Did you know that increasing the number of bad emails by just 1% can result in a drop in deliverability by 10%?
Suppose 5% of PetPeeves’ (a fictional online pet supplies store) contact list consists of bad email addresses. Increasing it by 1% would lead to a drop in deliverability by 60%. Now, if PetPeeves sent out an important list-wide legal update, a significant portion of their email list will not have received the message. Besides decreased engagement and loss of revenue, PetPeevs’ sender reputation has now officially gone to the dogs.😮
The increase in the number of bad emails may be due to various reasons, such as typographical errors, disposable addresses, inactive/abandoned accounts, role-based addresses, and so forth.
Let’s dissect each of these right off the bat. Following which, we will take a detailed look at the benefits of verification emails, how they work, when to send one, how to create a verification email, email verification examples, along with some bonus content in every section.
Table of Contents
Email Verification I: How do Email Addresses Go Bad?
Maintaining a clean email list is essential not just for effective communication but to ensure compliance with federal regulations. Neglecting the quality of email addresses in your list has legal ramifications, which can cause reputational damage to your brand.
To prevent that, it is important to understand how bad addresses can infiltrate PetPeeves’ contact list. For that, let’s see some of the ways email addresses tend to be, or can go, bad:
- Typographical Errors: Many bad email addresses result simply from typos. Misspelled domain names, incorrect top-level domains, omission of special characters, etc. are some of the common typographical errors. In fact, one in 1000 people tend to mistype their email address.
- Burner Email Addresses: Some people use burner or disposable email addresses (DEAs) to sign up for a website or a newsletter. These email addresses go bad shortly after their creation.
(Imagine someone looking to buy a bowl for their Burmese cat at a discounted price. They discover that PetPeeves is currently offering a fall sale. So they sign up to PetPeeves’ website using a burner address just to make the purchase. That done, they don’t want to hear from PetPeeves again.)
- Inactive/abandoned Accounts: Over time, people tend to stop using their email accounts. As per Zero Bounce’s latest research, 22.71% of your email list degrades annually.
- Role-based Addresses: Role-based addresses such as “email@example.com” or “firstname.lastname@example.org” may not be actively monitored and typically have very high spam complaint rates. These email addresses are often shared within an organization, instead of belonging to an individual. Also, role-based addresses generally don’t opt in to receive emails.
- Fake/invalid Email Addresses: Similar to disposable addresses, many people use fake email addresses to evade marketing messages. Alarmingly, three in five such users do not trust brands with their authentic email addresses.
In a survey conducted by Allies Computing, 73% of respondents identified evading marketing communications as the main reason behind their providing fake/invalid email addresses. Another 63% are worried that brands might share their email addresses with third parties.
- Purchasing Email Lists: Marketers often tend to purchase email lists as part of their (unethical) strategy to reach out to a broader audience. In fact, some vendors claim to offer highly-targeted email lists to marketers offering extremely niche products/services. But purchased lists usually contain invalid, outdated or non-consenting addresses.
- Outdated Data: People change jobs, switch email service providers, and abandon old email accounts, especially if one is using multiple accounts. In the absence of regular list cleaning, you will be left with outdated data, which will ultimately lead to higher bounce rates, reduced engagement, legal compliance issues, etc.
- Spam Traps: Sending emails to spam traps set up by ESPs can damage sender reputation, reduce engagement, and, in extreme cases, lead to your IP address or domain name being blacklisted.
- Domain Expiration: Email addresses rely on domains, and if the domains are not renewed, they expire, rendering all associated email addresses invalid.
In fact, research into one million domains carried out by WhoIsHostingThis.com found that a whopping 70% of web domains do not get renewed after one year. Of these, 41.22% are allowed to lapse and expire, while 28.99% are re-registered by different entities.
BONUS: Here are two additional situations that often cause email addresses to go bad.
- Full Mailbox: Users often neglect to clean up their inboxes, letting emails accumulate over time, which ultimately leads to a full mailbox. Meaning that it can’t receive any more emails. This can also happen because of large attachments which quickly gobble up an account’s storage space.
- Data Breaches: In the event of a data breach, usually in the form of phishing attacks and malware infections, a user may change their email address to protect their online identity.
It should be abundantly clear at this point that email verification is non negotiable. Let us then explore the benefits it offers, following which we will consider email verification best practices.
