Posts Tagged ‘Email Validation’

Your Contact Data Doesn’t Keep Fresh Very Long

Your company’s revenue most likely depends on having accurate, genuine and up-to-date contact data. In fact, this is probably one of the biggest factors in the overall ROI of your contact database. In light of this, it is essential to have a clear understanding of how and why contact data decays – and more importantly, what you can do about it.

Contact data decay: a fact of life

A widely held figure nowadays is that business contact databases decay at a rate of about 30% per year on average. And much of this decay takes place for reasons that you have no control over. For example, look at some of the things that can happen with B2B contact data alone:

  • People move and change jobs
  • Contacts get promoted to new responsibilities
  • Your contact’s organization moved to a new headquarters across town
  • Life goes on and contacts get married, change careers or retire
  • Corporate changes such as layoffs or downsizing impact your active contacts
  • Product lines or service areas change or become obsolete
  • Even when people’s jobs stay the same, their phone numbers or email addresses change

And when you look at marketing to consumers, issues such as data privacy compliance and business reputation come into play as well. That phone number you contacted for your last marketing campaign may have opted in at one point, but now it has changed hands to a new wireless user who didn’t give you permission to contact them – and now you have run afoul of the US Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), with liability for stiff fines. And then there is the question of reputational damage from using outdated contact data – no one likes to receive unsolicited marketing messages.

This means that good data hygiene is no longer an option for companies of any size. Aside from risks such as compliance penalties and reputational damage, data decay has a real competitive impact on the return on your marketing efforts: for example, in 2017 the ROI of email marketing alone was $41 per $1 spent, with other channels such as mobile marketing also in double digits.

Today’s contact data needs to be seen for what it is: a perishable asset that requires regular maintenance.

Managing changes in contact data

Thankfully automated validation tools can help make solving contact data decay a regular part of your business process. Here are some of the options that you have with our products:

  • Individual component validation products such as DOTS Address Validation, DOTS Email Validation and DOTS GeoPhone can validate component contact information and verify that it is still accurate.
  • Bundled validation tools such as DOTS Lead Validation cross-validates and corrects your contact data against numerous data points, returning a quantitative confidence score that alerts you to changes in this data.
  • For important contacts that you wish to maintain correspondence with, our USPS-approved DOTS NCOA Live product links with official change-of-address data to keep your contact addresses up to date.

Our data quality tools are available through API interfaces that integrate directly with popular CRM and marketing automation platforms, as well as through cloud connectors, batch list processing and quick lookup options. Want to learn more about how to solve your own specific contact data issues? Our knowledgeable data quality professionals are happy to help: contact us anytime for a friendly, no-pressure consultation.

Our Top 5 Blog Posts of 2019

We love educating our clients. And we did quite a bit of it in 2019, with over 100 blog posts. Our blog, featuring informative articles and detailed user tips, is one of the most popular features of the Service Objects website. That is probably why you are reading this now!

We are also closing out a great year that includes the milestones of over 3 billion contact records validated since our 2001 founding, and over 2800 customers including industry leaders such as Amazon, Microsoft, Verizon, major credit card providers and many more. We are proud of 18 straight years of over 99% reliability, and even more proud of our commitment to the environment, ranging from saving nearly 200 million pounds of paper to supporting reforestation efforts in our native California.

As we wrap up this year, let’s take a look back the five of most popular of our fact-filled blog posts. Here are some of the articles that you found most useful in 2019:

Mailing Address vs Physical Address: What’s the Difference? Not every physical location is a valid postal address: in fact, in the United States, there are even cases where your mail is delivered from another state! Not to mention non-postal addresses used by shipping services, private mailboxes, and more. This detailed article by senior software engineer, Emanuel Fuentes, breaks this all down for you.

Reverse-Phone Look-Up: A Deep Dive. Telephone contact data has a great deal of associated data that can be important for applications ranging from TCPA compliance to marketing efforts. Our products can provide information about a phone number including carrier, porting status, line type, and user contact data. Jonas Shaefer, our Director of Engineering, walks you through the various options available.

A Brief Look at the Journey of an Email Message. Ask most people how an email message gets from point A to point B and they will probably have no idea. In reality, emails follow a multi-step process involving mail servers, communications protocols, subservices and much more. This post provides an overview of email delivery, and sheds light on many of the acronyms and processes involved in sending and receiving email messages.

Lead Scoring: How It Fits in with Marketing Automation. Marketing with a database full of bad leads is a little like believing you are rich because you still have more checks. In this article, our Director of Marketing, Carolyn Healey, provides a seasoned marketer’s perspective on how testing the data quality of your contact leads needs to be an essential part of every campaign.

Choosing a Web API: REST, Remote Procedural Call or Hybrid. No top 5 list of articles from Service Objects would be complete without giving credit to all the great technical information we provide to fellow programmers working with our products. This article goes into detail about the mechanics of making the API calls that are at the heart of implementing most Service Objects services.

Lots more good information will be coming your way from our team in 2020, and we truly enjoy sharing our knowledge and market perspectives with you, our customers and followers. We look forward to connecting with you from here, and want to wish all of you a happy holiday season and a prosperous new year.

The Most Common Types of Bad Leads (And How We Help Detect and Correct Them)

How big of a problem are bad leads? According to recent figures from various sources, bad data costs American businesses over $3 trillion dollars per year, and over 10% of revenues for many of them. But many of these losses are preventable with proper data hygiene.

This article looks at some of the most frequent issues with marketing leads in your contact database, together with what kinds of automated solutions are available to address them.

Where bad leads come from

One of the most important things to understand about bad leads is that no matter how careful you are about data entry – or qualifying leads on the front end – bad leads are still a fact of life for any contact database.

Here are some of the more common problems you will encounter.

Bogus leads: For as long as lead generation has existed, there will always be people who want the goodies you offer, but don’t want to be on your marketing list – for example, window shoppers, competitors, or people who aren’t in your market. Using our comprehensive DOTS Lead Validation product, you can use both our confidence and quality score to determine which leads are viable, actionable leads.  We also have individual validation tools for specific contact record fields, like:

  • mailing address
  • email address
  • phone number
  • first and last names (detect celebrity, vulgar and garbage)

Incomplete leads: Depending on your intake process, leads may be missing critical data for subsequent marketing efforts, such as phone numbers or email addresses. Our DOTS Lead Enhancement products are designed to verify and append contacts’ USPS-certified addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and names, for your leads, and for specific telemarketing applications, DOTS Phone Append can search and append business and consumer phone numbers while identifying the line type.

Data decay: The one constant in life is change, and this is particularly true for business leads. Nearly a quarter of your leads go bad every year due to moves, job changes, new contact information, or other causes. Lead Validation not only checks the accuracy but the consistency of lead data, to help ensure accurate and up-to-date contact information.

Business versus residential: Suppose you are selling an expensive B2B solution, and your lead is a student in a dorm room who ordered your latest report for a class project and will never buy. Lead Validation can check whether a lead has a business or residential address, and weight the lead score appropriately. You can even cater your business logic to harshly grade a residential lead address, helping make better business decisions before your sales team even picks up the phone.

Duplicate leads: Someone signs up for your list as in two different places with slight variations in their address. Or they enter their address with the suite number in different places. Or they simply sign up multiple times. Our flagship DOTS Address Validation products will verify and standardize address data to make removing duplicates a snap.  This blog does a great job of describing how to use the USPS’ barcode to detect duplicates.

Potential fraud: Some leads have potential red flags that raise caution – for example, a domestic street address and an IP address from a known high-risk country, or a disposable or bot email address. Lead Validation detects each of these cases, and factors them into our assessment of lead quality.

In addition to these situations, some of the more important cases of bad leads are found by cross-referencing what may be individually good data: for instance, a name or address doesn’t match the lead’s phone record. Lead Validation checks over 130 data points as part of assessing a quantitative lead quality score between 0 and 100.

Bad leads: a solvable problem

The good news about bad leads is that you can manage this problem as a business process, with the help of a little automation. By combining good data entry and data hygiene practices with API-based tools that integrate directly with your marketing automation and CRM platforms, you can avoid many of the cost, manpower and regulatory compliance issues that spring from bad contact data.

Want to learn more? Download our free whitepaper Marketing with Bad Contact Data: A Recipe for Disaster, or contact us anytime.

‘Tis the Season: The Importance of Email Validation for the Holidays

People will always debate whether stores put out their holiday merchandise too soon. (Not all of you like being reminded that the holidays are just around the corner!) But we can all agree on one thing: it is never too early to make sure that your email contact list is genuine, accurate and ready for your holiday marketing campaigns.

From Black Friday and Cyber Monday all the way to the end of the year, the holidays are the busiest season by far for many businesses, particularly retailers.

According to recent 2018 statistics, as much as 30% of their sales take place over the holiday period, with total holiday retail sales climbing over the US$1 trillion mark for the first time last year – and nearly a quarter of these sales were generated through email marketing.

As the holidays approach, email validation plays a vital role in communicating with your customers and prospects. It impacts customer service issues, order confirmation, promotional marketing campaigns and sales efforts. Let’s look at some of the ways it can help make your holiday business season a success.

What email validation can do for you

When you use our DOTS Email Validation product with your email contact list, here are some of the things it will do for your holiday marketing and customer contact efforts:

Make sure your contacts are real contacts. We screen for obviously fake email addresses, so they don’t become part of your marketing contact list forever. These checks include bogus addresses, invalid domains, garbage and vulgar names, and more.

Fix common errors. With our automated syntax and error correction capabilities, you won’t lose a valuable contact because they did things like leaving off the “.com” or misspelling Gmail.

Ensure deliverability. This capability sets our email validation apart from most of the industry: we have the ability to make sure your email addresses work. In short, we check to make sure the email server AND address is able to receive email. This also includes checks for blacklists, known greylisters, invalid DNS records, and more.

Keep the bad guys out. Not every email contact has the best of intentions, and the busy holidays are classically the peak season for retail fraud. Still others steal your time by being known spammers or bots. We check for suspicious email addresses that are bogus, disposable, or known bad actors, so you can take corrective action ahead of time.

Protect your sender reputation. Even when you are careful about obtaining your email contacts in the first place, you are at risk of sending emails that could get you blacklisted from ISPs or run afoul of the CAN-SPAM Act against unsolicited commercial email – because you have little control over what a contact enters. We warn you about addresses that are known spam traps, honeypots, and role email addresses (read more about the importance of identifying role addresses from our blog, Email Marketing Tip: Dealing With Role Addresses).

Save time and money. Above all, email validation helps you market cost-effectively to a cleaner list, reducing bounce rates by up to 90 percent and making sure your message gets through to more contacts, which ultimately drives more revenue.

Taking a best practice approach to data quality at the holidays

Email validation is an essential part of your data hygiene strategy, particularly during the busy holiday retail season. Moreover, since email contact information is constantly changing, it is important to validate these email addresses at both the time of data entry and each time you run a campaign.

We make this easy for you by checking your email against over 50 proprietary tests and returning an easy-to-interpret quality score from 0 to 4, as well as specific details on the results. And our API interfaces allow you to implement email validation directly in most popular CRM and marketing automation platforms.

Want to learn more about how email validation can make your holiday season more profitable? Download our free whitepaper The ROI of Real-Time Email Validation to learn more, or contact us for a free consultation on your own specific email marketing situation.

How Does TLS Impact Marketing?

We all know that paying attention to email security can protect sensitive information from prying eyes. But if you do email marketing, did you know that it can also improve your open and response rates as well?

Transport Layer Security, or TLS for short, is a relatively new security standard for email. It is the successor to the previous Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) standard familiar to many. In a previous blog article, we examined the security implications of TLS for email privacy. Here, we will take a deeper look at how it can affect your marketing as well.

TLS, email security and open rates

TLS is optional for people to use, and years ago, according to this article, at first people only used it when there were privacy concerns about the contents: for example, when the client wants to receive only encrypted emails. But it goes on to point out that today, there is an even bigger reason for marketers to use TLS encryption: open rates.

As an example, Google’s Gmail flags the security settings of your email for all to see. When you are the sender, choosing recipients who are not using TLS security will cause a red, unlocked “padlock” icon to be displayed in the upper right-hand corner of your compose screen. More importantly, when you aren’t using TLS, your email is shown with a similarly broken padlock, and your sender ID is displayed with a big, red question mark next to it.


So why does this matter – especially if you aren’t sending things like people’s account numbers or the top-secret plans for the next Space Shuttle? Appearances, pure and simple. Would you open an email from someone being flagged as “suspicious”? This source notes that even though TLS requires bandwidth and isn’t a perfect, foolproof solution for security, marketers are often concerned nowadays about how their emails appear to the recipient, and a broken red padlock isn’t exactly reassuring.

In a blog post announcing these changes, Google itself is far from comforting for recipients, noting that “Not all affected email will necessarily be dangerous. But we encourage you to be extra careful about replying to, or clicking on links in messages that you’re not sure about.” Ultimately, you want your outbound email marketing messages to pass Google’s security checks so that the percentage getting opened is as high as possible.

What you should do, and how we can help

As a marketer, this means that you should determine if the email address you are sending to supports TLS, and how you can use this additional security measure in marketing efforts to your advantage. Specifically, you want to make sure that you are sending TLS encrypted messages to recipients using TLS servers, so you get the security stamp of approval.  At the very least, you want to track and understand the impact on open rates for emails that are flagged as not secure.

So how do you determine whether an email address on your list uses TLS or not? Our DOTS Email Validation tool can come to your rescue here – it returns a Notes code letting you know whether the recipient’s email server supports TLS connections for encrypted email communication. Plus you get all the other benefits of email validation, including verifying and correcting addresses, as well as flagging spam traps, honeypots, known spammers and bogus addresses. Want to learn more? We’re always happy to help.

Tackling False Positives in Email Validation

What is a false positive? In email validation, this term is used when an email address is incorrectly identified as being valid or deliverable – in other words, it is flagged as being good when it is actually bad.

False positives are dangerous for senders, marketers especially because sending messages to a bad email address can ruin a sender’s reputation and possibly even get them blacklisted. It’s best to correctly identify email addresses before sending out messages to help ensure that you don’t get penalized for sending messages to bad email addresses.

What causes false positives in Email Validation?

The DOTS Email Validation service offers real-time validation and verification of email addresses. Email verification is handled by directly communicating with an email address’ host mail server(s) via Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP). SMTP, to put it simply, provides the rules and guidelines for how mail servers and clients should communicate and behave when sending mail.

SMTP is older than the internet as we know it and it precedes the World Wide Web HTTP protocol by almost ten years. At the time of its inception its inventors probably never dreamed that it would be abused by malicious users and overwhelming spam. If they did then they probably never would have created SMTP commands like EXPN and VRFY.

These SMTP commands are considered vulnerabilities, as they are intended to list and verify user mailboxes; however, since they are seen as vulnerabilities most mail servers provide a way to disable them: some like Microsoft Exchange come with them disabled by default, and others will simply return a false positive . Even though the RFC specifically states, “EXPN and VRFY MUST return only valid domain addresses that are usable in SMTP RCPT commands”, it is not uncommon to see these commands return false positives. These are some of the reasons why the Email Validation service does not use or rely on these SMTP commands when trying to validate an email address.

The most common cause for false positives comes from servers that are configured to not reject recipient requests for an email address that does not exist. Simply put, the server will not reject a bad email address and it will instead say that the email is good. At Service Objects, we ubiquitously refer to this as a catch-all domain.

Catch-all behavior

This type of behavior was commonly seen by domains that enabled catch-all or accept-all email accounts. The feature was primarily intended to be used as a way for someone to never miss an email address. Before the days of spam, when email addresses were a new concept, people didn’t want to risk losing an email message because someone forgot how to spell their mailbox or if someone accidentally mistyped it. It didn’t take long, however, before these catch-alls started getting filled with spam, making them near unusable.

However, catch-all behavior gained popularity by admins in an attempt to thwart bots from mining and spamming their users. The reasoning was likely that if a bot could not trust the results being returned by the server then the bot would be forced to move on, and the mailboxes of the domain’s users would be protected.

