What is email verification? A beginner's guide.

Email verification is a business software tool that helps keep real people communicating. 

It does this by checking for errors in email addresses on lists, and by filtering email addresses as they are entered onto systems, using an email verification API.

Download our guide for a masterclass in email verification

How does email checking work?

It's a server thing. There's a simple protocol that was written decades ago to help define the rules for setting up email servers. This list of numbers and associated definitions, known as SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) makes it simple for email servers to chat to each other about the state of inboxes and emailing. (Imagine the fun they have whilst us humans aren't watching!)

Email validation is a conversation between email servers when an inbox is 'pinged'. It goes along the lines of; 'Hi - is there an inbox associated with this email address? There is? Great. What sort of shape is it in - room for any more emails?'

We step into the conversation between the two email servers and translate their goofy number talk. By reading the codes we know whether an inbox exists, if it's full, if it's set up to just be a big bucket (greylisting) or if a real person is likely to read it.

Email validation is done without sending an actual email that will be read by a person. 

The challenges of email verification

Sometimes an email server gets lippy. A simple 'hello' results in a push-back; 'too busy right now to talk, try me again in no less than ten minutes and no more than an hour. Step outside those times and I'll never talk to you again and report you for getting on my nerves.' 

Block lists. A place on the internet naughty step

This is when we need to have robust systems in place cope with the hurt of a push-back reply, and come back on time to check again. If our email validation service contacts servers too quickly, or at the wrong times, we run the risk of our IP addresses being blocked or reported. That would have the effect of a band-aid over the mouth of our server and a place on the internet naughty step for a few hours, a few days or even longer.

Some mail services are better than others at reading the SMTP rules

Sometimes email servers go haywire. Usually it's when a human messes things up and the SMTP answers the server gives are all over the place. We might get a message to say all is fine when in fact the inbox no longer exists and any emails sent to it will hard bounce. This doesn't happen very often, but we can never rule it out. It's why we offer a guarantee of accuracy that is less than 100%. No email validation company can honestly offer a 100% results rate.

What is the point of email checking? What's it used for?

Businesses use email checking to keep marketing lists clean and to keep bad emails out of their systems. More than ever, we find our email validation API is used to stop fraud online, by detecting fraudsters hiding behind disposable email addresses. We go above and beyond ordinary email validation to hunt out disposables. Detecting disposables is a lot more complicated than basic email validation.  

It's more than '@'
Basic email checks look for typos and syntax, figuring out whether a string of characters is written as an email address.

Real email validation adds value to your data, protects your reputation and gives you information that helps you run better campaigns and connect with real people confidently. It brings;

  • confidence in campaign statistics
  • insight into your data and customers
  • a filter against fraud
  • opportunities to spot patterns
  • technical markers to profile audiences
  • clean data
  • cost savings

Stop bouncing and start talking
Your Email Service Provider (ESP) will rely on their clean, whitelisted IP addresses to get emails safely through firewalls and into inboxes. If your email addresses bounce hard and often, your ESP will protect its reputation and send your emails more slowly, from IP addresses that handle 2nd rate data. This will reduce the number of inboxes your emails will reach, so open rates and conversations will fall.

How to start using email validation

Integrate the MORE API into your website, CRM or other systems to check email addresses as soon as they are typed. 

Even good email addresses can turn bad. Email data decays at about 25% a year, so it's good practise to check entire lists regularly using the CORE bulk-check service.

Used well, email validation is a vital, powerful tool that informs marketing decisions and supports business success.

To learn more about email verification result codes and how they can help your business, read here.

Download the Email Hippo free guide to email verification results - learn about catch-alls, greylisting, spam traps and more.

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Written by: Jo

Friday, 30 November 2018