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Jenna Devinney
Jenna Devinney 22 October 2018

Email Verification & Validation - What's the Difference?

Getting any two email verification companies to agree on anything can be harder than wrestling a Grizzly Bear. Especially when it comes down to terminology. One company's verification is another's validation. And the difference between the two can be subtle, misleading, and often confusing. Especially with the recent news that verification providers are now changing their "language" from verification to validation to try and confuse the matter.

This is a serious topic that needs to be addressed for the sake of all email marketers. You need to be able to rely on a verification and hygiene provider that can detect all types of email threats, not just detect valid or invalid emails. As trusted verification and hygiene providers, we neede to be truthful and transparent about best practices to identify harmful threats in your data, confusing the issue helps no one.

Of course, there are huge differences between players in the marketplace, and those differences can vary widley. It won't be a surprise that here at Webbula we happen to believe, rather strongly, that we are the best choice for all email marketers. We know that some of our competitors claim to be using email hygiene but all that is behind the curtain is a simple verification/validation test. This is just one example of how confusing the marketplace can be. 

In this article, we intent to get to the botton of any misconception between Email Validation, and Email Verification. And try to set the record straight about what those two words mean. 

Verification, Validation. Potato, Potato. Data, Data 

Some providers only do verification, while others claim they do both verification and hygiene because they can detect a typo trap (which is essentially a misspelled or badly formatted email). Others now realize that verification is dying as a solution and are trying to keep up with industry changes by simply switching their language to validation, and that's it. Validation or Verification, don't be fooled, it's essentially the same thing. Or is it? Sure, some people can just make up a definition for these terms and call whatever they are offering something different. But if you take a moment to dig a little deeper, you realize that there is an important difference at the root of this nomenclature battle. 

Let's first establish a definition for verification.

Email Verification 

Email Verification is a real-time server ping that verifies that the recipient account mailbox actually exists, is currently active, and is also accepting email. This process confirms whether or not the inbox account is active. Once the test has been completed, you can now assume that this is the correct recipient. Or is it? All you really know is that the account is active, but there could still be many serious issues pertaining to that account. 

Verification detects emails that are:

  • Valid
  • Invalid 
  • Unknown

Verification lets a user know that the email has been verified on a given domain and will deliver. Does it land in the inbox, does it lead to a spam trap, has the account owner passed away? These concerns and many others are not addressed by verification.

Now let's take a look at Validation. 

Email Validation 

Email Validation goes even further than a simple server ping. Validation uses a third-party data source to confirm that the email address in question is indeed valid. At Webbula we use our own authoritative dataVault, which is being constantly updated as the source against which all emails are validated. Which makes sense right? It's a double-check that helps to confirm the results from the verification process. Something that is becoming increasingly important in light of changes within the industry.

This is a critical difference between Webbula and other providers. Other provders don't have a constantly updated authoritative non-modeled source of data at hand. They have to rely on sleight-of-hand in order to 'validate' emails. One popular method is using their own customer's data. Your data. This is called "cached" data and it happens because they keep the data you send them. They then use that data with other customers as a source for validation. This is how some providers are still able to verify Oath based emails months after Oath turned off that ability. And yes, not only is your data being used in this way, that data gets older and more unreliable every single day. That doesn't sound like a best practice to us.

The only other choice is that they are simply not truly validating anything based on a single ping.

The point is, when it comes down to it, that essentially verification and validation have the same purpose. They detect if your email is active or inactive, by asking the domain server and confirimg that information with a third-party source. But neither of those methods address the real issue. Spam traps, honeypots, malicious moles, bots, screamers, seeded trackers and other hidden threats that cannot be detected by simple Yes/No pings. You didn't think verification/validation could detect all of these, did you? Good, because they can't. Real-time verification is a necessary tactic to ensure that your emails are invalid, but it is an incomplete defense. It is, after all, only one method. 

That's why Webbula's Multi-Method Email Hygiene exists in the first place. We utilize multiple methods, not just one, to ensure that not only does an email exist - but that it will deliver safely. 

What is Mult-Method Email Hygiene 

Multi-Method Email Hygiene protects your email data against reputation threats fraud threats, delivery threats, and conversion threats. Let's break down each threat and what they detect...

Reputation Threats: Detects malicious moles, legal and spam traps, honeypots and blacklisted emails. Reputation threats ensure that you are not caught by any of these threats that could adversely impact delivery and negatively impact reputation. 

Fraud Threats: Has the power to detect insidious bots and content spammers that facilitate phishing scams, fraudulent activities, and bogus names. Fraud threats keep the evil doers out and assist in ensuring that the brand is not comprised. 

Delivery Threats: Common to verification, they detect duplicates, improper domains, and invalid addresses. Delivery threats keep email lists clean and improving deliverability. 

Conversion Threats: Identifies deceased individuals, schools, government officials and domains that are known to complain. Utilizing offline data and matching this to email addresses allows for a level of in-depth knowledge about the subscriber and overall improves the conversion rate of the mailing. 

Email Threat Detection: Hygiene vs. Verification/ Validation 

We've already taken you through the threats that verification and validation detect, now let's discuss some threats that can sneak right past a verification, validation test, but can be spotted in a hygiene test. 

For example, a screamer is a person who complains about receiving your emails very harshly and threatens to report you to the ISPs, and FTC. If you get enough complaints they will monitor you and potentialy put you on some sort of list. It's important to note that a screamer is a real person, which means that running that email address through a verification and validation test, it will come back active.  But this screamer is a potential threat to you, so Multi-Method Email Hygiene can detect not only screamers but other threats that can pass a verification test such as spam traps, zombies, disposable domains, honeypots, and more. 

Here are a few more threats that will pasa a simple verification and avalidation test. Only Multi-Method Email Hygiene can detect...

Disposable Domains: These are emails associated with disposable temporary domains. They will pass a simple verification/validation test because they are real for only a few minutes. These emails are the 5, 7, 10 minute emails that deliver then explode. An example would be a shared email account that is public and has no password. 

Zombies: Zombies are just what they sound like. Real emails that will pass verification, but the only problem is they belong to deceased individuals who left not only their belongings behind but their email addresses. There is no harm in these emails, besides that, there is zero engagement. You are wasting your marketing efforts by sending to these emails who have no one behind them. They are a dead end. 

Spam Traps: There are different types of spam traps, pure, recycled email addresses, invalid email addresses, typos, fake addresses, honeypots and more. These can cause damages to your sender reputation, your IP address could be addded to a blacklist, and if you hit a spam trap operated by a major ISP, like AOL or Yahoo it could permantently blacklist your sender domain. Verification and validation are great for detecting typo traps, but what about these other types? This is where email hygiene can help.

Honeypots: These are emails that are created and posted online invisible to the human eye for the singular purpose of catching scrapers, harvesters, and bots. They are everywhere, in code, in sites, everywhere. They are a type of spam traps, that cannot be detected by verification and validation.

In conclusion: Tomato, Tomahto, Verification, Validation 

As you can see, there really isn't much of a difference between Email Verification and Validation. If you're okay with only wanting to know if your email data is active or inactive then continue to test with this service. If you're ready to improve your deliverability, open rates, clicks, conversions and more, then it's time to start relying on Email Hygiene. Not the fake email hygiene, which some verification providers call their products, which is really just verification after all. Multi-Method Email Hygiene, the power to not only detect your actives and inactives, but also other hidden threats ready to damange your sender reutation.

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