Unfortunately, malicious users and bots generally don’t care about catch-all behavior, and this practice instead creates other problems, such as helping spammers generate backscatter spam. Backscatter generally occurs when the recipient server does not reject a bad email address and instead bounces it back to the sender. The sender, however, is forged or spoofed by a malicious user and so the unsuspecting sender is now the victim of the unsolicited spam. Backscatter spam also leads to other issues, such as excessive bandwidth, but to not get too sidetracked we’ll perhaps dedicate a blog to backscatter spam at a later time.

Anti-spam solutions

Some mail servers are protected by anti-spam solutions. These solutions are sometimes included in firewall(s) or in mail server(s) or are proprietary to the mail host provider. Solutions can vary in sophistication. Most solutions will incorporate filters and blacklists to try and identify spam and spammers; however, unless the spammer is blacklisted then many of these types of solutions will not reject the bad email address – leading to a false positive. The mail server will likely also bounce the message back to the sender instead (helping to generate backscatter spam).

Not all anti-spam solutions are configured to always accept all requests, however. Some anti-spam solutions may be configured to instead temporarily reject all requests from spam-like activity. This is the opposite of false positives and can instead lead to false negatives.

Other solutions may instead temporarily act as a catch-all when they encounter spam-like activity: behaving normally and rejecting email requests at first, but then switching to catch-all mode temporarily and without warning and then eventually switching back to normal mode. The flapping in behavior can make verification difficult, because if the sender does not know what mode the recipient domain is in, then it can lead to false positives.

How Email Validation can help

According to a recent analysis from Statista, “Spam messages accounted for 56 percent of e-mail traffic in March 2019” and moreover, “China generated the largest share of unsolicited spam e-mails with 15 percent of global spam volume”. With so much spam being thrown around it is not difficult to understand why the overall tolerance for spam-like activity it is so low.

Sure, a single false-positive leading to one bad email message being bounced may not be enough to ruin your sender reputation or get you blacklisted, but for marketers who blast millions of messages for email campaigns, a false-positive here and there can quickly lead to hundreds and thousands if not tens of thousands of false positives.

With how important email communication is nowadays, and the benefits that it brings to marketers, can you afford to get blacklisted? Don’t take the chance and minimize your risk by using a service like Email Validation. Our Email Validation service is highly adept at identifying both false positives and false negatives. Our service has years of experience and data behind it to help identify various server behaviors and patterns.

Oh No, You’ve Been (Email) Blacklisted! Now What?

Blacklisting is the email equivalent of being put on Santa’s naughty list. Except the consequences can be much worse than not getting presents: it can keep your business’ emails from getting through to clients, prospects and others. This article will show you how to tell if you’ve been blacklisted, and what you can do about it.

Why good people get on email blacklists

So how did you get on a blacklist in the first place? If it is because you are an incorrigible spammer, well then. But most people reading this article are actually innocent victims of other people’s actions, or make common rookie mistakes. Here are some of the most common reasons you might end up on a blacklist:

Your IP or server was blacklisted. This can happen if spam or excessive activity is detected from your email server. This can particularly be an issue for small businesses using shared hosting, where multiple clients share the same email server and anyone’s behavior could potentially affect your ability to send.

Someone hacked your account. If someone surreptitiously gains access to your account, whether through malware or fakery, they may use your account to send unsolicited email to others. Worse, if the hackers can access your contact list, they may spam your contacts to give their messages the seeming legitimacy of coming from you.

You emailed a spam trap. This is often an issue for people who rent third-party lists, or aren’t as cautious as they should be about acquiring email leads. Spam traps or “honeypots” are email addresses set up for the express purpose of attracting spam messages – they belong to no one, and would have no reason to receive mail otherwise. Send mail to these addresses, and you will be blacklisted. (Note that our DOTS Email Validation product checks your email lists for known traps like these, and is highly recommended for validating and cleaning your email leads.)

You sound too spammy. Even if you aren’t an actual spammer, you could possibly get blacklisted for sounding like one: for example, watch out for breathless subject lines using lots of capital letters, exclamation points and spam catch phrases – here is a good style guide from email vendor Benchmark. You can also get the wrong kind of attention with spammy behaviors such as flooding a recipient’s server with large amounts of email at once.

How can I tell if we are on an email blacklist?

There are numerous online tools such as this one, where you can enter your IP address to checked against major blacklists. Your hosting provider may also offer a blacklist checking tool. Note that there are well over 100 blacklists, and some are much more critical to your email marketing than others.

This article from server support firm rackAID profiles some of the more important ones, which generally fall into one of the following areas:

  • Reputation-based lists: Lists such as SenderScore block messages from IPs based on their accumulated scored reputations for spam-based behavior, plus an evaluation of the email itself.
  • Spam trap-based lists: These include the Spamhaus Block List (SBL), Spamcop, the Barracuda anti-spam list and the Passive Spam Block List (PSBL), all of which are at least partially triggered by sending email to spam traps.
  • Behavior-based lists: The Composite Blocking List (CBL) and the Exploits Block List (XBL) from Spamhaus block IPs based on known spammer behaviors such as dictionary attacks, open proxies or hijacked IP addresses.

Annoyingly, individual organizations may blacklist you as well as a result of perceived spam activity. Usually you will get informed about this when you try to email their domain, with instructions for how to get reinstated.

OK, so how do we get off these email blacklists?

The short form answer is “it depends.” Or, more accurately, visit the website of the offending blacklist and follow their instructions for removal.

In many cases, getting removed from a blacklist is as simple as asking. In other cases, you may need to make sure that the triggering behavior stops first. And in more rare cases, such as reputation-based blacklists, you can’t directly ask to be removed, other than by improving your reputation score over time. No matter what the process is, it will, of course, be important to take care of the problems that originally put you on these blacklists.

Getting on an email blacklist can be costly, but usually not permanent, if you are acting in good faith. In most cases, if you aren’t grossly at fault, getting life back to normal should be relatively straightforward. And remember that we can help you create an email data quality strategy for staying off of these lists in the first place – our technical team is happy to consult with you anytime.

TLS and Email Security: An Overview

Many people don’t realize that when you send an email, its contents are often unencrypted – and in turn, vulnerable to being seen and intercepted by others. This may be fine if you are sending recipes or plans for the weekend to your friends, but many businesses want a more secure solution for communicating with their clients, prospects and other stakeholders. Moreover, a number of well-publicized email hacking incidents over the past few years have put email security in the spotlight.

Thankfully there are numerous solutions that can be put to use to protect your emails. This article looks at how one common solution, the TLS protocol, can be used as part of your email privacy and security efforts.

What is TLS?

Transport Layer Security, or TLS for short, is a network security protocol implemented across most major web browsers and many email servers. It is the successor to Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), a now-deprecated approach used from the earliest days of the Internet to secure web traffic.

What is the advantage of TLS? It is an easy, seamless way to send secure emails WITHOUT making the recipient do anything. Many email security solutions are “walled gardens” requiring action on the part of the recipient to get at your email. But when you enable TLS encryption for your outgoing emails – and the recipients are set up to receive TLS-encrypted emails, which is the case for approximately 80% of emails sent today – emails are automatically encrypted until they are opened and read by the recipient.

Originally developed by Netscape engineers, TLS has evolved considerably since its first specification in the late 1990s, with its latest 1.3 version now in the process of rolling out. It is maintained as a public standard through the Internet Engineering Task Force standards body via its RFC (Request for Comments) process. Most browsers and mail servers currently support at least its current 1.2 level of functionality, considered a minimum requirement for effective data security nowadays.

Putting TLS to work

TLS encryption is normally a function of your outbound email platform: for example, this article describes how TLS encryption is used with Microsoft’s Exchange Server platform for business.

Since TLS encryption requires the cooperation of both the sending and receiving mail servers, there are basically two ways to implement it with your outgoing emails: so-called “opportunistic” versus “forced” or “mandated” TLS.

In the case of opportunistic TLS, the recipient’s server is checked for TLS capabilities, and if there is a match, the message is sent encrypted – otherwise, it is sent unencrypted. Be aware that in the case of opportunistic TLS, there is no guarantee that the message will be encrypted.

With forced TLS, the message is not delivered unless TLS is supported.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a government standards body, publishes guidelines for the use of Transport Layer Security in encrypting data “in motion” between systems. Note that there may also be compliance implications for the security of data “at rest,” e.g. once it is resident on the recipient’s system.

How we can help

TLS only encrypts emails when BOTH the sender and the recipient are using TLS. Thankfully, there is a tool for checking this: our DOTS Email Validation product returns a Note Code value of 16 in cases where the recipient supports email encryption vial TLS. This allows you to choose whether or not to send encrypted emails to this recipient.

Note that TLS verification alone may not suffice for high-security or compliance applications: for example, a positive TLS reading from Email Validation may mean that the receiver’s email front end (such as their spam filter) uses TLS, but does not guarantee that emails remain encrypted all the way to reaching the recipient – nor that it remains encrypted when the data is “at rest.”

So for some mission-critical applications – such as HIPAA compliance or sensitive financial data – you may need to consider more bulletproof solutions such as a secure email portal, a dedicated encryption service, or verification of end-to-end encryption for specific recipients (such as communications between two banks).

That said, many organizations do not need to go to the expense of a dedicated encryption solution, or cannot afford to put roadblocks such as a dedicated portal between their emails and their customers – particularly for applications such as sales and marketing. If this is the case for your business, TLS encryption can represent an easy, real-time way to keep your outgoing email as secure as your recipients will allow. And with our Email Validation product, TLS verification comes bundled as part of a unified strategy to help ensure the quality of your email contact data.

A Brief Look at the Journey of an Email Message

How do emails actually get from point A to point B?

Most people have no idea. They don’t stop to wonder how an email message is sent and delivered when clicking the send button. If you were to ask them they might reply with,  “Of course, it’s simple. It gets sent to the cloud.”

But an answer like “the cloud” is only part of the overall journey. For most, how an email address is sent is simply techno-wizardry magic, and the details don’t really matter to most people. It only matters that the email message is delivered, and how that happens is not important to them. The purpose of this article is to show you what really happens with an email message.

How Email Works

Details matter to us, but we understand that not everyone likes or needs to get bogged down by them. If you were to search for “How Email Works” then you would find a variety of articles ranging in detail and complexity. The path of how an email message is sent is often summarized in graphics and flow diagrams, with one of the simplest ones shown below.

This diagram, which reads left-to-right, shows the journey of email messages broken into five parts. Please keep in mind that it is not complete and that it fails to cover a couple of scenarios, but overall it is a good starting point. We will add some more details and cover some common scenarios as we move along.

  1. To start, a sender sends an email message. The sender will do this using an email client, which is sometimes referred to as a Mail User Agent (MUA). This can be an application running on the sender’s desktop or mobile device.
  2. The Sender’s MUA will establish an SMTP connection with their Mail Server, and that server will, in turn, relay the message to the recipient Mail Server.
  3. The Sender’s Mail Server then queries the Recipient’s Mail Server and routes a connection to it.
  4. The Sender’s Mail Server establishes a connection with the Recipient’s Mail Server and transmits the email message.
  5. The Recipient Mail server receives and stores the email message so that the recipient MUA may retrieve it via POP or IMAP.

These five steps are about as basic as one can get in describing the journey of an email message. The main takeaway from this flow diagram and others like it is that it establishes that communication is occurring between mail servers. Mail servers communicate using the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP). This protocol dictates how mail servers are supposed to behave and send messages to one another.

However, not all mail servers are entirely compliant. Large service providers such as Microsoft, Yahoo and Gmail will likely have their own specialized systems in place for handling internal message communication over their vast networks. Even small businesses with only a few or even just one mail server may configure their networks and mail server(s) in a way that is not fully compliant. However, when it comes to external communication between mail servers, they are not expected to stray too far off from SMTP, as this can easily cause a breakdown in communication.

The Mail Server

Mail servers host the environment for one or more domains as well as the user mailboxes for those domains. They are responsible for sending and receiving email messages, and they are often made up of multiple agents that work together in order to accomplish this:

  • Mail Transfer Agent (MTA) – Is responsible for transferring email messages, often referred to as the either the SMTP Server, Mail Exchange or Mail Relay. Commonly communicates over port 25.
  • Mail Submission Agent (MSA) – Is responsible for communicating with the MUA and handing the email messages to the MTA for delivery. Commonly communicates over port 587.
  • Mail Delivery Agent (MDA) – Is responsible for delivering email messages to the local recipient’s mailbox and is also known as the Local Delivery Agent (LDA).

These agents work together to receive and deliver email messages for their users. Collectively they are considered the Mail Server, but some MTAs will include MDAs and some of the functions of the MSA. Therefore, it is not uncommon for MTAs, in general, to be referred to as the Mail Server.

Local Mail Delivery

In the diagram above we see the path that an email message takes when it is sent to a recipient with the same domain as the sender.

This sender still sends an email message using an MUA that connects to the mail server. Standard connection ports are port 587 and port 25; however, some mail servers may specify their own particular ports and/or require an encrypted connection for security. The MUA connects with the MSA to authenticate the Sender as a user of one of the domains that are hosted on the mail server.

The MSA then receives the email message from the Sender MUA and checks that it conforms to enforced policies. It then delivers the message to the MTA for transmission. Since the recipient domain is the same as the sender, the MTA does not have to communicate with another MTA. Instead, the MDA will handle the delivery to the recipient’s mailbox, where the Recipient MUA is then able to retrieve the message.

Sending External Mail

External mail delivery works similarly to local mail delivery. The sender MUA connects to its mail server where it is authenticated by the MSA. The MSA then receives the email message and passes it on to the MTA.

This is the point where external mail transmission will traditionally differ from local mail delivery. Instead of the MDA delivering the email message, it will be the Sender MTA that will transmit the message to the recipient MTA. It typically does this by querying a Domain Name Server (DNS) for a domain’s Mail Exchange (MX) records. An MX record is used to identify a domain’s mail server. Some domains may have more than one MX record and if so, then multiple records will be returned. Each record is assigned a preference number to prioritize which mail server would be preferred for a connection.

Receiving External Mail

When an MTA receives external mail, the overall process is generally the same as local mail delivery with the exception that the MSA is omitted from the process. This is because the MSA is responsible for communicating with the MUA only. When receiving external mail, the messages are coming from another MTA, commonly on port 25.

Some mail servers and networks are protected by firewalls and anti-spam systems.

Protected Networks

This diagram is an example of what external mail from another MTA to a protected system may look like. In this case a firewall with built-in spam protection.

Firewalls can protect mail servers in various ways. Firewalls are commonly used to block unwanted IP connections and often make use of various blacklists to do so. Ones with built-in spam protection often check for known spammers, and some will inspect the contents of the email message for known malicious links, domains, attachments and various other embedded objects. Spamming techniques are becoming more sophisticated and problematic. Therefore, protection methods are also evolving and becoming more sophisticated as well.

Microsoft, for instance, has developed its own protection service called Exchange Online Protection, and describes it as such, “Microsoft Exchange Online Protection (EOP) is a cloud-based email filtering service that helps protect your organization against spam and malware, and includes features to safeguard your organization from messaging-policy violations.”

The Microsoft EOP Overview page does a good job of explaining how their system works and is comparable to what one can expect from protected mail servers. In their case, they use three distinct levels of filtering: first, a check of the sender’s reputation, followed by subsequent checks against common mail flow rules, as well as, content often found in spam. Messages that pass all three levels of checks are then delivered.

How EOP Works

Piecing it Together

Now that we have gone over some of the basics of email delivery and reception, let’s put the pieces together.

Comparing this diagram with the five-step diagram at the beginning, we have:

  1. Sender MUA sending the email message.
  2. Mail Server, which is comprised of the MSA and MTA.
  3. DNS and Internet Cloud.
  4. Firewall/Anti-Spam protection and Mail Server, which is comprised of the MTA and MDA.
  5. Recipient MUA retrieving the email message.

