Email List Hygiene

How BriteVerify Determines If an Email Address Is “Risky”

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No matter what’s lurking in your email marketing database – real or fake email addresses, deliverable or undeliverable ones, or something in between – the experts at BriteVerify have seen it all. But, how does BriteVerify email verification determine if an email address in your database is “risky” – and what should an email marketer do when they get those results?


What Does BriteVerify Look For?

First, let’s address how BriteVerify determines if an email address is risky.

BriteVerify email verification helps measure and mitigate the risk of bounces by verifying and categorizing the emails on your marketing list. During the verification process, BriteVerify checks email syntax (for example, does it have an @ symbol), verifies its email domain (MX record), and confirms the address exists on the mail server using preferred protocols and integrations.

Then, BriteVerify sorts email addresses into different categories.


Valid Addresses

The first category, Valid Addresses, are real email addresses. The email address is verified and your campaign should be deliverable to that address. The act of sending to valid emails won’t harm your sender reputation. But there are still a few things to keep in mind:

  • A deliverable email isn’t automatically an engaging one. Your content needs to be relevant to keep the recipient interested in receiving emails from you.
  • Be careful with the frequency of your sends. If you send too many campaigns, recipients – even the ones who used to like getting your emails – could make a spam complaint, start ignoring your emails, or unsubscribe from your list.
  • ISPs like Gmail may also proactively keep your message from the inbox if they think it won’t be engaging based on their own algorithms.


Invalid Addresses

The next category is Invalid Addresses. There’s no question if an invalid email address is risky. Sending to invalid emails can definitely harm your sender reputation due to hard bounces. These addresses may be invalid because they contain a typo or improper syntax (such as missing the @ symbol, or spelling gmail as gmal instead of gmail).

The good news is marketers who integrate BriteVerify API with their web forms can block these types of invalid email addresses at the point of entry so they don’t reach their database.

Another type of invalid address is one that was once valid but became invalid as part of the normal churn that happens with email marketing lists. Individuals change email addresses frequently. Contacts at companies may move on to another company. Businesses close or merge. Changes like these lead to a natural decay of email marketing lists. Using BriteVerify email list verification services on a regular basis helps you spot when an email is no longer valid so you can remove it.


The Risk In Between

When determining if an email address is risky, the remaining categories BriteVerify identifies represent “the risk in between.” These “risky emails,” which fall somewhere between valid and invalid email addresses, are grouped into four categories: Accept All, Unknown, Role-Based, and Disposable.


Understanding “Accept All” and “Unknown” Email Addresses

“Accept All” emails will accept everything you send them – at least at first. There are two reasons an email address may be classified as Accept All. The first is when an administrator enables anything addressed to a domain to be delivered to a catch-all/accept all address. For example, even if someone mails to “[email protected],” it will still get delivered.

Most administrators don’t like to use this configuration on their mail servers because it can attract a lot of spam. It also creates an issue for email marketers. If your legitimate email is lost in a sea of spam, the likelihood the recipient will read it or act on it is very low.

The second reason an email address may be classified as Accept All has to do with the way a mail server may be set up to first accept all email addresses, and then determine the validity of each address. If the address is determined to be invalid, the server will send a “delayed bounce” message to the sender.

One of the problems with these types of emails is that spammers like to hide behind their own non-existent invalid addresses. This can lead to clogged mail queues, as the server makes repeated attempts to deliver delayed bounce messages to addresses that don’t likely exist. For marketers, these delayed bounce messages negatively impact campaign metrics and overall sender reputation.

The second risky email type, “Unknown” emails, are associated with a domain that isn’t responding in a timely manner. The issue may be temporary, but the situation still creates uncertainty.


What to Do With “Accept All” or “Unknown” Email Addresses

So, what do you do with emails flagged as “Accept All” or “Unknown” in your lists? Since these are considered risky emails, you should proceed with caution based on your specific situation.

For example, if you are already having deliverability issues, and you’re trying to get your bounce rates under control, consider excluding Accept All and Unknown addresses.

If you’re just cleaning your list and you already follow best practices for removing bounced addresses from your list, sending to Accept All and Unknowns will pose less risk than it would if you were in the midst of dealing with deliverability issues.

Either way, if you find you have a large number of Accept All and Unknown emails in your lists, you should take that as a cautionary sign that you have problems with the quality of your underlying data that needs to be addressed.


Understanding “Role-Based” and “Disposable” Emails

In BriteVerify’s categorization system, “role-address” and “disposable” are types of risky addresses. Unlike invalid addresses, these addresses could accept email, but here’s why they are considered risky:

Role-based addresses are usually set up to manage an organization’s general inquiries or issues. Examples include addresses starting with marketing@, sales@, support@, or info@. These emails may be managed by several people across different departments. In general, sending email to such addresses results in a high complaint rate.

Temporary or disposable addresses are created by users in lieu of using their primary address. A user may input a temporary or disposable email address to conceal their identity or simply because they’re wary of joining another email list. They may use a temporary or disposable address because they want to take advantage of a special download or promotion but want to avoid getting subsequent emails sent to them as a result.

Temporary addresses are valid and active for a while – in fact, users may share them with multiple organizations. However, they are more likely to be shut down or ignored by the user after some time. Because of their temporary nature, they are identified as risky emails.


Knowing If an Email Address is Risky Empowers Email Marketers

As a digital marketer, you’ll sometimes have risky emails on your list. Just know that by proactively removing them (or at least proceeding with caution when warranted), you’ll achieve better performance, improve campaign measurement, and help protect your campaigns from sudden derailment.