Artificial intelligence technology has become very important in recent years. One of the many benefits of AI technology is that it can help with reputation management. A growing number of companies are using AI technology to screen the Internet to find mentions of their company and address anything that doesn’t align with their desired brand image.
However, there are other important reputation management techniques that use AI that don’t get as much attention. One of them is email validation for email marketing.
We have talked in depth about the benefits of using big data and AI in email marketing in the past. However, we didn’t talk as extensively about the role of using this technology for email validation.
One of the most basic lessons of email marketing is not to send emails out en masse without regard for who you’re sending them to. This is one of the key flags that internet service providers (ISPs) use to identify spammers and people who send malware, so doing it is a sure-fire way to reduce your reach despite sending more emails out.
So, how do you make sure that your email lists are clean of bad IPs and keep your reputation healthy? Email validation is your friend.
Email validation tools use AI technology to verify the authenticity of emails before you send them. Companies that recognize the value of AI technology will get a lot more traction with their email marketing strategy.
AI Makes Email Validation Possible
Email validation is the process of making sure that email addresses not only exist but are valid and capable of accepting mail. Advances in AI technology has made this a lot more feasible. It’s also the process of checking that the email address in question is connected to a real person and not simply a bot or spam trap, since while these are not active accounts they can still hurt your reputation.
Capterra has an article that talks about the role of AI in email validation. Here is an excerpt of the most important details:
“AI technology can help identify catch-all email addresses. It can detect the level of interaction a recipient has with emails to identify if the recipient is a real person. Based on this information, [the AI] allocates a score to each email address. This score can be used to decide whether or not to keep an address on the mailing list.”
Now that you appreciate the capability of AI to distinguish between valid and invalid emails, you can start learning why it can be useful.
The need for using AI to validate emails is pretty clear – high rates of unopened, bounced or spam filtered emails hurts your sender reputation, and can even get you labeled as a potential spammer by ISPs. If this happens, they’ll likely flag your message as suspicious or send it straight to the spam box, which is exactly what you don’t want with an email marketing campaign.
There are two types of email validation you can perform. The first is simple, and is known as real-time validation, whereas the second is more complex and is referred to as batch validation. Both methods are useful, but catch out different things so you’ll likely want to use both for email hygiene purposes.
Real-time validation is simple. I’m sure you’ve come across a sign-up form that asks you to enter your email, then sends a code for you to enter or a link for you to click to that email address in order to verify that it actually exists.
This is a great way of stopping subscribers from entering incorrect emails by mistake, or nonsense emails on purpose – some cruel people try to do this in masse in order to take down your servers!
Batch validation is a different beast and is usually done by an outside service provider unless you’re a whiz in the field. Essentially, the provider will look at the list of subscriber emails and validate them, that is to say make sure that they are still active and capable of receiving emails. Note that this process isn’t perfect, but when you’re dealing with a list of hundreds of thousands of emails you can afford to have one or two slip-ups.
How the batch validation process is done with AI
Batch validation uses AI to check the email addresses on your list for several factors, starting with simple checks and working its way up to more complex ones. The steps can theoretically be done in any order, but the recommendation is to do certain steps first in order to save time.
The most common order of operations is as follows:
- Check syntax
Email addresses have to be formatted a certain way if they’re going to be understood by the servers receiving their messages. The valid format consists of a username, the @ symbol then a domain name such as “google.com” afterwards. Any email address that isn’t formatted in this way is invalid and as such should be cut.
- Check domain(s)
Having a domain in the address is all well and good, but if it doesn’t actually exist then the email won’t be valid. Domains can also expire over time, so what was once valid can become invalid between checks.
- Check MX records
Mail exchange (MX) records will tell you if the domain in question is still receiving emails, after all even if it exists it might not be active.
- Check SMTP
Simple Mail Transfer Protocol is the term used for the most common channels of communication between email servers. If a domain has an SMTP it will show up in the MX check, but you can further validate the individual email address with an SMTP “ping” which will see if that specific address is still connected to the server’s channels of communication.
- Check for common bot addresses
Bot’s aren’t very creative or good at coming up with believable usernames, and when spammers and other malicious persons use bots to create email addresses you can usually spot them. I’m sure you’ve received a suspicious email from an address that’s just a string of hexadecimal code @ google.com – this is what this step checks for.
- Check for undesirable domains
Some domains are known to be spam traps, temporary account providers or mail forwarding services. While the latter two aren’t actively trying to hurt your sender reputation, they lead to a lot of unopened or bounced emails in the long run which can hurt your reputation.
AI is Very Important for Email Validation
Email validation is an absolutely necessary step for anyone performing mass email marketing campaigns. Fortunately, new advances in AI have made it possible. Even one in a thousand bad emails can get you flagged as suspicious by internet service providers, which is the last thing you want. Using email validation and other methods of hygiene keeps your reputation strong and the emails flowing.