Again, this is a very basic look at how email is sent and received. We have not gone into details for each step or the underlying protocols, we have barely mentioned security and encryption, and we have not gone over any of the large-scale email service provider systems. So, while the path of sending an email message can essentially be broken into five steps, the overall journey is actually much longer and more complicated. There is a lot that can go wrong, and if you are working on any kind of email marketing campaigns, you want to make sure that you use a validation system that knows its way around.

Email Validation: To Correct or Not to Correct?

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a service where you could enter an email address, and it would be validated and automatically corrected when an error was found?

The good news is that this service already exists: we do have email correction embedded in our DOTS Email Validation service. However, it is turned off by default. Turning it on is as simple as setting the service’s ‘AllowCorrections’ input value to true. But there are good reasons you might not want to do this. This blog will examine when you should consider automatic email correction, and when you shouldn’t.

The pros and cons of email correction

Of course, the idea of email correction sounds and seems simple enough. In this day and age of auto-correct, why would you not want to correct? But like auto-correct on your phone, when it gets it wrong, the outcomes can range from hilarious to frustrating.  With email address correction, getting it wrong can have far more expensive outcomes, from inefficiencies to expensive penalties. To help avoid these outcomes, it is best to focus on how your email addresses are collected, how you plan to use them and ultimately if allowing email addresses to be corrected makes sense for your needs.

Correcting email addresses

First, it is important to understand that when we talk about email corrections, we are generally talking about the domain portion of the email address – the part after the @ symbol.  The alphanumeric characters before the @ symbol are usually left untouched.

With that understanding, what kind of corrections can be expected from our Email Validation service when the ‘AllowCorrections’ input field is set to true? This question gets to the heart of why we added this functionality in the first place.

Before we added the option to correct emails, our clients would ask us why we are not able to fix basic typos, like ‘’ corrected to ‘’.  On the surface that seems like a reasonable request, and depending on what your user base looks like, you may want these kinds of corrections.

On the other hand, you may also want “” email addresses corrected to “”. There is a problem here though: “” is a legitimate domain and changing the domain to ‘’ would be taking a legitimate address and ‘correcting’ it to a bad or incorrect address.

Collecting email addresses

The two most common scenarios for collecting email addresses are; real-time collecting of email addresses through data entry forms, like a web registration form, versus importing or using existing email lists. In the latter case, these emails have already been previously collected or purchased and are stored in your CRM or marketing database. Using these two common scenarios, we can deduce how best to handle most situations where email validation and correction is deployed.

When to allow email address corrections

Setting ‘AllowCorrections’ to equal true is ideal to use as a suggestion for corrections on real-time forms.  Using the setting and the result, organizations may choose to alert the user to potential errors and the suggested correction, since the user is present at the time of validation, and can update or correct any data before it is submitted.  The key is to make sure your business rules do not interfere with your user’s intention.  You do not want to end up in a frustrating loop of suggesting a correction to someone who is happy with their input.

When validating an email list, checking and allowing for corrections is really about your intentions.  Are you trying to reach as many people as possible, regardless of accuracy?  Setting the ‘AllowCorrections’ value to true will give you the highest number of mailable email addresses, with the understanding that accuracy will likely suffer.

Using ‘AllowCorrections’

To accommodate those who want email corrections and those who do not, we added the AllowCorrections option to the input parameters of the Email Validation service. Using it is as simple as setting the input value for ‘AllowCorrections’ to true or false.

It bears repeating that since the variation of possible good emails (based on only the domain check) is nearly limitless, applying corrections can be dangerous: this is simply the nature of these corrections. There are, of course, uses cases where you may choose to do them, but we reiterate that using them is risky and requires really examining your use case for it.

If your organization is not sure what is the best option, you can always reach out to us and we can help you make the best decision.

Lead Validation: The Core Components

How good are your leads? DOTS Lead Validation, Service Objects’ most popular composite service, is designed to measure lead quality – helping our clients reduce fraud, increase conversions and enhance incoming leads, web orders and customer lists.

Lead with Certainty

Lead Validation blends the strengths of our Name, Address, Phone, Email and IP Address validation services to provide authoritative details and return a Certainty score from 0-100. Marketing teams can use the results to assess the quality of incoming leads in real time, sales teams can prioritize their leads based on quality, and companies, in general, can make sure their CRM and other customer databases are kept clean, accurate and as up-to-date as possible.

Lead Validation verifies leads in real time for the United States and Canada. Our DOTS Lead Validation – International service works in a very similar fashion, adding the capabilities of validating global leads to the mix while including the strength of our core services for validating leads from the US and Canada. In this blog, we are focused on the components of Lead Validation and how it helps our clients.

Our Lead Validation service contains six primary components:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone
  • Email
  • IP address
  • Business

Each of these components are discussed in greater detail below.

Name component

The name component is built on the strength of our DOTS Name Validation service to validate names, verify accuracy, parse out name components, return gender information and more. It gives you insight into the name, looking for similar names and nicknames to improve matching, and flags questionable things like names that seem to contain vulgar words, match well-known celebrities, or appear to be fabricated garbage names such as random keystrokes. Name Validation also has access to names from all over the world, giving it the ability to handle leads with names that are less common in North America.

Lead Validation compares the name to other data points such as the phone number, email and address to determine how the name connects to the rest of the lead. Red flags found, such as those listed above, factor into the scoring,  returning a quality score that indicates the reliability of the given name, both by itself and as part of the lead. Unusual or unknown names are not necessarily failed. Generally, names can be considered good, unknown or bad. However, to get the “bad” designation, we expect to see that the name fails in at least one of the red flag categories mentioned above.

Address component

The address component uses DOTS Address Validation – US, DOTS Address Validation Canada, and DOTS Address Detective to correct, standardize and validate addresses in the United States and Canada, as follows.

  • Address Validation – US uses our top of the line address validation engine and the USPS dataset to validate the given address, identify it as a business or residence, and determine if it is a mailable location, among other things.
  • Address Validation – Canada parses, cleanses and validates Canadian addresses in English and French.
  • Address Detective uses tools to deal with extremely messy addresses, from address information all appearing on a single line to jumbled inputs such as the street address being assigned to the city or the state being assigned to the postal code. Address Detective also has access to addresses not available in the USPS dataset to help with more challenging address inputs.

Lead Validation uses the results of these services, along with comparisons against other results like phone number and IP address, to build a component score that reflects both the quality of the component and its relation to the lead as a whole. Other Lead Validation specific tests look for things like hotels, prisons, intentionally bad data, post office boxes, CMRAs and more that also influence the component score.

Phone component

The phone component uses primarily DOTS Geophone Plus to gather contact, provider and location data for up to two phone numbers. Other important pieces of information are also collected. Is the number a landline, wireless or VOIP line? Is it a residential or business number? Does it appear to be a Google or Skype number? Is it connected? Can we detect patterns in the number that might signify that it is just randomly typed in numbers?

Lead Validation compares the resulting contact and location data back to the initially given name, business name, address, email, and IP address inputs to determine any connections that can be made between data points. These influence the component score along with the basic question: does it appear to be a good number?

The additional data points collected from the phone number also provides additional insights. Did a business lead provide a residential phone number, a personal email address or was a wireless line used? Dozens of tests create a component score that reflects the quality of the given phone number and its connection to the lead. If two numbers are given, the analysis is done on both numbers and the better fit for the lead is chosen as the primary one for comparison purposes.

Email component

The email component uses our DOTS Email Validation service to perform a step by step process that attempts email correction to fix common mistakes, syntax checks to make sure the address is both syntactically valid for email and that it conforms to the rules of the given domain, a DNS check to make sure the domain exists, an SMTP check to find the presence of a valid mail server and other various integrity checks. It tests that an email server is operational and accepting mail as well as if a specific mailbox is valid. Other data points collected include; if the email seems to be bogus, vulgar, garbage, disposable, an alias, a spam trap, is associated with a bot, is a free or business email and more.

Lead Validation compares email to other data points like name, business name, IP address and phone number to see if they can be connected. That combined with whether the mailbox is good, seems to be connected to the user and considerations for any red flags found while testing the email, lead to a component score that considers how valid the email address is and its likelihood of being a part of the lead.

IP address component

The IP address component uses primarily the DOTS IP Validation service to identify if the IP address is a good one, its country of origin or more accurate location, whether or not it belongs to a known proxy and if it appears to belong to a mobile device. The service can identify harmful proxies to determine if the lead is attempting to hide their location or check if the IP address has been linked to malicious behavior. Other pieces of information are returned as well to identify the internet service provider (ISP) or link the IP address to a business.

Lead Validation will compare IP address to address, phone, email and business to determine if any positive or negative connections can be made. Lead Validation will assess any high-risk countries along with the consideration of malicious and proxy IP addresses to determine the quality of the IP component and how it fits in with the lead.

Business component

The business component is unique from the other components. While the other components work for all leads, the business component is designed to work only with leads designated as business leads. This designation is controlled by TestType (i.e. TestType=business or TestType=businessonly) as users can decide if their leads are business, residential or perhaps a bit of both. This component also does not rely on existing services to gather core data.

Lead Validation performs its own internal tests and checks against our business datasets. Data points found can be compared to business names, addresses, IP addresses, phone numbers, and emails to look for connections. Other checks look for red flags in the given business name such as vulgarities and potential bogus submissions. All of these checks combine to create a business component score that reflects its validity and how it fits in with the lead as a whole.


Each of the components described above return their own 0-100 certainty score and a quality recommendation (i.e. Review, Review or Reject). Generally, high scores indicate the component score itself is good, while a low one indicates that it is bad. However, each component also has scoring based on cross-comparisons built in as well. For example, a given phone number might be perfectly valid but during the cross-examination phase, we find that it seems to belong to a person not indicated by the input lead. This would likely lead the phone component to a poor score because while the number is technically a “good” number, it is not good for the lead.

Hopefully, this gives you a strong overview of our Lead Validation service, as well as provide some insight into how the components are tested and how they relate to the overall lead. If you would like to learn more about Lead Validation, please visit our product page and developer guide.

The Trouble with Numeric and Fake-looking Chinese Email Addresses

If you were to encounter an email address that was comprised of just numbers, what would be your first reaction? You might suspect that it was a fake or disposable email address. But in some countries, such as China, this isn’t necessarily the case. In this blog post, we will take a deeper dive into when to be cautious about email addresses from China.

Obviously fake email addresses… right?

For example, let’s randomly type in some numbers.

  • 6843619
  • 1684154646514
  • 735416442
  • 94633252361

If we were to use these numbers as an email address with a company domain like or even a free email provider like, to create something like Most likely, you would dismiss it as being garbage, fake or just simply bad. However, what if we instead used one of the following domains?


And created something like Now you might be thinking, “That’s even worse! Even the domains are all numbers now. Those are obviously fake email addresses. I’m absolutely positive.”

“Positive I tell you!”

OK, fine. I would agree. It looks fake to me too.

Now, what if we instead applied those numbers to the domain,  to get this, Would you still think it was an ‘obviously fake email address’?

Maybe not so ‘obviously fake email address’

In China, all-numeric email addresses are very common. If you made your way to this blog article, then chances are you have encountered one or more numeric email addresses that turned out to be genuine when you may not have expected them to be. For example, the domains noted above,,, and, are not fake. They are real domains with valid Mail Exchange (MX) records that point to real mail servers for handling real email communication.

You might be more familiar with the domain, particularly if you work in international business and/or marketing.

QQ, which is owned by the Chinese tech giant Tencent, is a messaging application similar to Skype. In China and parts of Asia, is like what, or are to the US in terms of providing email, messaging and communication services. In fact, in 2014, QQ was recognized by Guinness World Records for having the most simultaneous users on an instant messaging platform with more than 200 million simultaneous users and over 800 million Monthly Active Users (MAU).

All of these QQ users have a email address, and all QQ accounts have a numeric email address.

But why numbers for an email address?

Numbers aren’t that hard to memorize. Most people have several phone numbers memorized, maybe a bank account or two, or perhaps a combination lock at their local gym. However, there is something impersonal and dissociative about numbers. A random number, like 845796833, doesn’t really tell you much like say, Support@ or ILuvKittens@ or ImBatman@ or just having a plain old name as an email. So, what’s so different about China that makes numbered email addresses so popular?

Well, there is an interesting article from The New Republic that tries to shed some light on the subject. It brings up an interesting notion that suggests that numbers, when used as homonyms for the Chinese language, can be used to more quickly and easily spell out Chinese words. One example from the article is where the numbers 5 and 1 in Chinese sound like the words “I” “want”, which helps explain why a job-hunting web site would choose for their domain. In Chinese, 5-1-Job would mean “I want Job”. Cute.

The meaning behind numbered emails can go beyond simple homonyms, however. The article calls it a “numbered-based slang,” and here is one example that I think helps explain the idea. Quoting the article:

“The Internet company NetEase uses the web address—a throwback to the days of dial-up when Chinese Internet users had to enter 163 to get online.”

They go on to state that 163 is not a homonym for anything, but is instead a throwback reference. A similar example would be the search engine website. is a throwback to when people in the US would dial 4-1-1 for information (as opposed to now where most people simply ‘google’ to search for information).

More Than Just Numbers

Slang in any language can be very complicated, and staying well-informed on the subject matter to understand its meaning is not easy. Technical slang takes this complexity to a whole new level. Take for example this surprisingly common password, “ji32k7au4a83”. One would think that this seemingly complicated password would be quite rare if not unique; however, it turns out it’s not. As the article in the link points out, the password “ji32k7au4a83” can be translated to mean “my password” in English.

This is how it breaksdown:

ji3 -> 我 -> M

2K7 -> 的 -> Y

au4 -> 密 -> PASS

a83 -> 碼 -> WORD

The article details how a major Chinese transliteration system can be creatively used to map English to Chinese to Unicode and vice-versa. This process can be used to come up with some very complicated looking email addresses and not just passwords.

It would not be a stretch to say that the process bears some resemblance 1337 Speak (Leet Speak). Take the previously mentioned “ImBatman” email example. One leet interpretation of it would be “1mb47m4n”. The result appears similarly nonsensical and complicated, wouldn’t you say? However, the problem with verifying Chinese email addresses goes beyond superficial, fake-looking mailboxes and domains.

Disposable email addresses are easier to create

Let’s circle back to the widely popular QQ application, and the all-numeric email addresses. When a user registers for a QQ account they are given a QQ ID number, and this number is also their QQ email address. This ID number can be bound to another email address, so instead of giving someone your actual email, you just give them your QQ number. It’s a nice feature. Unfortunately, it is easy for users to create disposable accounts with QQ and bind them to their real email address. These disposable accounts are commonly used by bots, often created for or by Chinese vendors trying to push their products via spam.

This can lead to some false-negatives when validating email addresses. It is not uncommon to receive a business email address with a domain and for it to end up going bad. The domain and some of their IP addresses tend to accumulate bad sender reputations due to the large amounts of spam abuse, as mentioned above. Spam and abuse are not just a problem for, unfortunately, malicious internet activity is very common in China and Chinese service providers struggle with the problem.

Countries with malicious networks or spam saturation: Use Caution

If you were to search for the countries with the worst spam or malicious networks, you would likely find the following result.

Countries with the worst spam/malicious networks

  1. United States
  2. China
  3. Russia

SPAMHAUS lists the worst spam enabling countries and Country IP Blocks (CIPB) lists countries with the most malicious networks, and both lists come back with the same top three countries in the same order. On both lists, the US is the worst offending country of all. Surprised?

CIPB also re-orders their top ten list by the number of malicious networks as a percentage of the total number of networks for the given country. Here is their re-organized list.

Countries with the most infected networks*

  1. Brazil 89%
  2. Turkey 54%
  3. Romania 39%
  4. China 32%
  5. Russia 11%
  6. United Kingdom 11%
  7. Japan 10%
  8. Ukraine 9%
  9. Germany 6%
  10. United States 6%

*Results are based on CIPB’s current top 10 countries with the most malicious networks.