Email Verification II: Benefits of Verification
The immediate benefit of email verification is that it ensures a clean list and quality data. But here are 20 direct and indirect benefits of email verification. It:
1. Reduces bounce rates, increasing the chances of emails reaching the recipients’ inboxes.
2. Eliminates the cost of sending emails to invalid/non-existent addresses. (Many email service providers charge on the basis of the number of emails you send per day. They may also charge extra for handling bounced emails.)
3. Enhances sender reputation by decreasing the probability of your emails being flagged as spam.
4. Increases open rates.
5. Delivers better click-through rates (CTR).
6. Minimizes spam complaint rates.
7. Leads to better campaign results by ensuring data accuracy.
8. Enhances brand credibility.
9. Ensures proper regulatory compliance.
10. Extends the scope of personalization thanks to accurate email data.
11. Improves customer engagement.
12. Allows the creation of more targeted email lists using verified data, opening the doors for more relevant campaigns.
13. Improves customer retention.
14. Gathers additional data about subscribers, leading to more detailed, updated customer profiles.
15. Minimizes the risk of blacklisting.
16. Prevents email frauds. (Phishing emails set off a majority of cyber attacks, accounting for 91% of initial attack vectors.)
17. Leads to better ROI.
18. Allocates resources more effectively.
19. Minimizes customer support cost.
20. Provides more meaningful marketing metrics to work with.
BONUS: The benefits notwithstanding, bear in mind that you might face challenges while dealing with Internationalized Domain Names (IDN). These are domain names that contain non-ASCII characters which enable the use of different scripts and languages.
IDNs allow users to use domain names in their native languages, rendering the Web more accessible and user-friendly globally. But it’s a major obstacle to email verification. On top of that, few email verification tools can handle IDNs.
But this need not be a cause for concern just yet. IDNs represent less than 1% of the international domain name market (which stands at about 360 million domains.)
Email Verification III: How does Verification Work?
The goal of email verification is to check whether an email address entered into a system is valid and operational. PetPeeves’ system administrators will now follow these seven critical steps:
1. Syntax Check: The first step involves verifying the formatting of the email address. The basic email formatting rules include the presence of the “@” symbol, valid characters both before and after the “@” symbol, and top-level domains i.e. “.com,” “.org,” “.in,” etc.
2. Domain Verification: A DNS (Domain Name System) query is made to check whether or not the domain name exists and has valid DNS and MX (Mail Exchange) records. The latter check is used to verify if the email address is capable of receiving emails.
3. SMTP Verification: The system uses the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) to establish a connection with the email address under verification by sending a test email to the address. If the SMTP server accepts the sent email for delivery, the address is likely to be valid and operational.
4. Catch-all Check: Catch-all domains accept emails sent to any address at those domains. Hence their name. Not all verification services do a catch-all check. Whether or not you need to perform one depends on your specific goals.
5. Greylisting: When an email server runs into an unknown sender i.e. an email address it has not seen before, it temporarily rejects the email. This is known as greylisting. In the context of email verification, this means that the process has been delayed, necessitating a retry after some time.
6. Timeout Handling: Sometimes email servers are very slow to respond, or might not respond at all. Therefore, it is crucial to implement a ‘timeout mechanism’ within the verification process. In other words, set a maximum allowable time for receiving a response. If the server does not respond within the specified time, consider it as an unsuccessful attempt.
Now attempt is just the word here. Don’t assume that an unresponsive server means that the email address is invalid.
We’d recommend retrying verification using the exponential backoff strategy. Start off the process with shorter intervals between each retry and only gradually increase the time. This is because you don’t want to overload unresponsive servers.
7. Reporting: The final step involves analyzing the system-generated report and taking action on the basis of it. There are three types of results, namely Valid, Invalid, and Disposable.
But we’re still not done. Once the verification process is complete, remember to log the results for future reference. This is useful data; it can be used for fraud prevention in the future.
BONUS: Beware of over-verification. You don’t want to utilize additional resources simply to annoy users into opting out of your list. Keep the following in mind to prevent over-verification:
- Set a viable verification schedule depending on how often you carry out email list updates.
- Remember to exclude all recently verified email addresses from subsequent verifications in order to avoid redundant checks within a short period of time.
- Implement double opt-in for every new subscription to avoid additional verification checks. As you know, double opt-ins include verification.
Email Verification IV: When to Send Verification Emails?
There is no blanket answer to the question. It is context-dependent, and different scenarios call for different responses. Generally, verification is meant to authenticate the identity of an email address. So, here are some typical scenarios that necessitate verification.
