We’ve partnered with the inimitable Lauren Meyer, Mailjet’s global VP of delivery & head of operations, North America, to bring you a series of blogs about validation, one of the most misunderstood yet incredibly powerful tools in an email marketer’s toolbox. We’ll start with the basics.
What is List Validation?
What a list validation cannot do, however, is create permission where actual consent from the recipient has not been given. I’m looking at you, marketing lead who just purchased a list for your sales team.
There are two primary methods of validating an email list; one being near real-time (“instant”) validation taking place upon collection of an address, or validation via bulk upload, which is typically performed daily in batches. In many instances with our customers, both instant validation (preliminary check at the point of collection) and bulk uploading (secondary sanity check after the fact) are in the mix. According to the Relevancy Group’s report, “The Power of Email Verification and Multi-Method Hygiene,” marketers using multiple validation methods outperform those that do not.
As a general rule of thumb, most list validation solutions will provide a number of results, primarily valid or undeliverable, followed by a handful of subclassifications to help inform the marketer on the composition of their list:
Validation versus Verification
The concepts of list validation and email verification are commonly interchanged, but it’s important to distinguish between the two. Validation is simply a method for determining whether or not a message is deliverable to a specific address.
Verification, on the other hand, could be considered to be something different altogether. When we educate Mailjet customers about verification, we’re often talking about actions that verify an address, such as opt-in confirmation emails, subscription activation links, etc. What do these types of triggered messages have in common? They’re asking the recipient to verify their email address by performing a particular action. We look at email verification as an added benefit to validation; not only is the email address valid, but you also confirmed consent from the recipient.
At Mailjet, we often work with brands who don’t quite fully understand what a list validation tool can and cannot do. To help you better understand what list validation can and cannot do, we’ve compiled seven common myths below, and how you can best overcome them.
Hate to say it, but nope! Some list validation services advertise the removal of all spam traps from your email databases, however, it’s important to remember ISPs and anti-spam agencies never disclose which email addresses are traps. It is possible a list validation service can identify some of the traps out there, particularly typo traps, but you should closely consider the credibility of any company claiming to remove 100% of the traps generated by ISPs, Spamhaus, or other anti-spam agencies. If you are considering a service offering spam trap filters, be sure to ask questions such as where they obtain their spam traps and what kind of recourse you can expect if you still hit traps after using their service.
List bombing refers to the practice of abusing email list sign-up pages by inundating them with a large number of new email addresses at the same time. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, list validation tools are really only effective in helping identify inactive, invalid, and potentially risky addresses. People who have had their email addresses abused as part of a list bombing attack are still real recipients, and so a validation tool will not be able to distinguish between a real email and a real email involved in a list bomb.
Like anything, quality varies greatly based on how each service validates their lists and how they provide their list. Everyone’s needs are different, so while cost can be one of your considerations, be sure to also consider the reputation, methodology behind their reporting, and how their API integrates with your ESP.
Would you believe a house-cleaning service claiming they can make your apartment 100% clean? You’d be right to be a little skeptical of this promise. No service is 100% foolproof. List validation tools are essentially running a series of tests and checks to determine the probability that an email address is valid and safe to remain on your list. Most providers claim an accuracy rate of 98% or higher, however historically, results can vary greatly. It’s not uncommon to still see email marketers generating upwards of 5-10% hard bounce rates, even after doing a validation. The reality is, even with the best tools on the market, you should still expect to see some hard bounces.
Data quality is of utmost importance for optimal deliverability. Validation services can help ensure your list contains less invalid addresses, but it cannot magically solve issues with high complaints or low engagement that come from poor list collection practices. List validation is one important tool in your toolbox, but it doesn’t replace other tools like ensuring explicit opt-in, targeting active users, and improving email cadence.
If you are trying to clean your list of typos or wrong domains, list validation is not your answer. If someone accidentally typed “[email protected]” instead of [email protected], you may have the wrong email, but a list validation doesn’t know that for sure. Perhaps the email is for someone who goes by Jo HM Smith? ?This is why double opt-in is so important. It not only helps you get the right email but also helps your contact get the content they desire.
Most list validation services will provide a summary of your list, separating the addresses into different categories. Those addresses that are tagged as valid are typically safe to mail to, and invalid addresses should be removed. But, there are many other categories for the sender to deal with, based on the level of risk they are willing to accept. Imagine your fridge where you probably have food items that are fresh, items that are nearly expired, ones that are expired (but deep down you know are probably still ok), and of course the ones that are long-overdue to be thrown out. If you are having a BBQ, you still might serve the recently expired ketchup. But someone else might not!The categories you get after validation are similar, they present varying degrees of riskiness. It is up to the marketer to decide whether to suppress them all or roll the dice with some of the medium risks like role addresses (e.g., [email protected]).
Next time, we’ll look at the pros and cons of using a validation service, because like all things, it’s not a perfect product and needs to be considered carefully. Until next time.