Another CIPB top ten list places China as the current world leader in malicious internet activity. Brazil and Russia take second and third place respectively. The US is not on the list.

SPAMHAUS’ list of the 10 Worst Botnet Countries

  1. India
  2. China
  3. Vietnam
  4. Iran
  5. Thailand
  6. Brazil
  7. Indonesia
  8. Pakistan
  9. Algeria
  10. Russia

Overall, the real issue with trying to verify email addresses from China is not how they look complicated and fake, but that the country is a hot bed for malicious activity. Just because an email address is deliverable, doesn’t mean that it is good or safe. In some cases, it would not be surprising to see one out of three email addresses from China turn out to be a bot and/or disposable.

How Email Validation can help

So how can you differentiate between, say, a legitimate alphanumeric email address that looks suspicious versus a spambot? Our DOTS Email Validation product can help you navigate some of the challenges and complexities of email data quality, particularly for contact or marketing with international addresses.

Our Email Validation service tests emails at multiple distinct levels.

  • First, of course, we check for basic syntax errors, common domain typos and perform a DNS or domain name check to make sure the domain exists and has a valid MX record.
  • We also perform a comprehensive SMTP check by communicating directly with the target mail server to determine three key pieces of information; is the server working, will it accept any address and will it accept a specific address.
  • Finally, we perform multiple integrity checks to see if the email address is associated with problematic addresses and services like; spam-traps, known disposable address providers and blacklisted servers.

Ultimately determining if the email address is a real, functioning email address.

Circling back to the Chinese email addresses we discussed earlier: our Email Validation service can validate these with no problem, but clients often get confused when these emails get a low score. We verify that they are deliverable, but give them a low score because of problems such as being bots or malicious. It is then up to you to decide whether you want to take the risk of using these email addresses or not. So in closing, understand that numerical or nonsensical emails from other countries are often OK is a good first step, but automated validation can help you make an informed decision on whether to use them.

Photo of @ symbol on a red background

Tackling False Negatives in Email Validation

What is a false negative? In email validation, the term is used when an address is incorrectly identified as being invalid or undeliverable – in other words, it is flagged as being bad when it is actually good. In some cases, false negatives may result in lost leads or unwanted rejections. This blog article looks at how they happen, and what we can do about it.

What causes false negatives in email addresses?

The DOTS Email Validation service offers real-time validation and verification of email addresses. Email verification is handled by directly communicating with an email address’ host mail server(s) via Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP). The protocol is quite old: the original Request for Comments (RFC) for it was published in 1982 and its most recent definition, RFC 5321, was last updated in October of 2008.

A Request for Comments, or RFC, is an official document by which the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) publishes standards, protocols, best practices, or other information relative to the operation of the Internet. With enough interest, an RFC may evolve into an internet standard.

The RFC provides rules and guidelines for SMTP communication and behavior; however, mail transfer agents are free to handle compliance in their own way, while others simply operate out of compliance. Additionally, some mail and network administrators will modify mail transfer agent behavior in an effort to battle large volumes of spam/junk mail and malicious behavior.

Moreover, an admin can configure their servers to lie or behave defensively, misusing SMTP codes and/or using codes with misguiding messages. They can configure firewalls and/or install sophisticated software filters to protect their servers from unwanted exposure, which can result in communication behavior akin to a conversation with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In short, there are many scenarios in which false negatives may occur as well as many opportunities for new ones to arise. This is why we are so vigilant in our monitoring of mail server behavior, and why we take false negative reports so seriously.

Understanding temporary versus permanent rejects

False negatives are commonly broken into two categories, temporary failure rejects (also known as soft bounce backs) and permanent failure rejects (known as hard bounce backs). Temporary rejects are commonly used to graylist incoming email; these account for most of the false negative mail server behavior that we see. Conversely, using a permanent reject code to induce a false negative is much more severe and rare, as doing so can lead to unwanted side effects if not properly implemented by a mail server administrator.

DOTS Email Validation is extremely good at identifying and handling behavior that would result in temporary rejects. Permanent reject false negatives are primarily seen when a mail server implements and uses a blacklist. Other cases stem from edge cases that then result in edge cases of edge cases.

Our Email Validation service handles a variety of blacklist and graylist techniques. New blacklist and graylist techniques are generally rare. However, they are not to be taken lightly. These techniques used by mail servers often leave a lasting, but minimal, effect and we frequently audit the Email Validation system for evidence of unhandled blacklists and graylists. If an unconventional blacklist/graylist technique pops up on the radar, we work quickly to identify the specific behavior. Once identified, we are able to update our data to handle future occurrences when communicating with mail servers.

Common permanent reject scenarios

Permanent rejects are commonly used to help identify undeliverable email addresses. Not all SMTP ‘accept codes’ mean that an email address is deliverable, and conversely not all ‘reject codes’ mean that it is undeliverable. When it comes to email validation and verification there are many gray areas to consider and handle.

Based on client feedback, the Email Validation engines have been tuned to err on the side of caution when handling certain unclear permanent reject behavior from mail servers. The Email Validation service will lean more towards returning an UNKNOWN for the IsDeliverable output value when the SMTP session contains potentially contradicting data. Our clients have expressed that they would rather see an email be left as UNKNOWN than to risk it being a possible false negative. This is why Email Validation has a comprehensive output, containing over twenty warning and note flags to help the user better understand why the Email Validation service scored an email the way it did.

Other permanent reject examples are due to scenarios related to (but not limited to) disabled & suspended email accounts, unreachable domain group errors, and various network and storage related errors. Here’s a brief description for each:

  • Disabled and suspended accounts – An email address or domain may be disabled or suspended by the mail host for a variety of reasons. Some examples include delinquency, abuse, exceeding a quota, high traffic, misconfiguration, and migration. These emails will often return a permanent reject code, but can change at any time due to user intervention.
  • Unreachable domain groups – Mail servers can sometimes encounter internal errors when trying to find and/or connect to a domain group and will report back a false negative. Likely caused by misconfiguration, ambiguity and/or migration.
  • Network and storage related errors – Mail servers and DNS can be configured poorly at times, to the point where they become unreachable or unresponsive.

Even though the above scenarios will often lead to permanent rejects, they can change at any time due to user/admin intervention, or sometimes simply waiting for a change to finish propagating.

In some cases, a mail server may handle the above-mentioned errors poorly and return a wrong or misleading response. For example, the mail server returns a permanent reject code with the description “The e-mail account does not exist. Check the e-mail address, or contact the recipient directly to find out the correct address,” even though the address does exist, but the mail server could not find it at the time. In this case, there is nothing in the SMTP description to indicate that the server encountered an internal error or that the email address is bad.

Service Objects persistently works to improve the Email Validation service to better identify and handle potential false negatives. As mentioned previously, some scenarios cannot always be accurately identified, and new scenarios can always arise, but we will continue to update the service to minimize false negatives as much as possible. If you have a question about false negatives or a scenario to troubleshoot, contact our team to further discuss.

Woman Checking Email on Laptop

Email Validation Terms You Should Know

No matter the industry, you likely have jargon or terminology that’s specific to the work you do. The email world has a nomenclature all of its own, too. Understanding the lingo can keep you on the right side of the email servers.

Here are some key terms that can help you make the most of your email marketing efforts:


These are firms that provide email services, ranging from major providers such as Google’s Gmail or Microsoft’s Outlook to more specific offerings. The major firms often combine free offerings for consumers with expanded paid services for business.


An Internet protocol that links a domain name with resources such as IP addresses, mail exchangers, and name servers. In short, it stores where valid domains live on the Internet.


Also known as a message transfer agent (MTA), these are computers and software that execute protocols for sending and receiving a domain’s email messages and their attachments.


A list of email addresses that are automatically approved for delivery, used to make sure that emails from familiar sources get through.


A technique used to temporarily reject new or unfamiliar email, often by rejecting it at first with a “soft bounce,” and then accepting subsequent delivery attempts. It works because legitimate email servers will normally attempt redelivery, while spammers generally won’t.


Email addresses that are tagged to be rejected by a mail server, normally because it is suspected as being spam. Unsuspecting legitimate emails can get blacklisted, however, if the sender isn’t careful: see the definition of honeypots and spamtraps.


Unpublished email addresses used to trap spammers, particularly those who “scrape” addresses using webcrawlers. Purchased email lists from the wrong sources may contain such addresses, which in turn can get you banned from sending to their domains.


These are email addresses that belong to a job function, rather than an individual: for example, Role addresses are a potential minefield for your contact database, because emails to addresses for multiple people can easily be flagged as spam.


These are email addresses that are generated for unique uses such as signing up for lists, or may expire after a period of time. The good news? They protect users from exposing their primary email addresses to spammers. The bad news? They are often used by Internet trolls, or people who want to sign up for your marketing goodie without being on your mailing list.


An advanced email validation and verification service, such as Service Objects’ DOTS Email Validation, validates email syntax to confirm there is a box name, an @-symbol, and a domain. Additionally, it flags improbable addresses, such as vulgar or famous names. Sophisticated algorithms check the existence of SMTP server and working mailbox, that the mail exchange record is valid and accepting mail, and that domain specific mailbox rules are met.

Why Email Validation Is Important

Email validation is a simple, painless, easy-to-implement capability that improves the quality and functionality of your email lists. By taking advantage of our validation infrastructure, as well as the live experience that goes into our extensive databases of validation criteria, you gain the following benefits:

  • Substantially improving the ROI of your email marketing
  • Reducing email bounce rates by up to 90% and maximizing deliverability
  • Protecting your business from being blacklisted by valuable or important contact domains, by warning against potential spam traps and honeypots
  • Combatting fraud by providing important MX-specific flags including catch-all, wireless, free, disposable, alias, domain quality and more
  • Helping you document compliance with government regulations such as GDPR, CAN-SPAM and others, by ensuring that you have correct contact information
  • Maintaining a good email “sender reputation” that enhances your contact effectiveness
  • Better customer service through improved contact rates

To learn more about how email validation can help you avoid the dreaded blacklist, download our free whitepaper, The ROI of Real-Time Email Validation. The strategies presented will not only improve your response rates and effectiveness, they will help protect your organization from a host of issues including fraud, blacklisting and regulatory concerns.

Many emails flying into a trash bin

Identifying Disposable Email Addresses: A Better Approach

Disposable email addresses – also known as burner emails, throwaway emails, temporary emails or fake emails – are commonly touted as a useful tool for keeping one’s personal or business email address private and clean of spam. Not to be confused with alias email addresses (which generally forward to a primary email address, and are therefore more likely to be read), there are different types of disposable email addresses, and they can work in a variety of ways.

In general, a user will submit a disposable email address instead of their real one, which in theory should help keep one’s own email protected from spam without their primary email and/or private data being exposed. (Note that we say “should”: there are some unscrupulous disposable email providers out there, so as with all things concerning the internet, users must be careful.)

Disposable email addresses may sound great for end users, but they can be problematic for legitimate businesses and marketers. One could easily argue that disposables are successfully doing their job when it prevents a marketer from emailing an end user, but this also means that businesses are forced to adapt their marketing strategies. One such strategy: trying to identify these disposable email addresses up front, to have a more accurate view of your email marketing assets.

A simple (but flawed) strategy: email lists

Disposable email addresses are commonly identified by static lists. There are many online communities that pool together their own lists of known disposable domains and email addresses. However, static lists are a poor long-term solution, as they can quickly become stagnant. Some communities do their best to keep their lists up to date, but there are still many potential problems with this strategy:

  • Lists often lack standardization, which can lead to implementation issues. There are many disposable services available worldwide, and some community driven lists and solutions are dedicated to just a single disposable service.
  • These lists frequently contain legitimate records for domains and addresses that are not disposable.
  • In order for a disposable to make it on to a list it first needs to be reported. By the time that happens, and the data makes it way into a solution, the list may already be partially outdated. Moreover, disposables frequently change and not all disposables are reported.
  • Using a list strategy requires constant vigilance. It’s trouble enough staying up to date on just one disposable service, but trying to stay on top of multiple others as well as new ones as they pop up is often a losing battle.

Lists of disposable email addresses are a reactionary solution at best. Worse, they only scratch the surface of the problem. Disposables are constantly changing, with new ones appearing and old ones disappearing all the time. It is impractical to rely on a simple list strategy to try and successfully identify a disposable.

A better approach: organic data aggregation

At Service Objects we like to look beyond simple lists. Instead of looking at one list to perform a simple straightforward disposable lookup, we take advantage of our wealth of data and our years of experience to not only dig deeper, but to also cast a wider net. Our email validation service doesn’t just look at lists, it looks at the whole picture as well as the nitty-gritty.

We observe various behavior patterns to better identify specific activities and ties to these activities, not just for disposables but for a variety of email types – malicious or otherwise. This allows us to assign values to these activities and even compare them against other activities. Using complex algorithms along with machine learning we can intelligently determine if a value is directly or indirectly related to a particular issue, such as being a disposable address.

As sophisticated as this solution is, note that we won’t always be able to successfully identify a disposable address. Sometimes all the variables don’t match up just right, and sometimes there just isn’t enough data. However, the service will still often be able to identify such email address as being malicious or potentially malicious, in which case you would likely want to reject the email address anyway.

The sophisticated solution

Disposable email addresses are a real headache for businesses and marketers. As with most things regarding email addresses, they are a much more complicated problem than one would normally think. A problem that requires more than a simple list as a solution. They call for a sophisticated solution.

Our DOTS Email Address Validation service keeps tabs on millions of domains. It monitors various behavior patterns and leverages multiple sets of data. As domains and data continue to grow, so does the service – becoming smarter and better. The service can adapt to the constantly changing disposables, making it better suited to identify them as they pop up. Not because it’s trying to keep up with them, but because it’s anticipating them.

It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Ping

How do you know if an email address is valid? There is more than one way to find out. In this article, we will show you how something we do – known as “ping testing” – makes these results much more accurate. More important, we will show you how to get the best out of these capabilities.

Email Verification 101

There are fundamentally three ways to make sure an email address is legitimate:

  • Examine the email address itself for things like proper syntax, obvious misspellings (like “gmial” instead of “gmail”), and other problems (like missing “@” symbol).
  • Compare this email address against lists of existing emails – both to see if it is a legitimate address, and also to flag known problem addresses such as spam traps, honeypots, known spammers, blacklisted addresses, and more.
  • Physically test (or “ping”) the email server, domain and address to make sure the address is valid.

All three of these checks are important in their own way. Basic address testing quickly weeds out addresses that are clearly invalid, with fast response times. List testing is also quick but often isn’t enough, because of addresses that haven’t made the list yet. (According to a report from the Radicati Group, new email addresses get created at the rate of a quarter billion per year!)

Then there is “ping” testing, which involves checking the actual email server and address for a response, which is the gold standard for determining the validity of an address. It can also be important for applications such as fraud prevention, to guard against perpetrators who create email addresses in near-real time. There are three main types of ping checks:

  • Testing an email server (STMP) to see if it is real and available.
  • Testing to see if an email address is allowing emails at the domain (DNS) level.
  • Testing to see if the address can reach an inbox.

Of course, Service Objects’ DOTS Email Validation service performs all of these checks. Now, let’s see how you can use them efficiently for your own email validation.

Here’s where you come in

Service Objects’ Email Validation capabilities give you a great deal of control over both performance levels and output tests. Here are some tips to get the most out of your email validation, taken from our developer guide:

To ping or not to ping: You can validate emails quickly – at the expense of possibly missing ping testing – by using our ValidateEmailFast operation. If a “ping” takes too long, it will not be considered in the check (and STMP data about this address will not be returned). However, be aware that this is a less accurate check.

Putting a lid on pinging. The amount of time a “ping” takes may vary widely, from nearly instant response to lengthy delays. If you are using email validation in a real-time application, or are concerned about response speed, the Timeout input variable is your friend. This value specifies how long the service is allowed to wait for all real-time network level checks to finish, such as STMP and DNS testing. Time is entered in milliseconds, with a minimum value of 200ms.

