For those of you asking, “How do I check an email address without sending an email?” or wondering how often to clean your email list, we recently covered both of these topics in our articles on email validity and deliverability.
The benefits of a clean or regularly scrubbed email list can be as basic as whether or not your message will pass delivery tests and send in the first place, or as a useful tool to minimize problems and maximize metrics.
Email Validation or Email Verification?
Before we even start on our list of validation myths, the first point to make is the misinterpretation of validation and verification.
What is email list validation?
Email validation is a process or service designed to measure the validity of an email address. Validating an email address is any system that determines a correct address as it’s supplied. Validation is used to decrease the number of mistyped emails on signup forms.
What does email verification mean?
Email verification is far more complex than email validation, as it involves the whole set of steps that are needed to establish whether there’s an active mailbox for each account, the likelihood of bounces, deliverability issues, poor syntax, and more.
A verification service maximizes a list’s deliverability, making sure your message lands in front of the correct people, real people, in their inbox, and not in their spam folders.
Periodically, you should engage with your list, asking subscribers if they still want to receive your information. You may feel that this is a negative action, one that will likely result in a drop in subscribers.
The truth, however, is your list becomes more effective, holding only users that want to engage, adding to positive metrics of opens and conversions, and detracting from those unopened or sent to spam.
So, when we’re asked, “What is an email verification service?” we launch into the lecture above, to put matters straight before we deep-dive into all the gritty details of where the real discussion lies.
Our 10 major myths and misconceptions of email validation
1. All email verification services are the same
Although many of the operations look the same, each service will have its own methods, scripts, and processes to gather your results. With that in mind, it’s not an area where cutting corners or costs is going to be your best option.
You should choose your service based on reputation, services provided, customer and industry reviews.
2. Email Validation and Email Verification creates a 100% clean list
Sadly, no service can provide you with a 100% clean list. Each service runs all kinds of tests to estimate which email addresses are both valid and safe to stay on your list. Even after validation, most lists will produce hard bounces on delivery—sometimes as many as 5 or 10%.
3. Verifying a list clears all deliverability issues
Your validation service pinpoints invalid and undeliverable addresses, but it can’t foresee people’s behaviours. No system can predict when a recipient will mark your message as spam, make a complaint, or regularly fail to acknowledge or open your messages.
List verification helps with many issues, but to take action against those it has no control over means applying alternative systems to measure and resolve additional problem areas.
4. You don’t need list validation with a low bounce rate
Bounce rates are important, but they’re not the be-all and end-all of the matter. As we’ve discussed, removing undeliverable addresses is only half the battle.
5. List validation corrects misspelt email addresses
Your validation can only make assumptions on what might and might not be a misspelt address. Some errors with the domain are easy to spot, but when it comes to a user’s name there can be several options that each make sense, yet only one will look wrong or right to you, or the validation script.
This area proves how necessary a double opt-in system is to collect the correct data in the first place.
6. Validation removes all the spam traps in your list
Spam traps are incredibly hard to spot. Yes, there are claims of databases that hold problem addresses that have been shown or assumed to be spam traps, but anyone claiming their service eliminates all spam traps is claiming the impossible.
7. Cleaning lists fixes your list-bombing problems
List bombing, mail flooding, or any similar combination of those words, is an abuse tactic where one email address is submitted to one or many subscription forms, hundreds of times.
The resulting confirmation responses and notifications overwhelm the recipient’s mailbox, often shutting them down completely. This creates problems for both the recipient and the form providers.
The reasons behind such an attack could be revenge, hacker action, or to disguise a more sinister activity, for example, accessing accounts or private data behind the smokescreen.
Your list validation service will only detect invalid email addresses; any address—valid or not—can be used for list bombing.
8. All addresses other than those marked as invalid are fine to send to
When you run your email verification service, the results are categorized into more than just valid or undeliverable.
Each address will have sub-classifications that leave you with the decision of whether or not addresses are worth keeping on your list. Such areas of doubt can leave email marketers considering what is a valid email format for their message’s delivery?
Valid – The address has a mailbox that is capable of receiving mail.
Undeliverable – The address appears invalid due to bouncing, invalid MX records (no mailbox), or some other reason.
Accept-all – The domain for this address accepts all inbound messages, but there is no SMTP response indicating a valid mailbox for the username.
Disposable – A temporary address that expires after use.
Role – Not aimed at a specific person but a department or group of people.
Unknown – An address where the validation failed to perform correctly without a specific reason.
9. A validated list will stay clean for quite some time
We don’t believe anyone should become complacent with their email lists. It’s true that if you don’t add to your list, the addresses it holds could be used after a few months without too much impact. Even then, carrying out your verification process stands to improve the quality of your list and return better metrics and results.
If you’re continually adding to your list, you should really be checking the new addresses as it grows. That means much a more regular schedule.
Between 20–30% of email addresses become inactive within a year. That’s around a quarter of your list. Can you imagine how much damage that could do if you only clean it on an annual basis?
10. Email verification is expensive
Depending on how you send out your marketing campaigns, many of the popular platforms charge per subscriber. Validating your lists to make them as efficient and as healthy as possible, results in lower delivery numbers and better conversions.
So, not only will you save money when delivering your marketing messages, but you’ll also achieve a higher ROI.
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