What is email validation and why is it important?

Email continues to be one of the most effective forms of digital marketing, even as new communication tools come to market. 

However, it’s not unusual for customers to give incorrect or invalid email addresses at the time of checkout or onboarding – either on purpose or by mistake. And this can cause serious issues with data quality.

We’ll explore what email validation is, how it works, and how it solves this frustrating and common problem. 

What is email validation? 

It’s no secret that email is a powerful communication tool. It’s affordable, effective, and email addresses are easy to acquire.

But it’s not always straightforward. Research by Marketing Week suggests that privacy concerns or unwanted marketing have caused 60% of consumers to intentionally provide incorrect information when submitting their personal details online. 

A report by Statista further supports this, revealing that 7% of global consumers provide a fake email address when shopping with a brand or setting up an account. 

Then there’s the issue of genuine human error. Fiddly mobile devices can easily cause users to make typos and mistakes, leading to incorrect data entering a company’s database. 

In fact, a sample study of our own customer data found that 57% of email addresses entered into checkouts or onboarding forms are incorrect on the first attempt. 

So, while email marketing can be great, it can be challenging and costly if your strategy is built on unreliable data. 

That’s where email validation comes in. Email validation checks and validates email addresses either in real-time as they are being entered or in large batches, ensuring the mailboxes are genuine and can receive mail. 

The benefits of email validation  

An email validation tool can make your email marketing more effective, prevent fraud and protect sender reputation by: 

  • Eliminating hard bounces – these usually occur because the email address no longer exists, was a fictitious email address, or was closed by the user.
  • Decreasing spam complaints – best practice dictates that for every 5,000 email messages sent out you should receive less than five spam complaints.
  • Reducing chance of backlists – getting blacklisted stops your messages (including vital transactional emails) from getting accepted by the server.

This all leads to increased email deliverability, meaning businesses can reach more customers, efficiently onboard new customers, and decrease fake registrations that can clutter databases and impact campaign success. 

It’s only by collecting accurate email addresses that businesses will really get to know their customers, and the use of email validation is by far the most effective way to ensure quality email address data. 

What type of email validation is right for my business?

There are several ways to validate an email address, but to find the right one for your business, it is a good idea to research each where possible.

Regex email validation

Regex, or regular expression, is a string of characters that is used to describe a search pattern. A regular expression can be used to validate the format of an email address.

However, there are several key issues with regex that should be taken into consideration. The main problem is that it is extremely restrictive, failing to cater for rare email addresses. Characters such as !#$%&'*+-/=?^_`{|}~ are all valid, but not recognised by regex when used before the @ symbol, meaning any email address that includes these before the local string will not be recognised as valid. 

Another area where regex falls against the alternatives is that it fails to check several important factors, such as whether the email domain exists, and whether the user account exists.

Post email validation

A second option is post validation, or double opt-in, where an email is sent to the email address that was provided and the user then clicks through to confirm their email address. 

While this is obligatory in many European countries, if an email address is mistyped, the user won’t receive a confirmation email, meaning you will never capture the email address.

When it comes to selecting an effective email validation tool, checking the syntax is obviously an important characteristic. However, it shouldn’t be the main or only characteristic. Investing in a tool that conducts additional, rigorous checks for accurate and valid responses to be returned is essential.

Real-time email validation

To ensure an email address is valid, an email validation solution should also check that the domain exists, and that it’s able to receive inbound messages in real-time. Real-time email validation is not only a better user experience, but also sends trust signals to customers. 

Batch email cleanse

Batch cleanse is a method that can be used to clean the email addresses you already hold in your database. This is a good idea if you have never validated email data as it gives you a chance to reduce bounce rates and avoid complaints. 

It is common for a user to register an email account only to never use it. Regular checks can help to avoid incorrect data, which ultimately helps long term growth and efficiency. Given that email marketing databases naturally degrade by about 22.5% each year (HubSpot), we recommend doing a batch cleanse every six to twelve months. 

Important questions to ask before selecting an email validation provider

When it comes to validating an email address, simply checking for an @ symbol is not enough . In order to effectively validate an email address, here are some questions to ask your supplier.

  1. Does the service correct syntax errors?
    Often, developers see syntax errors in the form of a dialog box after inputting a piece of invalid code. When entering email addresses, humans often make mistakes or typos. Syntax validation identifies these typos, preventing the capture of inaccurate email addresses, while allowing clean addresses to pass through

  2. Do you check if the domain exists and that the email address is live and in use? 
    It’s important to use a supplier who checks whether the domain, mail server and the account exists. And it's worth checking if your email validation services checks for ‘Catch All’ to ensure captured email addresses are live and in use.

    It’s also a good idea to see if your supplier can check whether a domain has recently been created. If it’s a new domain, it may mean that it’s been set up by the customer for one-time use only. 

  3. Do you check for disposable email addresses?
    A disposable email address is a temporary email account that allows users to receive emails without providing their permanent email address. These email addresses are used by some customers who just want a temporary address for one-time use. But they’re bad news for businesses because they expire after a certain time , meaning the customer is no longer contactable. 

  4. Can you detect role-based email addresses? 
    Some customers may use role-based email addresses (like support @ or marketing @) to sign up, but these aren’t always able to receive emails. They are also more likely to bounce and negatively impact your sender reputation and deliverability.

Loqate’s email validation software

Our email validation software checks and validates business and personal email addresses globally, even free ones like Hotmail and Gmail.

Going beyond simply checking for an @ symbol and valid domain, our service detects whether the email mailbox is genuine and can receive mail.  

Plus, it works with all the well-known platforms, so you can plug in and verify email addresses on your website in minutes.