Email servers can be slow to respond to ping checks, and one of the most important aspects is how long you are willing to wait for a response. If you only wait a second or two – and you fail emails that do not respond in that time – you will get a lot of false negatives. If you can wait and/or update the results based on latent responses, you will get a more accurate verification.  If real-time responses are a priority, we recommend setting up a two-step verification process, to help mitigate slow email server response times and ensure a quality user experience.

Two-step validation. The initial step will validate the email address using real-time syntax and ping testing. Syntax issues and fast-responding email servers will provide accurate feedback, so issues can be flagged in real-time.  This allows for real-time notification of any issues, enabling user corrections before being captured by your application or CRM. The amount of time you are willing to wait should be considered in your user’s experience.

The second step is to accommodate slow-responding email servers that ‘timed-out’ in the initial step.  When capturing the email address to your database, include a Yes/No flag of whether the email validation timed-out before completing validation.  For those email addresses that timed-out, you can validate them again but with a much longer Timeout setting, allowing slower email servers time to respond and ensuring the email address has been fully validated.

Pinging isn’t perfect. Sometimes a non-existent address will still “ping” properly. Why? Because some email domains are “catch-all” domains, meaning that their servers will accept mail to any address within that domain. You can test for this using the IsCatchAllDomain output variable that comes back with your results.

Finally, remember that ping testing is not the only factor in effective email validation. Our developer guide has a wealth of tools you can use as part of your specific use case, ranging from optional email address correction to warning codes for bogus, vulgar or disposable email addresses. Check it out, or better yet, “ping” our friendly support team for expert advice. We’re always glad to help!

Bad Email Addresses: A Rogue’s Gallery

Once upon a time, many businesses simply lived with bad email addresses as an inevitable cost of doing business. Today this has changed dramatically, in the face of increasing costs and regulatory consequences. According to figures from Adestra’s 2017 Email Marketing Industry Census, nearly 80% of firms proactively cleanse their email marketing lists.

What can go wrong with email contact addresses? Plenty. And what you don’t know can really hurt you. Here are just a few examples of bad email addresses and their consequences:

The faker:

You build a list of leads by offering people something of value in return for their email address. Unfortunately some people want the goodie, but have no intention of ever hearing from you again. So they make up a bogus address that goes nowhere, wasting your time and resources.

The fat-fingered:

Someone gives you their email address with the best of intentions, but types it in wrong—for example, misspelling “” as “”. So your future correspondence to them never arrives, with consequences ranging from lost market opportunities to customer dissatisfaction.

The trap:

Here you have rented a list of email addresses, or worse, taken them from publicly available sources. But some of these addresses are “honeypots”: fake addresses designed to trap spammers. Send an email to it, and you will get blacklisted by that entire domain—which could be a real problem if this domain is a major corporation or source of leads and customers.

The fraudster:

Someone places an expensive order with you, using a stolen credit card—and a bogus email address that never existed and cannot be traced. Better to flag these fraudulent orders ahead of time, instead of after the horse has left the barn—or in this case, the shipping dock.

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list. (By the way, none of these sample email addresses are real.) But these are all good examples of cases where email validation can save your time, money and reputation.

What is email validation?

Think of it as a filter that weeds out the good email addresses from the bad ones. In reality, a good email validation service will examine multiple dimensions of what can go wrong with an email address—and in some cases, can even fix erroneous addresses to make them usable. But at its root, email validation takes your email contact data and makes it clean, safe and usable.

Here are some of the specific things that Email Validation can do for your business:

Make sure the format is correct

Our standard service uses server-side scripting on Web forms to check if email address data includes a name, the “@” symbol, and a valid top-level domain (TLD).

See if the address works

Instead of relying on stagnant, aggregated lists for verification, our real-time email validation checks the authenticity of email contact data instantaneously through kinetic and responsive two-way communication with email service providers (ESPs).

Perform advanced validation checks

Advanced checks can examine things such as:
• Checking if valid data exists on both sides of the “@” symbol, in both the username and the domain name
• Verifying that the domain in the email address exists and has a valid MX record associated with it
• Testing the mailbox to determine if it actually receives mail
• Detecting and flagging bogus, vulgar or malicious addresses that may be cluttering up your list

Correct fixable errors

The email hygiene component of this service identifies and corrects invalid emails with fixable errors such as typos, extraneous text, common domain misspellings and syntax problems.

Real-time email validation improves lead quality, saves time processing and pursuing leads, and protects your company from blacklists and regulatory traps. Download our free whitepaper, The ROI of Real-Time Email Validation, to learn more about bad email contact data and how email validation can help you correct inaccurate contact data and reject bogus email addresses.

The Benefits of Email Marketing

Few marketing channels share the power of email. It is immediate, urgent, personalized and inexpensive. And according to the Direct Marketing Association, it has the highest ROI of any marketing channel: an amazing 4300%.

Here are some of the key benefits of good email campaigns:

  • The cost per contact of email is extremely low compared with other channels.
  • Email is easily personalized by customer, market segment, or demographic.
  • Email marketing is much kinder to the environment, versus using natural resources such as direct mail.
  • Your email assets can help you make more informed decisions, develop more effective marketing strategies and strengthen customer/prospect relationships.

That said, your email marketing strategy is only as good as the quality of your email list.

The importance of data quality and email

The allure of email has always been its scalability: with one press of the “Return” key, your message can go out to dozens, hundreds, or even millions of people. Once you absorb the cost of acquiring email contact data, the costs of its re-use are minimal. So once upon a time, not that many years ago, marketers simply accepted a certain percentage of bad or misdirected email addresses as part of the process.

Today this is no longer the case. As people’s in-boxes have become flooded with spam, and marketers compete more than ever for busy peoples’ eyeballs, the quality of your email contact list has become extremely important. Here are just a few of the reasons why:

Time and money

As email lists continue to grow and expand, the human costs of processing bad data and updating contact lists continues to grow as well.

Brand image and customer reputation

Mis-directed email is almost universally unwelcome and perceived as spam, which in turn affects the public reputation of your brand and organization.

Wasted effort

When someone provides a bogus email address such as “,” particularly in conjunction with other contact information, adding them to your list of leads potentially wastes marketing resources in all of your channels.

Regulatory compliance

Laws and regulations such as the US CAN-SPAM act or the European Union’s General Data protection Regulation (GDPR) restrict unsolicited email marketing nowadays, with potentially severe penalties.

Lost marketing opportunities

Send unwanted email to the wrong address, and you could be blacklisted from an entire corporate domain— losing access to all of their prospects and customers. These last two reasons are especially important, because bad data now has the potential to do real harm to your business. And all of these factors add up to a future where more accurate and careful email marketing has become an increasing necessity. Email lists are a valuable business asset, but data quality— particularly authenticity and accuracy—always wins out over quantity.

That’s where real-time email validation comes in to separate the good emails from the bad ones.

An advanced email address validation and verification service, such as Service Objects’ DOTS Email Validation, uses sophisticated algorithms and dozens of rules and tests to instantly weed out invalid email addresses. It will also cross reference proprietary data for known bogus emails or spamtraps. Every email validation system should also check for the following:

  • Email address syntax
  • Individual domain specific mailbox rules
  • Improbable names (vulgar, famous, bogus, or suspicious keystroke sequences)
  • Mail exchange record of domain is valid and accepting mail
  • SMTP server for domain
  • Mailbox is accepting mail (when possible)

Want to learn more? Download our free whitepaper, The ROI of Real-Time Email Validation, to explore how to get the most profitability and customer engagement from your email marketing. The strategies presented will not only improve your response rates and effectiveness, they will help protect your organization from a host of issues including fraud, blacklisting and regulatory concerns.

Contact Country Detection: How It Works

In a previous blog, we discussed the benefits of using DOTS Address Detective – International to detect a contact’s country. This blog will discuss some of the challenges surrounding country detection in more detail, as well as provide an overview on how we determine the best country from your data.

Contact components

When trying to append a country to a contact, we have four main components to examine.

  1. Address
  2. Phone
  3. IP Address
  4. Email

Each component must be carefully evaluated on its own merit before it can be used to help identify a country for the contact.

Address component

The Address component may represent a contact’s physical location or mailable address. It is the most diverse and complex of all the components. International addresses do not follow a singular format, language or standard. Each country has its own set of rules and standards, which can also make the storage of international addresses problematic for US-centric CRMs.

This also means that is common for a contact’s address to be incorrect and/or incomplete. Additionally, some businesses are not always interested in capturing a mailable address and only wish to store a contact’s region. Depending on who is entering the contact address and how it is being stored, it would not be unreasonable to expect this data to be flawed in more ways than one.

Knowing the country is critical to processing most addresses. It determines the address format, which is needed to identify individual address elements, which in turn are needed to identify a locality, postal code or region. With that said, our sophisticated data-driven algorithms are not dependent on completeness and allow for a wide variety of formats and languages.

If you think you can identify a country’s address, take our fun, short Country Quiz.

Similar to the DOTS Address Validation International service, the address component consists of Address Lines 1-8, Locality, Admin Area and Postal Code. The address can be entered entirely in lines 1-8 or in combination with the Locality, Admin Area and Postal Code fields. Address line order does not matter, and common mistakes like putting an address value into the wrong address field are detected and handled.

Not all countries follow the US city-state pairing format or the equivalent locality admin area pairing. Many international addresses do not include an admin area, which can make country detection difficult since many localities from around the world can often share names. Take Venice, for example, which can be found in separate locations of three different countries.

LocalityAdmin AreaCountry

If no other address information besides the name Venice was made available, one would be left having to choose between these three countries. However, by making use of other contact data such as a phone number, IP address and/or email, the service can cross reference various datasets to better determine which country is the best match. Then again, if the locality was entered as Venezia, the Italian endonym for Venice, there would be less ambiguity and the country Italy would be the clear choice.

Phone component

The phone component consists of a contact’s phone number(s). The format of a phone number is dictated by its country’s numbering plan. Some countries have their own numbering plan, while others share one. The USA and Canada, for example, share the North American Numbering Plan (NANP), whereas the UK and its crown dependencies share the UK National Telephone Numbering Plan. Most countries conform to the E.164 International Telecommunication Numbering Plan, which is published by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

The E.164 Numbering Plan

The E.164 currently provides five number structures (numbering plans) for international phone numbers:

  1. International ITU-T E.164-number for geographic areas.
  2. International ITU-T E.164-number for global services.
  3. International ITU-T E.164-number for Networks.
  4. International ITU-T E.164-number for groups of countries.
  5. International ITU-T E.164-number for trials.

Each structure has its own set of rules and requirements, but telephone numbers that conform to E.164, in general, will adhere to the following:

  • The recommended maximum length for a telephone number is 15 digits.
  • Telephone numbers will begin with a Country Code (CC).
  • Telephone numbers will not include Prefixes and Suffixes

Country codes

Country calling codes are published by the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB). Depending on which E.164 structure is being used the country code (CC) may vary between 1 to 3 digits or may be fixed to 3 digits. Country codes are followed by the destination number in accordance with the E.164 numbering plan. When storing a country code or an international (E.164) number, the number is commonly prefixed with a plus symbol (+) to indicate that when dialing the number, one must first dial the appropriate international call prefix to complete the call.


International call prefixes (also known as call out codes, dial out codes, exit codes or international access codes) are used to make a call from one country to another. The Prefix is dialed before the country code (CC) and the destination telephone number. Prefixes are not a part of the E.164 numbering plan and it is recommended to not include them as they can interfere with country code identification.

Making the Call

Suppose you have a contact in the UK with the following number saved in your CRM, ‘+44 123 456 7890 Ext. 123’, and you wanted to call this person from within the USA. To call them, you would dial 011441234567890, and then after you have been successfully connected you would next dial your contact’s extension of 123.

The table below shows how the prefix and suffix are not a part of an international number.

PrefixInternational NumberSuffix
Country CodeDestination Number
011441234567890Ext. 123

Now suppose that you wanted to call this contact again, but this time you are in Sweden and not in the USA. Instead of dialing the 011 prefix, which is shared by all countries in the North American Numbering Plan (NANP), you would dial 00 which is the prefix used by many countries in Europe.

At Service Objects, we understand that not all phone numbers will conform to an E.164 numbering plan and that many numbers will have missing country codes, which why our services make use of a wide variety of datasets and are flexible enough to intelligently identify a country.

IP address component

Not all companies capture a contact’s IP address, but when they do they are most likely capturing it via the web form the contact used to submit their information. The captured IP address and the location for that IP is often for the registered owner of the IP, so if the contact filled out a web form from their home computer then it is likely that the IP is for their Internet Service Provider (ISP). If they filled it out from their office computer, then the IP address may belong to the business or to the business’s ISP. IP based geolocation systems will commonly return a general location for the owner of the IP, which in most cases is the end user’s ISP.

There is often a misconception that IP based geolocation services will always return an end user’s exact location. For example, that the IP address assigned to a mobile smartphone can alone be used to pinpoint and track the phone’s exact location. This is simply not true. In most cases, IP based geolocation services will return the city and/or the metropolitan area for where the IP address is commonly served. Subscribers will generally be located within the serviceable area of their ISP, and so the IP based location can be used in confidence to identify the region of the end user.

Identifying anonymous users

If a contact used a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or Proxy connection, such as a Tor network, when filling out a form then that means that the end user’s true IP address was masked and it was not captured. Some users will make use of methods such as these to try and remain anonymous and prevent others from capturing their true IP address. These methods are not only used to mask a user’s true location, but they can also be used to make a user appear to be from somewhere they are not. This is commonly done to circumvent region locked sites and services, however not all VPN and proxy connections are used for this purpose. Many businesses make use of VPN and proxy connections to connect their employees, sites and services from various regions, including remote employees.

A service like DOTS IP Address Validation is capable of identifying proxy related IP addresses as well as IP addresses associated with malicious activity. By leveraging this data, the country detection algorithm can determine if the IP is trustworthy and if the IP based location is genuine.

Email component

The email address component uses the contact email address to identify where in the world the mail servers are located. The location of the mail server should not be confused with the location of the mail sender; after all, one of the benefits of email is that you can send and receive it from just about anywhere an internet connection is available. This means that a contact may not necessarily be anywhere near where the mail server is located and could potentially reside in an entirely different country. It’s also worth noting that the domain name, including the Top Level Domain (TLD), can be misleading.

For example, let’s suppose we have an email with a domain that consists of Spanish words and the TLD country code for Spain (ES), like:

While the above example email address may appear to be for a contact for Spain, the company could instead be hosted or even located in another country, such as the USA. Another possibility is that the company is located in one country and has their email handled by a provider in another. It is quite common for businesses to outsource email duties to specialized email providers.

Some domains have mail servers located in multiple countries and regions and are not tied to a single location. So, email addresses alone cannot be used to accurately and confidently identify a contact’s country, as doing so would be too far-reaching. However, the country or countries for the email component can be used in some cases to help identify a single country when used in combination with other contact data.

Which country is best

As you can see, each contact component is carefully analyzed to the point where a country may be singled out for each one, but the next step is to now determine which country best represents the overall contact. By taking the countries that are related for each component and carefully weighing their relevance as well as cross-examining them we can in many cases successfully identify the single best country that best exemplifies the contact.

As previously mentioned, contact components like the Address and Email can result in more than one country. The country detection algorithm takes all possible countries into account, so even though a single component may not have a clear country winner, a best match can be found between all the components. Some components have a stronger influence than others. For example, the IP address and email address components do not have as much influence as the address and phone components since they are not always directly related to where a contact resides.

In general, the more complete the contact information is, the more the country detection algorithm will have to work with, choosing a best overall country. However, even when a few contact components are available, the service will still be able to make do with the information it receives.

What’s in a Number? What Email Validation Scores Mean

Whether it is to comply with GDPR, cleanse emails for a mailing campaign, or ensure that new users provide you with a deliverable email address, DOTS Email Validation 3 (EV3) is a powerful tool that will ensure the accuracy of your email addresses. Our email validation service is extremely popular with customers and data validation experts alike for a good reason: it has extremely robust capabilities, performing over 50 tests to determine the validity of an email address.

