While sending emails may sound as simple as drafting a message and clicking Send, intricate processes happen in the background to ensure that they get sent and received and are not tagged as harmful. One of these processes is email verification.
What Is Email Verification?
Email verification is the process of checking the existence and validity of an email address. It answers questions, such as:
- Can the email address receive messages?
- Does the email address follow the correct syntax?
- Is there a mail server associated with the email address?
Ultimately, email verification helps ensure that the email addresses can indeed receive messages and are not merely dummies for spammers and abusers. To this end, email verification may also include checking for disposable or temporary, catch-all, and custom email addresses.
How Did Email Verification Originate?
Email verification was not always at the core of the email sending process. When the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) was designed in the 1980s, the Internet was built and run on trust. Users and administrators of email systems were corporations, government agencies, and universities. As such, SMTP didn’t—and still doesn’t—have an email verification feature.
The commercialization of the Internet in the 1990s highlighted the need for email verification, as email-based cybercrime, such as spamming and phishing began to surface. While email systems still use SMTP today, most of them have integrated custom filters to check the validity of email addresses. For instance, Gmail and other reputable mail service providers implement email verification best practices and employ advanced mail filtering systems that automatically mark spam emails and move them to the designated folder.
5 Email Verification Best Practices
Now that you know what email verification is and how the process came about, you might be wondering how it is done. We will not go into all the technicalities, but some email verification best practices can help. Most, if not all, of these email verification best practices can be done by invoking RESTful APIs.
1. Validate the Existence of the Mailbox
Without a mailbox, the email address cannot receive messages. To make sure that the intended recipient will receive your message, you have to verify that the email address has a corresponding mailbox. How is this done?
You can check manually by sending a test email. If the email bounces back after a few minutes, it means that the email address does not exist. However, email verification systems can help you automate the process by performing SMTP connection attempts or using email-sending emulation techniques.
2. Check for Typos and Syntax Errors
Potential clients may mistype their email addresses, so instead of [email protected][.]com, they may give you [email protected][.]com. They may also forget to follow the correct syntax and only give you [email protected] On the other hand, some people with malicious intent may purposely give the wrong email address.
Therefore, one of the email verification best practices to employ is to check email addresses for typos and syntax errors.
3. Ensure the Mail Server Exists
A mail exchanger (MX) server is the application that receives incoming messages and forwards outgoing messages. It is a critical part of the email system and should be configured correctly. You can check the existence and configuration of an email address’s mail server by running the email domain on DNS lookup tools. To illustrate, below is the MX record of gmail[.]com. You may also use email verification APIs that perform the same check automatically.
4. Check the Quality of the Email Domain
If you run an online business, you want your potential customers and partners to give you email addresses that they use and open regularly. But what if they give you a disposable email address?
A vital email verification best practice is to check for temporary or disposable email addresses. Not only will these addresses affect your sales and marketing efforts, they may also be used by spammers, phishers, and other malicious actors.
For business-to-business (B2B) companies, you may also want contacts to provide their business email addresses. For this, an email domain quality check can include verifying if the email domain is customized or branded.
5. Require Email Confirmation
Lastly, you may also require users to click email confirmation links when they sign up on your website. A similar method is sending a verification code to their email addresses. That way, you know that the email address the user gave is valid and can receive messages.
However, note that users can also temporarily use disposable email addresses to receive confirmation links and verification codes. As such, this email verification best practice is more effective if the other validations are also implemented.
Email remains the most preferred means of business communication despite the introduction of text and instant messaging. The exchange of email addresses and sending of messages occurs every minute, and at the core of these processes is email verification.