During an email marketing campaign, you’re going to be sending out a lot of emails to all kinds of places. While you might think that sending mail to any email address on your list is the way to go, it can actually hurt your sender reputation if you do this blindly.
Internet service providers are always on the lookout for those who send emails indiscriminately, since that’s the mark of someone distributing spam or malware. You need to be careful about how you send emails and who you send them to if you want to keep on top of your game.
Email validation is simple in concept, less so to put into practice. Put in a few words, it’s the process of making sure that each and every email address on your mailing lists is connected to a real person, is actively used and not an abandoned or throwaway account, and can actually receive your emails.
As mentioned before, sending emails indiscriminately hurts your reputation as a sender. In other words, the more you do this the more likely ISPs are to flag your content as potential spam or malware and block you or send you straight to the spam folder! That’s a big no-no in email marketing, since you heavily rely on people reading your content to succeed.
There are several actions that hurt your reputation. These include:
- Sending emails to non-existent addresses.
Sometimes people put the wrong information into your sign-up forms, whether deliberately or accidentally. Sending to these non-existent addresses is a huge red flag to ISPs. In addition, some servers have what’s called an “accept-all” policy, where the mail will be accepted even if the desired mailbox doesn’t exist.
You can check that email addresses actually exist with real-time validation during the sign-up process, however be aware that some email addresses are created to be temporary and are deactivated after a certain time. Some domains specialize in this, so be sure to filter those off your subscriber lists.
- Emails remaining unopened.
While there isn’t really much you can do about actual human beings ignoring your emails – it happens and you can’t prevent it – there is something you can do about some of the non-active ones. Checking that an email address is still being used can be tricky, but fortunately email validation services check that an address is still connected to mail exchange (MX) and SMTP servers in order to verify that the account is still active.
- Emails being sent to spam trap accounts.
A spam trap is typically an account that’s been deactivated for inactivity on the user’s end, and repurposed into a trap for spammers. This is an account that ISPs know is inactive and shouldn’t be receiving mail, and as such is a big indicator that someone is either sending mail to random addresses or has purchased a big list of email addresses online for the purpose of mass marketing.
A spam trap will accept any and all emails sent to it, then mark the senders as potential spammers. If even one in a thousand of your emails is marked as spam that’s a huge hit to your trustworthiness rating.
Email validation services often have lists of spam trap email addresses to filter out, this is best done by
Email validation takes very little time for a computer to perform, provided that it knows the correct procedures. Using email validation services you can check lists by the thousands fairly cheaply, so unless you’re an expert in the field it’s not usually worth doing it yourself.
The steps are as follows:
- Checking syntax: Making sure that the email address in question is formatted in the correct way to be valid.
- Checking domains: Some domains are known to create temporary addresses or have high turnover rates, e.g. a domain of company work emails.
- Checking MX and SMTP records: This step makes sure that the address in question can actually send and receive emails.
- Checking for typos or other common errors: Even if the format of the address is valid and it was registered in good faith, it might still be invalid because of mistakes, e.g. Goole instead of Google.
- Comparing to lists of known bot addresses: Bots aren’t very good at thinking of email addresses that humans use, so it’s fairly easy to spot them. The validation services provider will have a list to reference against.
- Checking for an accept-all policy: Accept-all policies will fool the MX/SMTP check above, so filtering out any domains with these policies helps tremendously.
- Checking for toxic domains or known spam traps: Email forwarding services won’t actually open emails before sending them on to a different mailbox, which will hurt your reputation. Even worse are the aforementioned spam traps which will get you marked as malicious.