Part of the power of Email Validation lies in its depth of features. It has the power to correct common typos in domain addresses or syntax, detect fraudulent addresses and flag known spammers, among many other tests. But for most users, the most important thing it does is take the results of its validation tests and give you a simple, quantitative score for how valid your email address is.

0Email is Good
1Email is Probably Good
3Email is Probably Bad
4Email is Bad

But what do these scores mean? Read on, and we’ll break it down for you.

How to interpret your Email Validation scores

The Email Validation service returns a score that ranges from 0 to 4, representing how likely it is that an email address is valid. Lower numbers are better: a score of 0 indicates a good email address, and a score of 4 indicates a bad one. Simple enough, but what if the score we return is in between these two numbers? Since we run over 50 validation tests, there are a variety of reasons why a particular score is chosen, so let’s look at what these numbers really mean.

Score 0 – Email is good

We give a score of 0 to an email address that we have a lot of confidence in. This generally means that its SMTP server was good and that our service was successfully able to communicate with it. This score also means that we did not find the email address to contain any vulgar, garbage or bogus arrangement of characters.

In some cases where we return a zero score, we can even determine if the mailbox of an address is valid: for example, in the case of the address, this would mean that the “example” part of the email address was valid with the SMTP server. The validity of the mailbox can be viewed in the IsSMTPMailBoxGood response from the service as well.

Score 1 – Email is probably good

We give a score of 1 to email addresses that appear to be mostly good but may have some extenuating reasons for why we are hesitant to call it completely good. For example, email domains that are considered to implement greylisting techniques often receive a score of 1: this doesn’t necessarily call into the question the validity of the email address, but rather indicates that one may encounter greylisting behavior when trying to interact with this address.

(Greylisting, by the way, is when an email domain temporarily rejects incoming emails from unfamiliar senders. The logic of greylisting is that regular email servers will queue and reattempt delivery of your message, while bulk spammers won’t. However, delivery of your email may be delayed anywhere from minutes to days.)

Generally speaking, scores of 1 and 3 are relatively rare. Most emails will be able to be classified into a score of 0, 2 or 4.  Scores of 1 and 3 are reserved for cases where we are hesitant to call an email completely good or completely bad.

Score 2 – Unknown

A score of 2, in essence, indicates that the service was not able to make a definitive decision about whether or not an email address was valid. One of the most common reasons for this is when the mailbox for the email address is a “catch all domain” like, which will essentially receive any email that is sent to any mailbox at that domain. Even if the specific mailbox does not exist, the domain will still receive the email message. Another reason that may cause a score of 2 is greylisting by a mailbox domain.

Score 3 – Email is probably bad

These scores are for email addresses that are most likely bad but don’t fail enough of our validation tests to incur a completely bad score. Like emails with a score of 1, these are generally rarer than the other scores. Results that may move an email from a score of 2 to a score of 3 include getting a flag indicating that the email string contained bogus, vulgar or garbage characters. Email addresses with a score of 3 still may be deliverable, however.

Score 4 – Email is bad

If an email returns a score of 4, this means that it failed one of our more serious validation tests. For example, this email address may have had an invalid DNS, an invalid domain syntax, or the mail box simply does not exist.  If an email address fails one of these important tests our service will forgo all of the subsequent tests and return a score of 4.

How to use your scores

Generally, we recommend that clients consider emails with a score of 0 to 2 as “good” emails. However, you may want to use the additional results that Email Validation returns along with your own use case to determine the best emails to target. For example, if you want to be more conservative with your email campaigns then only sending emails to score 0 and 1 addresses may be the appropriate way to proceed. Conversely, if you would like to reach the broadest crowd possible, allowing emails with scores of 0 to 3 may be beneficial for your use case.

In a very real sense, DOTS Email Validation 3 serves as a consultant for your outbound email efforts: it provides you with data, but lets you make the final decision about who to send to. Understanding the scores we provide helps you use this data effectively – and in the process, get the most value out of your email contact assets.

Identifying Data Validation Solutions: A Case Study

I have a superpower that most people don’t have. In my position here at Service Objects, I have had the privilege of being a fly on the wall with many companies while helping them create clean and validated data. So I know, perhaps better than most people, what businesses go through as they wrestle with how to improve their data quality and ROI.

In this article, I would like to take you inside the mind of a typical business as they look at their data challenges, and what happens when they decide to work with us. You probably know what *we* think about our products, of course – but the only opinions that really matter are those of our customers. So let’s look at a hypothetical case study of a typical business, based on my many actual interactions with prospects and clients.

Discovering your data quality issues

I was a new hire at my company when it all started. We were a large manufacturing firm serving the business-to-business market, and things were ramping up. We had a website where people could make orders and sign up for a catalog, as well as opt-in for email alerts when special items would go on sale or we had an email campaign.

My job was ensuring that the data we were collecting was accurate and up-to-date. And I found that this data was a mess! For one thing, we had lots of inconsistencies in our contact data. Sometimes street suffixes and street prefixes were abbreviated, and sometimes they weren’t. Sometimes they were in all upper case, or all lower case, or sometimes mixed case. The same things were also true for the state field. One of the complaints from management was that the shipping labels on our catalogs looked very bad.

More importantly – particularly from a financial standpoint – the team was getting frustrated with the amount of “return to sender” items we were receiving. This gave us a few problems to solve. First, I knew that our data input forms would need to be updated, but I also quickly realized that somehow forcing our users to always provide good consistent data was a pipe dream. Standardizing the data alone wouldn’t fix the problem of returned catalogs, so I knew that this really came down to getting our existing data standardized and validated, as well as making sure new addresses coming into the system were also high quality and valid. Address validation was the key to solving this.

Finding an address validation solution

Now a decision needed to be made: do we get our software engineers involved and build it ourselves, or do we get something off the shelf? I had faced this dilemma before in previous positions. For small tasks, building solutions from scratch is OK and can save money in the long run. But I have found that when trying to implement solutions for larger projects, finding products off the shelf can have a much greater impact.

You see, the problem really wasn’t that we couldn’t update our forms to help standardize the inputs. It was a small job to switch data entry fields from open text fields to dropdown selectable options. The tough part was the address validation component. We were experts with our products, but it really didn’t make sense to try to be experts with address validation. Address validation is no simple task, and I knew the right solution would be finding a company that had a lot of experience with it.

Naturally, like everyone else, I did a Google search for “Address Validation”. I was looking for three main things for our solution. First, they had to be experts. Second, they had to have integration options, because I knew I wanted a solution that integrated with the forms we had on the website. I also didn’t want to have to build out a process to clean the existing addresses: I wanted to simply send the data over in a file have it cleansed and returned to me to repopulate our database. And third, I wanted service. I wanted a company that was available to talk when I needed to talk, and would respond quickly to my email questions.

It turned out that Service Objects had all of this and more. I had access to experts with solutions to my problems – not just people selling solutions, but also the people building and integrating these solutions. And it turned out that our team didn’t really need much help integrating the Service Objects’ Address Validation solution into our website. The documentation and sample code were clear, and with just a free trial key we were able to get up and running. Then all we needed to do was switch to a live production key, and we were done! I really like it when things are that easy.

When it came to validating the existing addresses, we wanted a solution where we could upload our data and get it cleansed and returned to us, as I mentioned earlier. After talking it through with a Service Objects representative I realized that we just didn’t have one data set to cleanse. In addition to our direct data set needing to be validated, we would also be importing address data from other divisions of the company on a periodic basis.

Here it would be nice to set up a process where we could regularly deliver a file and have it processed. After talking it over some more, Service Objects told us that they did do one-time processing, But also offered an automated batch service where we could upload a file that would get processed and returned to us automatically. This was exactly what we needed.

Moving on to email validation

So we integrated address validation into our system and got the automated batch process going, and everything was running like a well-oiled machine. Address data was coming into the system as clean as it could be, and the issue with returned catalogs disappeared. Next, I wanted to tackle the issue we were having with our email alerts that visitors could sign up for.

It was being reported that we were getting a lot of bounces on the email offers we were sending. When I examined the email data, some of the reasons were obvious. I was finding things like emails that appeared to have been entered by the user mashing a bunch of random keys on their keyboard. But the problem was larger than that – we were also getting bounces from emails that appeared legitimate.

I recalled from my conversations with Service Objects that they were experts in several types of data validation. Besides address validation, for which they had Canada and international products as well, they also had phone validation services, geocoding services, lead and ecommerce services, demographics services and more. But most importantly, for my purposes, Service Objects had a solution for real-time email validation.

The solution I was looking for would be one where we could validate an email at the point of entry into our system, and also one where we could send automated batches to get validated before we do an email campaign. The automated batches would also help us with the multiple email lists that we purchased or rented. The Service Objects’ Email Validation service was perfect for this and was just as easy to integrate as the address validation service was.

Lessons learned

This case study tried to identify a few phases companies go through when they try to validate their data. They involve identifying what the problems are, and sometimes these problems are not always obvious. Moreover, validating your data once does not mean that you are done. For starters, email addresses change and people move. Also, if your records are of people in the European Union then personal data needs to be as accurate and current as possible, particularly in light of their new GDPR regulations.

Stale or incorrect data is your enemy, and we have the services you need to keep it valid. After identifying the problem, most companies look next at how and who should solve the problem. As I mentioned in the case study, there are reasons to build out solutions in-house, but when you get into the realm of data validation it is really best left to the experts.

There are additional benefits to buying off the shelf with us besides our capabilities and expert support. You also benefit by always having the latest and greatest versions of our products. When we update our services, these updates are often injected into the operations you are already using and can provide for faster response times as well. Also, nearly every customer goes through a discovery phase where they are learning about a service and all the different data points that it can return. There are a lot of terms involved, and unless you are an expert some of them can be confusing. In cases like these, our assistance can make a big difference.

We’re here to help

Above all, we are there with our customers every step of the way. And there are often times when some expert advice can help you get more out of our services.
For example:

  • For email validation, you may want to know what greylisting is or what catchall means, and how knowing these data points can help you.
  • For address validation, it may be very helpful to know when an address is classified as residential, so you can better define shipping costs.
  • You may not be aware of how some of our capabilities could directly profit your specific operations, such as demographic analysis or lead validation.

We are always here to help you understand our capabilities, as well as helping you through the integration process. Integration is usually the last main phase in the process. We do find that most organizations have few real issues when it comes to integration, but there are unique cases that we work through together. We have lots of documentation and sample code to help with integration, and you can count on us as a resource for help.

This hypothetical case study has a lot in common with our real-life experience with customers: they come to us with data quality issues that are costing them money, hurting their productivity or damaging their brand image. And then we collaboratively help them find solutions to these problems and make it look easy. We would love to help you too!

Contact us any time for a no-obligation discussion on what we can do for you.

Best Practices for DOTS Email Validation

Email and email validation technologies continue to evolve and it is increasingly important that businesses keep up with these changes to ensure they are protected and getting the most out of their email lists. Whether the intention is to verify emails for a mailing campaign, verify users when they sign up on a webpage or ensure that your data is compliant with privacy laws like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), our DOTS Email Validation 3 service helps ensure your email data is accurate, valid, and up-to-date.

In our Applications Engineer department, we are proud of our product expertise and happy to work with you and make integration recommendations that best meet your needs. We have found that each use case and integration scenario is different and may require using different parts of the email validation service to achieve best results. We always recommend starting with a free API key and checking out our comprehensive and up-to-date developer guide for a strong understanding of everything our service can do. With that said, below are some of the most common discussions we have with our clients when integrating our Email Validation service.

Setting up Email Validation’s web service call

Our recommended operation for the service is the ValidateEmailAddress operation. This method has four input fields; EmailAddress, AllowCorrections, Timeout and LicenseKey. The EmailAddress field should be the email address to be validated and the License key should be the trial or production key supplied by Service Objects (you can get yours here). The AllowCorrections and Timeout fields can be used to fine-tune the results from our email validation service.

The AllowCorrections field will essentially tell the service whether to attempt a correction on the email address if the original one is found to be invalid. This is helpful, especially for scenarios where the user mistypes their email address. This can also be set to “false” to weed out users that do not “strongly” type their email addresses.

The Timeout value uses a number in milliseconds. This value sets the maximum amount of time for our services to communicate with a mail server in a given request. One of the key features of our service is that it performs real-time SMTP communication with mail servers and part of this communication is waiting for the mail server to respond. So in short, the longer the timeout, the greater the validation accuracy will be. This will help turn the unknown email addresses (score 2; more on this below) into either good or bad emails. Most mail servers will respond very quickly to communication, but smaller or lesser known servers can take a bit of time to respond.

Email Validation scoring

There are a lot of different results returned in the Email Validation service and the best use case depends on your business logic and what you are hoping to achieve with the service. Arguably, the first return you will want to look at would be the score value that is returned, below are the scores and a brief description.

0Email is Good
1Email is Probably Good
3Email is Probably Bad
4Email is Bad

Generally, we recommend that our clients accept emails with a score of 0, 1 or 2 as “good” emails. If you want to be more conservative with email campaigns then only including emails with scores of 0 or 1 would be the way to go. This may not be the best option if you are validating users that fill in a form on your webpage, as many popular catch-all domains (e.g. yahoo, hotmail, etc.), will return an Unknown (2) score from the service. Conversely, considering good emails as scores from 0 to 3 would be an option if you want the highest volume of possible good emails.

Warning codes

The Email Validation service also returns Warning and Note codes for each email that is validated. Generally speaking, the Warning codes help define what is detrimental to the email score. Warning flags like Bot, Vulgar, Garbage and DisposableEmail are obvious indicators of a bad email address. But a warning flag like “KnownGreylister” indicates that the mail server is known to use greylisting techniques but this doesn’t necessarily mean the email address is bad. If you are sending an email campaign through MailChimp, Marketo or similar platforms, then you may experience temporary bounce backs on email addresses with the KnowGreylister flag, as those email domains will give a temporary reject message due to unfamiliar mail servers.

There are over 20 Warning codes that our Email Validation service can return, see the table below for the complete list and a brief description of each.

CodeWarning NameDescription
0UnrecognizedTLD Indicates if the top-level-domain is not recognized by ICANN.
1InvalidSyntaxIndicates if the email is syntactically invalid.
2InvalidDomainSpecificSyntaxIndicates if email is syntactically invalid for the given domain.
3InvalidDNSIndicates if the domain is unregistered or it does not have at least one MX or A record configured to relay email.
4NoMXRecordsIndicates that the registered DNS does not have an MX record.
5EstablishedIndicates that the email address is known to be in bulk marketing lists.
6AliasIndicates if the email address is believed to be an alias address.
7BogusIndicates if the email address is believed to be a bogus email. For example,
8BogusSMSAddressIndicates if the email address is believed to be a bogus SMS domain address.
9GarbageIndicates if the email address is believed to contain garbage-like keyboard strokes and/or garbage-like characters.
10VulgarIndicates if vulgar words or content are found in the email address.
11MailBoxIsFullIndicates if the mailbox is currently full and unable to receive any new messages.
12MailboxIsBusyIndicates if the mailbox is reported by the hosting mail server as being busy and unable to currently accept new messages.
13DisposableEmailIndicates if the email address is believed to be disposable. Disposable email address are generally only valid for a short period of time before they are disposed and are then no longer valid.
14SpamTrapIndicates if the mailbox is believed to be a spam trap.
15KnownSpammerIndicates if the email address is known to have participated in spam-like activities.
16BlacklistedDomainIndicates if the domain was found to be in one or more blacklists.
17KnownComplainerIndicates if the email address has been identified as a known complainer of receiving unsolicited mail.
18KnownGreylisterIndicates if the mail server is known to commonly use greylisting techniques. This means that if your mail server is communicating with this domain for the first time or if you are sending bulk messages or messages in high frequency then you may be greylisted by them and experience temporary bounce backs.
19OptInRequiredIndicates if the mail server requires opting-in to send and receive messages.
20IsWhiteListOnlyIndicates if the mail server only relays messages for users that are whitelisted.
21ConnectionRefused Indicates if the mail server refuses to accept an SMTP connection.
22Email is Bad - Subsequent checks halted.Indicates that the email address failed a critical check, such as SMTP verification.
23BotIndicates that the email address has been reported as being a known bot.