- Account Registration: Whenever a user signs up for a new account on your website (or app, for that matter), you should send a verification email immediately after they have provided their registration details and clicked Sign up. This is to ensure that the email address they provided is valid and functional.
- Password Reset: Sometimes users may request a password reset, either because they no longer remember the original password or they want to secure their account by occasionally changing their login details. Again, you should send a verification email with a link to reset the password immediately after such a request is made.
- Two-factor Authentication (2FA): Some platforms offer two-factor authentication as an additional security feature. This involves authentication not via the user’s login details alone, but through a text code or a one-time password (OTP) sent to the user’s smartphone. If your platform offers 2FA, you should send a verification email whenever a user sets it up.
- Transaction Confirmation: If you are an ecommerce brand like PetPeeves, transaction confirmation is critical. Upon the completion of a purchase, send a verification email both to confirm the transaction details and to keep a record of said transaction.
- Subscription Confirmation: If a user subscribes to your newsletter, send a verification email to ensure that the user has voluntarily opted in for the subscription.
- Account Reactivation: The goal of account reactivation is to re-engage registered users who have either gone inactive or whose accounts are temporarily suspended due to intimations of suspicious activities.
Note that in these cases, a verification email is always preceded by a notification email. First notify the user that their account has been lying dormant for quite some time and that it needs to be reactivated. Then send a verification email to confirm the user’s identity and ownership of said account.
BONUS: Those were some of the common scenarios necessitating verification. But here are two additional scenarios that may require verification by email:
- Restricted Content: Some websites provide limited access to special types of content, such as articles that may contain sensitive information, or premium educational resources. Depending on the nature of the content, you may need to send a verification email to users requesting access to the same.
Email Verification V: How to Create A Verification Email?
Like any email, a verification email has three components, namely content, design, and functionality. Let us consider each of these components in detail. In our final section, we will also look at some email verification examples.
Verification Email: Content
- Subject Line: Make your subject line concise and straightforward. Don’t try to get creative here. Stick to typical subject lines such as ‘Verify your account,’ ‘Confirm your email address,’ etc.
- Welcome Message: Start your email with a warm, friendly (not necessarily chummy) greeting. Don’t jump at the purpose of the email right away. Personalize the greeting by including the recipient’s name.
- Introduction: Maintain the friendly tone while introducing the email. Explain clearly but briefly why the user is receiving this email. Always remember to mention the user action that necessitated the email.
- Verification Code or Link: This is the heart of the email, the primary call to action. Make the verification code or link prominent. Place it at the midpoint of the template. Use a bold color to accentuate the button.
- Instructions: If the verification process requires more than just entering a code or clicking a link, make sure to include a short step-by-step guide. No more than four steps.
- Expiration Time: Mention that the verification code or link expires within so many hours. Usually, it’s within 24-72 hours, but it may be sooner than that. This is mainly to encourage the recipient to take immediate action.
- Verification Benefits: In order to encourage the user, incentivize the verification process. First explain why it is important, followed by mentioning benefits such as enhanced account security, access to exclusive features, etc.
- Security and Privacy Details: Assure the recipient that their email address and other data will not be shared with any third party, and that the data will be used solely for account-related purposes.
- Customer Support Information: Toward the end of the email, include reliable, functional customer support information in the form of phone numbers or email addresses so that the user can contact the support team in case of a technical hiccup mid-verification.
- Legal Compliance: At the end of the email, ensure that your email complies with relevant legal regulations, including the CAN-SPAM act in the USA, and the GDPR in Europe.
So those were the essentials of a verification email in terms of content. Of course, a verification email may contain more information than just the bare minimum. So, as bonus content, here are three such scenarios that qualify for additional information.
- The first scenario is when you send a verification email to those users who wish to register to your platform without any specific intent.
In such cases, feel free to include attention-grabbing information highlights in the email. This could be sharing relevant pull quotes from trending blog posts, juicy snippets from expert interviews and research articles, etc. with a view to generate additional traffic from email.
- The second scenario is when you want a user to complete a transaction and clear their cart. In these cases, you may send a verification email with a shopping incentive to trigger action.
- The third scenario is when you wish to draw in more customers by promoting a referral program in your verification email. In that case, make sure to provide the user’s unique referral link. You may include a referral bonus in the form of savings, exclusive discounts, or being part of a tribe of like-minded people, and so forth.
