Email validation is a lot more than just a simple check to make sure an email address exists. It’s also not something you can do once, or even once per month. In this post, we’ll explain why it’s important for your business to get your email addresses right every time and how to do it right.
Myth #1: Email validation can be done with a single formula or regular expression
Email validation is not a single step process. An email address is a string of characters and symbols that can be broken down into three parts: the user name, the @ symbol, and the domain name. Each part must conform to certain rules in order to be valid.
The first step of validating an email address is checking whether or not it contains only letters and numbers. This can be done with a regular expression like /^[\w]+(?:\.[\w]+)*@([\w]+|localhost)$/ . If this passes, then you know your input does contain only letters and numbers, but it might also contain underscores (_) or dashes (-). In order for an email address to be considered valid, it cannot have any other characters such as spaces or dots (.), so we’ll check for those too by using [a-z0-9._%+-] . Now we need to check if the length of our string matches up with what would traditionally be considered an acceptable length between 3 – 64 characters which comes out to around 5 different possibilities because we’ve counted two different lengths (3 through 6 inclusive) plus one extra case where an individual may choose their own custom length which could even result in longer strings such as “abcd@example” .”abcd@example”.length() == 7 which would match up with what many programmers consider acceptable based on personal experience.”
Myth #2: Email validation is all about speeding delivery
The second myth is that email validation is all about speeding delivery. The truth is, email validation is about more than speed. It’s about accuracy and quality. Email validation helps you prevent bad data from entering your systems and making them unreliable, which will cost you money in the long run. And it also gives you an opportunity to add value by making sure your marketing campaigns are reaching people who are interested in what you have to offer at a time when they have an incentive to act (like during a sale).
Myth #3: Email validation can be done with one API
The third myth is that email validation can be done with one API.
Email validation is a complex process that involves multiple steps and it is not just about checking the syntax of the email address, or if the domain name is valid. It’s also not just about checking if the email address is in the correct format (e.g., email@example.com).
Myth #4: Email validation has to be carried out at the point of data capture
The most important thing you need to do is verify that email addresses are deliverable, not just valid. You should also check that the domain is not already registered with another organization. This can be done by a third party or with a machine learning algorithm that learns from the data it has been given in the past and improves its accuracy over time.
Fact 1. Bad data costs you money
The cost of bad data is well-documented. In fact, according to McKinsey & Company, it costs companies an average of $14B annually.
And while that number seems huge, here’s a more concrete example: If you have 1 million email addresses and send out an average of 10 emails per day (which is pretty typical), then you’re spending $14,000 per year on wasted emails. That’s money going down the drain!
But how do you avoid this? Easy. Just use a reputable service like MailChimp or Aweber that provides validation tools at no additional cost—and save yourself some dough in the process.
Fact 2. Email addresses can’t be valid forever
The good news is that you don’t have to worry about your email address becoming invalidated by an ISP. The bad news is, if your list is large enough, it’s possible for some people’s emails to be invalidated by their ISPs.
The reason this happens is because some ISPs regularly purge their mailboxes of old addresses when they’re doing upgrades or maintenance on their servers. This can be especially problematic if a large number of addresses were added at once; in general, the more frequently an account gets added and removed from an ISP’s mailbox, the higher likelihood there will be issues with deliverability due to these purges.
Fact 3. The most important thing you need to do is verify email addresses are deliverable, not just valid.
Validating an email address is the first step in ensuring that it can be used, but there’s more to delivering an email than simply confirming the address. The next step is making sure that your message gets delivered to an inbox and not a spam folder, which means checking that your IPs aren’t blacklisted or blocked by ISPs (Internet Service Providers), ISPs’ spam filters and firewalls. You also need to ensure that your messages don’t exceed maximum mailbox sizes per provider (check out our article on this here).
Fact 4. Data cleansing should be a continuous process
Data cleansing is a continuous process. It’s important to remember that data issues aren’t always obvious, and sometimes they’re not even visible until you run your email campaigns. The only way to ensure your data is clean enough to send emails with confidence is to regularly check it for errors, problems and inconsistencies.
To identify problems with your list, review the following:
- Bounce rate: The percentage of emails that bounce back after delivery (which can indicate invalid or undeliverable addresses)
- Complaints: Complaints about the content of your messages or delivery issues (which can be caused by incorrect addresses)
- Open rates: The percentage of recipients who open an email within 30 days of receipt (which might be lower than normal if some contacts are invalid)
Validate your email properly and often
A data cleansing and validation program is an ongoing effort, like any other part of your business. You can’t just set it up and forget about it; you must constantly be checking the quality of your data.
As a result, email validation should be done on every new record as soon as it’s added to your database, not weeks or months later when you discover a problem with an old record. This might mean embedding some code in the form that collects each new email address into your system so that it automatically validates against multiple APIs right away—with no user interaction required (other than clicking “submit”). Or you could do this by setting up a single formula or regular expression (or both) to run against all newly-entered emails without any action needed from end users (you don’t want them to have to do something extra just because they entered their email address).
If you’re looking to validate your email addresses, there are a number of good tools and services out there that can help. We recommend Mailgun’s free Email Validation API which can be used by anyone to quickly check if an email address exists. If you need something more advanced, then we also offer paid plans with more features like domain verification and whitelisting.