Note codes

Notes from Email Validation typically provide additional information about an email domain and can be leveraged to intelligently target specific email addresses. For example, if you have an email sign up form and you want to limit the sign-ups to business emails, then you might want to want to look for email addresses with the BuisnessAddress note flag, which would indicate that the email is likely associated with a business. Or maybe you want to identify country based email addresses? Then it may be wise to filter out emails that receive the CCTLD note code as these will indicate emails that have a Top-Level Domain (i.e. .com of that is associated with a specific country.  In addition, we recently rolled out a new feature that can detect the geographic location of the email’s mail server.

Other Note Codes you may want to pay attention to are those indicating the service had trouble connecting to the mail server.  While these notes don’t indicate that an email is bad, they do reflect simulated interactions with mail servers and may indicate trouble contacting customers via email campaign or through typical email delivery. You can see the complete list of Note Codes and their descriptions below.

0CCTLDIndicates if the top-level-domain (tld) represents a specific country. For example ".us" implies United States.
1FreeIndicates if the domain of the email is a public-register domain, where users can sign up for email accounts for free.
2SMSDomainIndicates if the domain is a known Mail-to-SMS Gateway.
3RoleIndicates if the email address appears to be a role that is designed to be anonymously managed by one or more persons.
4BusinessAddressIndicates if the email address appears to be work related.
5GreyListedIndicates if the mail server responded with a known greylist tactic.
Indicates that the mail server may be temporarily unavailable or too busy to respond.
7ServerConnectTimeoutIndicates that a connection to the recipient mail server could not be established.
8MailBoxTimeoutIndicates that the connection to the mail server timed out when trying to verify the email address.
9TemporaryRejectIndicates that the email address was temporarily rejected by the mail server. This is also known as a soft-bounce and the rejection is not permanent. There are many reasons for why a mail server may respond with a temporary reject. The mailbox or server may be busy, unavailable, or using a greylist. When a mail server does this it typically wants you to wait at least 15 minutes and then try again later.
10SlowMailServerIndicates that the host mail server is known to communicate slowly and that real-time verification of an email address may not be possible unless adequate time is provided. In some cases a timeout time of 90 seconds or more may be necessary to verify email addresses with these mail servers.
11Varies (Example: JP)Countries: The ISO2 country code for the country where the mail server(s) is located. If mail servers are found in more than one country, then all country ISO2 codes will be represented in a pipe-delimited list. ***In BETA
12Varies (Example: OS|TY)Region: The region in the country where the mail server(s) is located. The region is commonly returned as a two-character abbreviation. If mail servers are found in more than one region then the value will be a pipe-delimited list of the regions. ***In BETA
13Varies (Example: Osaka|Tokyo)Localities: The name of the locality where the mail sever(s) is located in. If mail servers are found in more than one locality then the value will be a pipe-delimited list of all the localities. ***In BETA
14Varies (Example: 543-0062 | 102-0082)PostCodes: The post code of where the mail server(s) is located. If multiple post codes are found, then the value will be a pipe-delimited list. ***In BETA

Our Email Validation service is robust, multi-featured and constantly under refinement. Don’t hesitate to schedule an integration call with our Applications Engineering team with any integration or best practices questions, we are glad to help.

What Validated Contact Data Can Do for Your Business

What Validated Contact Data Can Do for Your Business

“Nobody is perfect. And my company wasn’t even talking about things like data quality ten years ago. So, what is the big deal if there are a few problems with my contact data? That’s life, isn’t it?”

Actually, it is a big deal. First, it affects your costs and competitiveness. Second, it affects your reputation in the marketplace. And finally, because bad data can be so easily fixed with the latest automated tools.

With new regulations on the horizon and an increasingly competitive marketplace, companies need data they can rely on. If you’re still on the fence, below are some of the main reasons your business needs confirmed data.

Saving Time and Money

Bad data always costs your business time, money, or both. It affects areas such as sales leads, delivery accuracy, your reputation when sending email marketing, and much more. It is estimated15-25% of contact data is inaccurate, incomplete, fraudulent, or out-of-date, and a great deal of resources are wasted due to inaccurate or straight-up bad data.

Getting sales leads is costly for most organizations, especially when leads are bad or inaccurate. The earlier you can validate incoming data, the better you will be able to utilize your resources.  Our Email and Address Validation services can help make sure your incoming contact data is coming in clean and valid, and our Lead Validation service helps prioritize your resources toward better targeted leads.

Improving Your Marketing Efficiency

Think of all the wasted resources involved when materials are sent to the wrong address, or salespeople chase after bad or mislocated prospects. Even a small percentage of errors can result in a great deal of frustration for everyone involved, and fixing these problems is low-hanging fruit you can easily automate.

Beyond our Address Validation services, our Address Geocode product can translate addresses to exact latitude-longitude coordinates in real time. For incomplete addresses, our Address Detective product can prevent you from purging good leads. It fixes fatal addressing errors by filling in the gaps of missing address data in your contact records, using a fuzzy-matching API that returns a confidence score for each updated address.

Protecting Your Email Reputation

Suppose you bought an email list and you are ready to send the perfect email, after weeks of refining. Nothing can give you a bad reputation quicker than sending email to a bunch of addresses that bounce, not to mention getting mediocre results from your campaign.

Use our Email Validation service to keep your reputation in good standing. Using a real-time API can reduce bounce rates up to 90%. Our service can process rented lists as well as your own house lists, giving you valuable insight into your contact data assets to make sure you get the most out of your investment.

Cleaning Up Your Existing Contact Data

We often hear people say, “What if I just realized we were doing things wrong and I want to get our data on the right track?” Once your database gets corrupted with uncertain data, typically two things must happen to reverse course. First, you need to draw a line in the sand and commit to making sure to validate any new information going into your system. The next step involves validating all your current database information in a separate process.

We can help automate much of the extra work of cleaning up existing data. We have lots of sample code and support many platforms to make it easy to integrate with us, not to mention the top-notch technical service team we have standing by to help you implement a robust solution.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Finally, we wanted to mention the importance of keeping your data current. Even after validating data coming into your system using our API or cleansing your system afterward with our batch process, data will still get old and invalid over time. People move, new homes are built, old buildings are repurposed, emails change, phone numbers are disconnected, and so on.  Like showering, regular data hygiene will help keep your data in the best condition possible, and we make this easy for you.

There are many benefits to keeping your data as up-to-date and accurate as possible, and we are here to help you every step of the way. Contact us to see what we can do for you and your data!


As the GDPR ushers in a new generation of consumer data privacy controls, the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal proves businesses need to prepare.

Facebook, Data Quality, and the GDPR

With 2.1 billion active users, Facebook presents an exceptional opportunity for targeted marketing and businesses interested in harnessing the power of consumer data. In fact, there are now entire industries devoted to collecting and selling personally identifiable information. Unfortunately, the swift expansion of social media, with its tantalizing trove of consumer information, has left lawmakers playing catch up. However, that’s about to change, thanks, in part, to the scandal surrounding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica and its intersection with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), an EU law governing data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union.

The GDPR effect

Though the GDPR will not take effect until May 25, 2018, if the breach of 50 million user account had happened while the law was in place, it would have resulted in a costly error for Facebook. As Austrian privacy campaigner and Facebook critic Max Schrems was quick to point out, had the unauthorized the sharing of profile data to Cambridge Analytica occurred while the GDPR was in effect, it “would have cost Facebook 4 percent of their global revenue”, somewhere in the ballpark of $1.6bn (€1.3bn).

But even before the Cambridge-Analytica story grabbed headlines, GDPR implementation was set to trigger significant changes to Facebook’s business operations. According to Reuters, Facebook faces a double-edged challenge: comply with the new GDPR rules and allow European users to opt out of targeted advertising, or violate the GDPR and face fines of up to 4% of the company’s annual revenue.  Considering 24% of Facebook’s ad revenue comes from EU users, either course of action represents a significant hit to profits for the company. And with global adoption of GDPR-type privacy protocols beginning to take hole around the world, Facebook and its social media cohorts will need to adapt to the changing consumer data landscape. 

A global movement

Though the EU primarily applies directly to data from EU citizens, it also controls the flow of personal data from within the EU to countries outside its borders. With US and UK legislation probable, this new era of data security means enormous changes in the way companies do business. As a result, international adoption of the GDPR’s privacy protocols is already taking hold around the world as counties begin to change their own data privacy rules. 

How businesses can prepare

So how can business owners make sure they do not follow in Facebook’s footsteps? Companies entrusted with customer data must first acknowledge their responsibility in keeping that information secure. It is not enough to create a security protocol; organizations must also enforce and audit those policies. Robust and comprehensive quality analysis is also crucial, especially in light of the GDPR Article 5 mandate requiring the personal information of individuals within the European Union (EU) be current and accurate. Finally, the use of contact data, especially when it comes to combining information from different sources, should also be monitored. It is not enough to know your information is accurate; you must also make sure you are using it in the manner it was intended to be used, both legally and ethically.

The benefits of data quality best practices

Though many businesses are still unprepared for the GDPR’s May 2018 deadline, it seems clear this latest scandal involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica will spur many businesses into action.

The good news is implementing data quality best practices to comply with Article 5 makes good business sense. It will save organizations considerable money in the form of streamlined marketing and sales campaigns, improve overall customer service and reduce the waste associated with bad contact data.

Service Objects can help you get a better understanding of the role your customer data plays in becoming GDPR compliant. Send us up to 500 records (it is a 100% secure process) and we will provide you with an overall score of the quality of each record based on fields such as name, phone, address, email, IP, and country. Get started today.

Service Objects integrations can help improve your contact data quality, help with data validation, and enhance your business operations.

Salesforce Data Quality Tools Integration Series – Part 3 – VisualForce

Welcome to our third installment in our Salesforce Data Quality Tools Integration Series. In the first two parts, we covered creating a plug-in that could be dropped on a flow and a trigger. Today, we are going to jump into creating a VisualForce app that you’ll be able to extend for your purposes. At the end, you will have all the code you’ll need to get started, so don’t worry about implementing this step by step as I have it laid out in this blog.

The goal of this app is to display to a table of contacts that can be selected to have their emails validated. We will add a filter to the table to better target certain emails for validation. We will also display a few charts that will provide a good overview of the state of the emails in their system. These charts will refresh according to the filter selected for the table of contacts.

As always, we are going to start with some basic setup, then switching to look at what the final VisualForce page is going to look like, after that we’ll run through the code. During this walk-through, it should be clear where there are opportunities for customizing this solution.

The very first thing you need to start with is setting up the Service Objects endpoint. I am not going to go over it this time because I go over it in the first and second parts of this series. So, if you need help setting up your endpoint or a description of what this is, please check out the previous blogs. If you have been following along from the first two blogs, then you have already completed this part. Once you have set up your endpoint, you will need to add the following custom fields to the Contact object. If you are customizing this for your own purposes, you will want to add these fields to the object you are working with. If you want to map more of the fields that our service returns, you’ll have to create the appropriate fields on the object, if there isn’t an existing field already at your disposal.

  • Field name
    • Internal Salesforce name
    • Type
    • Service Objects field name
  • Email Catch All
    • EmailCatchAll__c
    • Text(20)
    • IsCatchAllDomain
  • Email Score
    • Email_Score__c
    • Number(2,0)
    • Score
  • Email Score Name
    • EmailScoreName__c
    • Text(20)
    • DPVNotesDesc
  • Email Top Level Domain
    • EmailTopLevelDomain__c
    • Text(50)
    • TopLevelDomainDescription

Here is a view of the table with the filter and the Validate button.

Next is a screen shot of a couple of the charts.

As you can see, it is a pretty simple example that can be tailored to whatever custom solution you are looking for.

For this walk-through, we will be creating three files: one for the markup, one for the controller and one for the web service call.


Starting with the markup page, the actual VisualForce page, we will create a file called EmailValidation.vfp. For the first element, the Apex:page element, we define which controller we want to have associated to the page. We will make a custom controller for this app, “ContactEmailValidationController”, which is the name of the class that we will build later in the controller section. After we establish the controller that we are going to use, we override some styles so that we get the headers in the charts to stand out properly.

Next, we create the page block that will house the components to the page inside a form. The four main components are the filter, the table of contacts, the validate button(s) and the charts. You will more than likely want to implement a paging system for the table, so you can page through your contact records but I do not go into that here.

The filter section is basic:

Throughout the code you will see instances of values that come in the form of {! [Some variable name]}. That is simply a reference to a value in our custom controller. In the case of the filter, we have two of those instances, one for the filterId and one for Items. In this case, the filterId is telling the select dropdown list which item is selected. When the page first loads, nothing is selected, so the filterId is empty or null, which will render the default table view. You can certainly set this to have some other default value. The Items variable simply holds all the possible select options for the dropdown list. Items is populated in the controller, which we will take a look at later. Since we want the charts and the table to refresh when the filter is changed, we set the reRender attribute on the actionSupport element to target contacts_list. This is the id of the overarching page block section. Any markup outside of the contacts_list page block section will not be refreshed. The underlying code does an ajax call to refresh just a part of the page, which can be handy when you don’t want the whole page to reload.

In the next section of the markup, we setup the table of contacts and the columns that we will display back to the user. I have collapsed much of the code here so we can first focus on the apex:pageBlockTable element.

There are two things to notice in the page block table element. First, the contacts variable holds all the contacts coming back from the controller. Later, you will see a method on the controller that is called getContacts which is specifically named that way to sync up with this contacts variable. For example, if the variable was called people then the controller would need a method to retrieve those records called getPeople. The second thing to notice is the value cont for var. This value will be the container for each of the contacts in the contacts variable. The format and setup of the page block table element can be described such that it acts like your traditional for each loop. On a side note, there are many ways we could have created this table. For instance, we could have used a repeater or a couple of other elements to display the contacts to the user.

Next, we are going to look at the way we setup the columns and we’ll start with the checkbox column, since it is unique to the rest of them.

This column consists of an apex:facet and a checkbox input. The facet will implement its own checkbox input as well. We use the facet to customize the header of the column with a checkbox. Salesforce defines the facet as this “A placeholder for content that’s rendered in a specific part of the parent component, such as the header or footer of an <apex:dataTable>”. The checkbox in the header will act as the select all/select none functionality of the column. The checkboxes in the rows will be populated with a contact id so we can track which contacts were selected. The onclick functions in both input elements reference JavaScript functions that we will discuss in more detail shortly. Simply put, those functions will manage the storage of selected rows.

The columns I have highlighted with the red boxes are going to be your standard output columns and those outside of the red boxes will need the header label, for the respective columns, updated to be more readable.

Earlier we created the custom fields to house some of the values that will be coming back from the call to the email validation service. Creating custom fields can, at times, lead to having to create a more “technical” label for the field instead of “displayable”. One obvious reason is so new custom fields do not conflict with existing fields or any future fields. Keeping that in mind, we do not want to use the labels of a couple of our custom fields in the header, so we will update them using the facet like we did earlier for the checkbox header but this time without a checkbox.

In this simple example, we are updating the header text, but the values in the column will still be pulled from the cont.EmailTopLevelDomain__c variable. And that is really it for the columns, pretty straightforward. And easy to extend, with little effort you can alter this example to display any of the columns you want in the table, as long as you have access to them from the controller.

In the next section, we will focus on the pie charts. The sample code will have a chart for Email Scores, Catch All Domains and Top Level Domains. The code becomes redundant, so I will only demonstrate one of them here. With that said, you can add any chart you want that focuses on the particular situation you are solving for. The overarching chart container is a page block element that I titled “Email Details”. This will house the three charts.