Verification Email: Design
As far as designing a verification email is concerned, minimalism should be the overarching objective. Now note that minimalism does NOT mean not including images, brand logo, and animated GIFs. Minimalism is to be understood in the context of email accessibility, scan-ability, and navigability.
The email verification templates we share toward the end should make it crystal-clear.
To that end, make sure that the email uses ample negative space, short text, and a prominent call to action (preferably in the form of a largish button for maximum visibility.) If you wish to use animated GIFs, do not include a GIF more than once. Ensure that the GIF is not too lurid and distractive. Balance humor and context.
Use minimal images. Preferably, nothing apart from the hero image. This is because some email clients tend to block images by default. Also, a verification email is not image-dependent anyway. The hero image gives a structural/aesthetic balance to the template.
When it comes to design, the critical point is that it should be consistent with your brand. No, it’s not just about the logo. Make full use of your brand/corporate palette.
But bear in mind that the aim is not to vaunt your brand. Brand consistency is equally for the customer’s benefit in that it helps to deliver a unified experience, leading to greater trust.
Let’s look into the basic design requirements for a user-friendly verification email.
- Clear Typography: Use fonts that are readable and widely supported by email clients, such as Arial, Helvetica, and other sans serif fonts. Avoid decorative fonts.
Ensure that the text is large enough for squint-less reading. If possible, give users a font change option to make it extra comfortable for them.
Finally, maintain a high contrast between the text and the background colors to make reading easier for people with visual impairments.
- Proper Hierarchy: Present your information in the form of a proper hierarchical structure: the heading followed by a short introduction and the CTA button.
If there are instructions involved, use a bulleted list to break down the content into easily digestible chunks.
- Descriptive Links: Avoid hyperlinking generic phrases like Click Here, even if they are preceded by the necessary information. Indicate the purpose of the link and hyperlink the same.
- Alternative Text: Use alt text for your image to make sure that your email is accessible to visually-impaired users who rely on screen readers to understand email visuals.
Speaking of, ensure that your email design adheres to web accessibility regulations, such as WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) to accommodate differently-abled users.
- Responsive Design: Make sure that the email is device-optimized i.e. accessible on both desktop and handheld devices. Remember that 61% of people check their emails on phones and tablets.
- Plain Text Option: Provide a plain text email option for users who prefer a more simplified format.
Apart from these basic considerations, here are two bonus recommendations for designing an email verification template — with the caveat that these are relatively rare and not cost-friendly, and that implementation requires thorough consideration both as regards budget allocation and the scope of creative enterprising.
Note also that these features are suitable exclusively for differently-abled users who may prefer as well as require a more interactive experience.
- Voice Assistance Integration: Provide an option to trigger voice assistance within the email. Users can easily navigate the email content with the help of voice commands. This is useful for people who prefer a hands-free approach.
Bear in mind that enabling voice assistance may require adding specific HTML attributes in order to enhance accessibility.
- Haptic Feedback: You may consider including interactive elements within the email that provide haptic feedback for touch-screen devices.
This means that whenever a user hovers over the verification button or link, the device will vibrate to confirm the interaction at that point. This again is very helpful for users with visual impairments who stand to benefit from engaging physically with the digital realm.
Verification Email: Functionality
How do you ensure that the verification email you have created is functionally glitch-free? Here are some important points to keep in mind.
- Right away, triple-check the validity of the verification link. Should the link fail to work and you are notified of the same by the user, there’s two things you can do.
One, temporarily grant the user access to their account while the issue is being resolved. Two, involve your system administrators to manually verify the user’s identity.
Ensure that the communication between the user and the support team is encrypted, and keep the user informed at all levels of the manual verification process.
- Avoid too many links in your verification email. Don’t include any attachments either. This might raise suspicions in the user’s mind.
- Test your verification email on multiple email clients to ensure that it displays correctly and that the link is working as expected.
- Choose a reliable email service provider to ensure deliverability and spam prevention.
- Make your subject line as clear as possible. Let it be brief and to the point.
- Carefully proofread your email copy for typos and errors. Make your verification link or code or button prominent. It must stand out at one quick glance.
- Configure DMARC and SPF records to enhance email deliverability.
- Implement link tracking and analytics to monitor email performance in terms of open rates, click through rates, etc.
- Establish monitoring for email delivery issues with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to promptly address bugs.
- Add relevant links to support resources toward the close of the email so that users can easily contact the support team in case of an unforeseen glitch.
- You may also consider user testing in order to gather feedback on the email’s readability and clarity.
