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Email Validation Defined: What do terms like bounce & deliverability mean?

March 11, 2019
By Kirsten Onsgard

email-validation-deliverabilityAt the surface, Email Validation is easy to understand. Email Validation helps identify which email addresses are deliverable without sending an actual email to that inbox. Email Validation is a big part of a data hygiene strategy. Marketers use Email Validation to ensure they capture and maintain good data.

But when we get down to the nitty gritty, Email Validation can be a little more confusing. How exactly does Email Validation work — and what are these terms we keep hearing, such as “hard bounce,” “deliverability” and “spam trap”?

First, Email Validation uses a four-step process to determine whether an email address will receive an email:

  • Catch and correct poor email syntax and spelling

  • Identify risky or malicious emails

  • Confirm the domain

  • Ping the mailbox

Email Validation helps marketers improve deliverability by avoiding hard bounces and mitigating the risk associated with spam traps.

What do those terms mean? Here are some common Email Validation terms defined:

What is a bounce?

A bounce is when an email is not delivered to the inbox, or undeliverable. Just as with snail mail, when an email bounces, a “return to sender” message is sent back to the sender to explain why the email was not delivered to the recipient.

There are many reasons why an email might bounce. These include:

  • A non-existent email address

  • A full inbox

  • Undeliverable email, which is when the receiving email server is unavailable

Bounces are either hard or soft, which is either a permanent or temporary failure. In the case of a soft bounce, future emails might be delivered. For hard bounces, future emails will not be delivered to that address. A full inbox would be a soft bounce, whereas a non-existent email address is a hard bounce.

A bounce rate refers to the number or ratio of emails in a send that bounced. In that sense, a bounce rate can give you a sense for the health of your email list. If your bounce rate is high, you have a lot of undeliverable emails on your email list. That’s when Email Validation can come in handy to help you identify those hard bounces, which can be removed from your email list.

What is a spam trap?

When email servers see a previously valid address that is now repeatedly triggering hard bounces, they can turn the address into a spam trap. This means if a sender continues to email the address, the email server knows they are ignoring the hard bounces and will report them as spam.

Email Validation is not a cure-all for avoiding spam traps, but is an essential part of list hygiene which can help with avoiding spam traps.

What is deliverability?

Email deliverability, otherwise known as inbox placement, refers to the percentage of emails that make it to subscribers’ inboxes.

Email delivery is different. Email delivery refers to the number of emails that are accepted by an Internet Service Provider. Email delivery only measures the messages that did not bounce, regardless of whether the email ended up in the recipient’s inbox or bulk folder.

That’s why email deliverability is a better measure of success than email delivery, because emails that reach the inbox have a much greater chance of being opened.

What is sender reputation?

Email deliverability is affected by your sender reputation. Like any good or bad reputation, a sender reputation is built over time, and determined by your actions as a sender.

Sender reputation is affected by:

  • Sending relevant, consistent emails

  • Sending a consistent volume of emails

  • Having few complaints

  • Avoiding spam traps

  • Having low bounce rates

  • Not appearing on blacklists

 

Improving your sender reputation will improve your deliverability, improving the chance you will make it to the inbox and reach your customers.


Email Validation is an essential part of an overall email marketing strategy because it helps marketers maintain a clean and healthy database, thereby improving the chance messages will reach customers.

At TowerData, we recommend cleaning your bulk email lists on a regular basis, and recommend marketers implement real-time Email Validation on their webforms to ensure they are collecting good data.

Contact us to learn more about how Email Validation can improve your marketing ROI.

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