email is presented again until such time as it is accepted or it becomes hard.
A hard bounce is, in essence, when the address is unknown: it doesn’t exist. But that does not mean you should just delete it from your list.
It should be tried a number of times. Three is the often quoted figure. Sticking with a strict three strikes and out policy will mean that your statistics will be consistent. But it does not mean that you should then drop it into the Recycle Bin. It needs to be removed from your active email list and then you should enter into some form of follow-up procedure.
Perhaps highlight their name so that if they contact your company for any reason in the future they can be asked for their new address. Or perhaps a phone call or mail shot if you have the necessary details.
A high hard bounce rate can also indicate a systems fault. You should have some form of address verification at the collection stage. Intelligent forms are invaluable here, perhaps requiring a subscriber to enter their address twice or automatically checking the format is correct.
If the addresses were collected by hand, say at a counter or trade fare, then it might show poor data entry. This could be overcome by better training or, perhaps, incentives for correct addresses only. It is your choice.
But whatever the cause, hard bounces require work on your behalf. That’s the difference.