BONUS: Here are three additional email verification best practices:
- Use verification tokens as part of the entire process. When the user clicks the verification link, the token should be generated and checked against the server in order to confirm user authenticity.
- Implement throttling mechanisms to prevent abuse of the verification process. This is to ensure that no more than a specified number of verification requests may be accepted from a single IP address or user within a specific period of time.
- See to it that upon receiving a bounce notification your email system can automatically update the user account if the original email address is found to be invalid. This is to ensure that the user receives the verification email at a valid email address.
Email Verification VI: Examples of Verification Emails And Why They Work
In our last section, we look at some nice verification email examples and try to understand why these work.
- Discord’s greeting is very interesting. It’s wildly informal, informative, short, and sweet.
- The introduction combines first-person and second-person POV. The switch from ‘I’ to ‘we’ is a decent way to familiarize the new subscriber with the brand.
- The template uses just one image because a verification email is text-dependent.
- Note also the use of negative space in the email. The template is clean and easy to navigate.
- The fun fact toward the end of the email is a cool way of initiating the new subscriber into the Discord family.
- Udemy’s email is an invitation to stay on in their email list. This is just a tacit way of verifying the subscriber’s email address.
- In our section on design, we highlighted the significance of maintaining brand consistency through the use of colors. Udemy’s color scheme honors the same.
- The call to action is prominent and does not use an outworn strip. The precision intention of the email is burned into the CTA button.
- Note the clarity of the message. “5 days,” “confirm by,” for $10,” these information points are crucial.
- The email begins with a personalized greeting, which is very important, especially in the case of verification emails.
- The email provides two distinct ways of verification: via button and via link. This is to accommodate different user preferences and email client capabilities.
- The final sentence, ‘If you did not create an account using this address, please ignore,’ is crucial. Stampsy wants the user to be aware of phishing and related attacks. Explicitly reminding the user this way causes them to be more cautious while interacting with an email.
- Toward the close of the email, there are support resources and, notably, an unsubscribe option. The ball is in the recipient’s court – the hallmark of permission marketing.
- In our section on design, we insisted on minimalism as being the overarching objective of a verification email. Refind’s email is as minimal as it can get.
- Apart from the brand logo, there are no images. The text is short and rather tersely informative.
- A note on the grayscale logo: this is chiefly to ensure ESP compatibility because not all email clients render colors accurately or consistently. Besides, grayscale logos can improve the overall accessibility of the email.
- The CTA button is prominent and uses the same sentence as the subject line. Blue is also Refind’s brand color.
- The official Lyft colors are predominantly pink, black, and white. Their email uses all three.
- Like the rest of emails in this series, Lyft uses a sans serif font in their copy, thereby making the text more readable.
- The text is short and straightforward. The message is clear and precise, effectively communicating the necessary information to the recipient.
- The support team link toward the end is not a generic phrase, which is always a plus. There could easily have been a “Click Here” next to the question.
- HiyaCar relies on a rather considerable amount of text in their verification email. Is that problematic? By no means! Here’s why.
The above email is not a standalone verification email. Rather, it’s basically a profile completion email of which verification is a part. Hence the advertisement below the CTA button is not inappropriate either.
- In our section on content, we recommended including referrals in your verification email. HiyaCar does just that. The unique referral code is prominent and easily clickable. The incentive is very clearly explained as well.
- The email’s color scheme is also consistent with HiyaCar’s palette.
- Our final example is from Stacks. Besides the usual components of a verification email, Stacks provide the link expiration date.
The inclusion of an expiration date enhances the security of the verification process. If the recipient’s email is intercepted, a never-expiring link will make it all the more vulnerable. The limited window puts a restraint on unauthorized access.
- Stacks’ brand colors are chiefly blue, purple, black, and white. Emails from Stacks tend to have a dark-themed design with a vivid hero image. Their verification email, however, is a striking departure from the norm. It’s minimal and fuss-free.
- It’s a double opt-in, so a phrase like ‘You’re nearly there!’ is helpful in that it motivates and reassures the new subscriber that the verification process is almost complete.
- Like Stampsy, Stacks’ verification message responsibly concludes with a negative conditional to alert the recipient to potential bad actors.
The importance of verification emails is non negotiable. They bolster trust, ensure compliance, and enhance security.
In our omnibus guide, we tried to explore every nook and cranny of verification emails. If we missed anything, feel free to enlighten us in the comments section below.