Email List Validation Versus Email List Verification

There are many articles referencing the difference between email list validation versus email list verification and it’s quite confusing. I have written at least 10 articles on the topic so far myself. This article breaks down the words, the history and the reasons as to why both words are thrown around in the email marketing world. This article could save you thousands by understanding what you are buying. Here are both words and their English meanings:


Validation, according to is, “…the action of checking or proving the validity or accuracy of something…”


Verification, according to is, “…the process of establishing the truth, accuracy, or validity of something…”

As you can see, both words mean almost exactly the same. Here’s what happened. 15 years ago, the first company that offered email list hygiene had no real name for it other than data cleansing or email cleaning (or email list hygiene). When I started cleaning, the only word I ever heard was “validation”. In example, people would ask me, “Do you validate the email by checking the mx record?” This was the first form of email list cleaning (mx record checking) in our industry.

MX checking was the industry standard until spam fighters started using bounces as traps. They (the ISP’s) would activate old and/or deleted accounts and judge the IP/domain (incoming) on merit of being verified. Hygiene companies quickly adopted the term “verification” due to this dilemma. We started receiving calls from customers asking, “Do you do verification by removing bounces?” This process was more difficult to do without actually sending information to the email thus required an actual SMTP handshake.

Verification was, in effect, 100% bounce removal. As a bonus, many hygiene companies would remove other things like traps, complainers, bots and seeds, which actually became validation + verification. Verification companies versus validation companies had a much bigger problem, however. In order to verify if the email is real, they had to throw as many IPs and domains at their system because of how fast the ISP would block them. It was extremely expensive.

For example, cables (AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo and the like) only allow a certain amount of emails from outside networks per hour or day. Each one is different. If a client wants to verify 10 million records, as an example, and you could only get 3,000 emails into AOL per 24 hours, it would take months to complete or lots of funds to get done sooner. This made verification way more expensive in the past.

So sum up, both terms mean exactly the same thing. If you are looking to clean up your email marketing list, there are certain questions you should ask. 1.) How do you remove the bounces and 2.) where do you get your traps? The hygiene company should be able to answer the bounce question by talking about the interaction they do with the postmaster. Whether it’s sending a blank email, an advertisement or a handshake pull-away doesn’t matter. What matters is how effective are they and you can test this by random sampling. As for traps, I am saving that for my next article. Stay tuned!

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