Each pie chart is wrapped in a page block section with it’s own unique title. For the apex:chart element, we see the variable EmailScorePieData. That links up to the getEmailScorePieData method on the controller which pulls in a list of wedgeName and count combinations which we can see referenced in the apex:pieSeries element.

Next, we’ll jump into the JavaScript portion of the client code. The JavaScript code on the markup page was designed to handle the checkboxes and compiling a list of ids based on checked/unchecked boxes. I used the code from this source on the internet. My only contribution to the code was to update some of the variable names to match more of what was going on in it. As you can see there is a function for selecting/deselecting one or all checkboxes at a time.

I am not going to take a deep dive into this code, since reading through it should illustrate what is going on there. At this point, all you need to know is that it compiles a list of Contact ids into the ContactIdBuilder variable based on which boxes have been checked as I mentioned earlier.

I did skip over the last part of the markup because it would be easier to make the connection between the ContactIdBuilder variable and the following markup code.

This part of the code, when the Validate button is clicked, it takes the id list stored in ContactIdBuilder and assigns it to the returnString hidden input element. After the value is assigned, the ValidateCheckedEmails method on the controller is called. The returnString value associates to the returnString variable in the controller that we will see shortly. And that is it. That’s all for the user facing part of the code.


The controller code consists of two main parts. First, getting data from Salesforce and displaying it to the screen. And the second part is validating the selected rows from the user interface.

Based on the filter selected from the user interface, the getContacts method will return a list of contacts. The main thing that you need to do here is make sure you are pulling back all the fields that the user interface needs to work with, taking into account both the visible and hidden fields. For example, the contact id which is in the background on the checkbox columns.

The method, getItems, retrieves all the filter options for the dropdown list in the user interface. In this method, we put together a list of hardcoded options and then some dynamic options that will allow us to filter on each company in the list.

The three methods that get the data for the charts return a list of EmailData records which are simply key/value pairs. Key being the name of the pie wedge and value being the count or size of the wedge. You can use the pie methods here to copy or modify to suit your own purposes. The more stats you want to present to the user, the more fields you’ll need to retain from the call to our email validation web service. Some of the other fields you may be interested in adding here are, the warning notes, the notes descriptions and/or the SMTP flags (server and mailbox level). There are many other fields that our email validation service returns and you can look at them in more depth here.

The last part of the controller to go over is the call to the method that does the email validate request. The method ValidateCheckedEmails pulls all the contact ids from the returnString variable and sets them up for processing in the CallEV3ByIdList method of the EmailValidationUtil class.


The EmailValidationUtil.apxc is the last file left to discuss. This file does the actual request to the email validation web service. This is the part of the code that you can customize the most; from what you decide to process to what is returned by the service. It is also a good place for any additional logic you may want to implement.

This code should seem very familiar to you if you had read the previous parts of this blog series. It is setup in a very similar way. Just as with the other examples in this blog series, we demonstrate the best practices when it comes to implementing failover. The inputs to the service are the EmailAddress, AllowCorrections, Timeout and Licensekey.

In our example, the email address comes from the contact records selected in the user interface and the rest of the inputs are hardcoded (but they don’t have to be). AllowCorrections accepts true or false. The service will attempt to correct an email address if set to true. Otherwise, the email address will be left unaltered if set to false. Here, I hardcoded it to true but you may want it to be false or use some other business logic to make that determination. The Timeout value specifies how long the service is allowed to wait for all real-time network level checks to finish. Real-time checks consist primarily of DNS and SMTP level verification. Timeout time is in milliseconds. A minimum value of 200ms is required. I have hardcoded it to 2000ms. For the LicenseKey, you will want to either hardcode this into the call (depending on the access that people have to the code) or create a custom object and/or a custom field with the license key that you can lock down with user permission only available to the administrator.

Before I wrap this up I wanted to make mention of writing tests to cover the code. This example is complete but expects you to customize parts of it, so I have not provided any test code. You will want to do that. It will ensure that even as Salesforce updates their system or you make changes to your organization, everything will continue to work as expected.

In conclusion, VisualForce pages are mostly used with the old Salesforce UI the Classic UI, but it can be created in a way so that it will continue to work with the new Lightning experience. In a future blog, I will show a demonstration of how to create a Lightning App while incorporating our validation services. Service Objects has validation services for all kinds of solutions, making Salesforce a perfect platform to demonstrate our services on.

Mail Servers: Where in the world…?

We love data here at Service Objects. We are constantly working to expand and improve on our datasets to further innovate our product lineup. A big part of what makes our Email Validation (EV) service so good is the data that helps drive it. When communicating with a mail server in real-time to verify an email address it helps to know what kind of mail server it is dealing with and if it is trustworthy. Just because an email address is deliverable does not always mean that it is good.  For example, an email may be disposable, vulgar or worse yet, a spamtrap.

Our Email Validation service already keeps track of mail server behavior patterns for millions of domains, which allows us to identify and flag mail servers with malicious activity or servers that have a high association with malicious activity.  In addition to monitoring behavior patterns, we are now focusing on determining the geographic location of the email servers.

What benefits does identifying mail server location offer?

Email addresses can be sent and received from anywhere in the world. They are not anchored to one physical location, and at a glance, one cannot easily discern its geographic origin. Even email addresses with a country code for a Top Level Domain (TLD) can have a global presence and may have servers located in multiple countries.  Fortunately, mail server location data can be derived and aggregated from some of our other datasets. This allows our Email Validation service to better identify potentially malicious mail servers and flag servers from known geographic hot spots.

In addition to helping identify problematic email servers, mail server location data can provide additional insights and benefits. From a marketing and administration perspective, the mail server location data can be used to help identify and organize email addresses for a particular region. The location information can also be used to gain business insights about a company and its location(s). At Service Objects, we are using the additional information to further enhance some of our other services, such as Lead Validation.

Challenges to identifying mail server location information

There are a number of challenges to accurately identifying mail server location information. First, we are identifying the mail server locations of a domain, not attempting to identify where an email message was sent from. This would require more than just a simple email address. However, the location data can be used to help cross-check and verify the legitimacy of an email message. For example, an email message is received, and the headers say that the message was sent from However, the server IP address in the header does not match any of the known Gmail mail server locations, so chances are the message was spoofed and that it is spam or part of a phishing scam.

Second, trying to identify all of the mail servers for a particular domain is not something that can be done quickly enough for a real-time service where end-users expect sub-second response times. Real-time communication with a mail server can often take several seconds, but trying to identify all the mail servers for a domain from around the world can sometimes take several minutes. For this reason, our DOTS Email Validation service does not include mail server location identification in its suite of real-time checks. Instead, the service relies on background systems that have already collected and identified mail server locations from around the world. This ensures that the service is not bogged down by slow processes and continues to respond normally. While mail server location identification may be too slow for a real-time check, it is a daily process that we perform to ensure our list of locations is up to date. The process is also quick enough that our background processes can routinely check for any new domains that we have not come across before and process them hourly.

Third, if a business has multiple locations, then a typical DNS lookup for a domain will just tell you which mail server(s) to connect to that are closest to your area, and not necessarily tell you about their other mail servers. DNS does this to help ensure that communication is quick and efficient, that way an end-user isn’t trying to communicate with a server on the other side of the country or potentially in a different nation entirely if it doesn’t have to. Part of what makes the location identification process “slow” is that we are looking for mail servers in every major region of the world, and not just in our own local areas.

What’s going on behind the scenes

While our email validation service will currently only display the location(s) of the mail server(s) in the notes of the output when it has been identified, it is doing a lot more with that data behind the scenes. Knowing the IP Addresses and locations of the mail servers means that we can perform cross-checks against more data points in other areas. Service Objects is extremely interested in fraud prevention, so we use this data to check for associations with known proxies, VPNs, bot services and other data points that have ties to malicious activity. The data allows us to check various data driven blacklists and white hat resources against more than a simple email address and domain.  Instead, we can pull back the curtain, so to speak, and dig deeper into the mail server(s) that run behind the scenes. All, while continuing and expanding our server behavior monitorization.

With the addition of this new data, we have added additional NoteCodes to the output from our DOTS Email Validation 3 service. Below is a list of the new notes codes and that have been added:

Code Description Example
11 Countries: The ISO2 country code for the country where the mail server(s) is located. If mail servers are found in more than one country, then all country ISO2 codes will be represented in a pipe-delimited list. JP
12 Region: The region in the country where the mail server(s) is located. The region is commonly returned as a two-character abbreviation. If mail servers are found in more than one region then the value will be a pipe-delimited list of the regions. OS|TY
13 Localities: The name of the locality where the mail sever(s) is located in. If mail servers are found in more than one locality then the value will be a pipe-delimited list of all the localities. Osaka|Tokyo
14 PostCodes: The post code of where the mail server(s) is located. If multiple post codes are found, then the value will be a pipe-delimited list. 543-0062|102-0082


For more information about terms for international addresses and locations please check out this previous blog post.

Unlike other NotesCodes where the corresponding NotesDescriptions value will be a human readable flag to describe the note code, the value will instead contain the list of locations found.

Get started testing DOTS Email Validation by downloading a real-time API trial key or sending is a sample list to run for you.

Email Marketing Tip: Dealing With Role Addresses

Do you have any friends named “info” or “customerservice”?

If you do, our sympathies, because their parents were probably way over-invested in their careers. But in all likelihood, you probably don’t. Which leads to a very important principle about your email marketing: you always need to make sure you are marketing to real people.

Email addresses like “” or “” are examples of what we call role addresses. They are not addressed to a person, but rather to a job function and generally include a number of people on the distribution list. They serve a valuable purpose, particularly in larger organizations – if you have a problem with, for example, you don’t want to wait for Cindy to get back from vacation first to respond to you.

You probably realize that role email addresses create the same problems as any other non-person in your marketing database: wasted human effort, lower response rates, bounces, and the like. However, there are several other important reasons to purge role addresses from your contact database:

Bounce Rate. Role emails are generally the responsibility of an email administrator.  These administrators are not always kept in the loop when individuals move onto other positions or leave the company.  This can result in a role email’s distribution list not being up-to-date and emails being sent to inactive email addresses.  These inactive addresses are usually set to automatically bounce emails, resulting in a higher bounce rate and poorer campaign performance.

Blacklisting. Spamming a role email address doesn’t just annoy people. As one article points out, it can trigger spam complaints and damage your sender reputation – in fact, role accounts are often used as spam traps by account holders. This can lead to your IP being blacklisted for the entire organization, cutting you off from leads or even existing customers far beyond the original email.

CAN-SPAM compliance. Permission to send email is fundamentally a contract with an individual, and marketing to a role email address risks having your materials go to people who did not opt-in or agree to your terms and conditions – putting you at risk for being in violation of the US CAN-SPAM act that governs email marketing.

New laws. In Europe, the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) takes effect in 2018, severely restricting unsolicited email marketing. While it is not always clear that you are mailing to Europe (for example, many people do not realize that household names like Bayer and Unilever are based there), you are still bound by their laws and potentially stiff penalties. Eliminating role accounts from your contact database is an important part of mitigating this exposure.

Exponential risk. When it comes to risk, role addresses are the gift that keeps on giving. One of these addresses may go to 10 different people or more – and only one of them needs to complain to get you in trouble. Moreover, you can easily get multiple complaints for the price of one errant message.

Customer reputation. When someone signs up for your contact list using a role address, it is a form of “friendly fraud” that absolves them from personally receiving your emails – much like the person who signs up as “Donald Duck” to receive a free marketing goodie. But when other people start receiving your materials without their permission as a result, it is not a good way to start a customer relationship.

Thankfully, avoiding role-based addresses is relatively easy. In fact, many large email marketing providers won’t import these address in the first place. Or if you manage your contact database from within your own applications environment, we can help. Our email validation capabilities flag role-based addresses in your database like sales, admin, support, webmaster, billing, and much more. In addition, we perform over 50 verification tests, clean up common spelling and syntax errors, and return a quantitative quality score that helps you accept or reject addresses at the point of import.

So, with pun fully intended, your role in data quality is to ensure that your online marketing only goes to live, real people who welcome your message. Our role is to automate this process to make it as frictionless as possible. Together, we can keep your email contact data ready to roll!

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How to Use DOTS Email Validation 3

The DOTS Email Validation 3 (EV3) service has been designed to be robust enough to accommodate the particular needs of a detailed oriented programmer and simple enough to be used by a marketing assistant who needs to run an email campaign. The service can meet various needs that can essentially be narrowed down to two use cases, form validation and post-processing jobs such as batches and database hygiene. Before we discuss those two cases we will first go over the recommended service operation and review some of the important result fields.

Which operation should I use?

The recommended service operation for EV3 is the ValidateEmailAddress method. This operation performs real-time server-to-server email verification. It lets the user specify a timeout value, in milliseconds, for how long it can take to perform real-time server checks. A minimum value of 200 milliseconds is required; however, results are dependent on the network speed of an email’s host, which may require several seconds to verify. Average mail server response times are approximately between 2-3 seconds, but some slower mail servers may take 15 seconds or more to verify.

Please note that the above information is also available in the service developer guide.

Understanding the results

The service returns many results that can be used to meet a programmer’s particular email validation needs, but the easiest way to determine if an email should be accepted or rejected is by looking at either the IsDeliverable value or the Score value.


For most cases it is recommended to use the Score along with other output values to cater to your particular needs. Here are the possible score values.

Score Description Notes
0 Email is Good Indicates with high confidence that the email address is deliverable and good. The email address was verified with the host mail server and no malicious warnings were found.
1 Email is Probably Good Indicates that the email is deliverable but one or more lesser warnings were found. For example the email may be a potential alias or a role, which are sometimes used as disposable addresses.
2 Unknown Indicates that not enough information was available to determine deliverability and integrity. Unknowns most commonly occur for slow mail servers that do not respond to the web service in time. They also occur for catch-all mail servers and greylists.
3 Email is Probably Bad Indicates that one or more warnings were found, such as a potential vulgarity or a string of garbage-like characters.
4 Email is Bad Indicates with high confidence that the email address is bad and/or undeliverable. Occurs for email addresses that fail critical checks such as syntax validation and DNS verification. Most commonly occurs for email addresses where the actual host mail server verified that the email does not exist. Also occurs for deliverable email addresses that are known spam traps or bots.


The simplest way to use the service is to look at the IsDeliverable field. This field will return true, false or unknown. If your primary concern is to be able to send out email with the lowest possible chance of a hard bounceback then this field alone will suffice. However, this field does not take spamtraps, vulgarities, bots or other factors into consideration. It simply indicates if the service was able to verify the deliverability of an email address with the host mail server. It does not measure the overall integrity of the email address.

If you choose to only look at one result value then it is our recommendation that you use the Score value instead of the IsDeliverable value. The Score evaluates the overall integrity of the email address and not just its deliverability. Either one of these fields can be used in conjunction with other result values to more intelligently evaluate an email address if the need arises. For example, if an email comes back as unknown in either the Score or in IsDeliverable, then we can refer to the following outputs to help us decide if we should accept, reject or retry the email address.


Returns true, false or unknown to indicate if the email’s host mail server was responsive at the time of the check. This is a one of the service’s critical checks. If this value comes back false then it will be reflected in the IsDeliverable value and in the score. Refer to this value if the email is unknown. If the value for this field is also unknown then the service most likely did not have enough time to finish verifying the email address with its host mail server. In these cases the service will continue to try and verify the email in a background process even though the request has finished. Chances are high that if you wait one or more hours and check the email again that the service will have been able to finish verifying the email addresses with the host mail server.


Returns true, false or unknown to indicate if the email’s host mail server is a catch-all. A catch-all mail server will say that an email address is deliverable even if it is not.  This is because catch-all mail servers do not reject email addresses during the initial SMTP session. This means that a catch-all mail server cannot be trusted to verify the deliverability of an email address because it may or may not reject the email address until after an email message is sent. If an email address is unknown and this value is false then chances are good that if the email is checked again at a later time then the service will have verified its deliverability. If catchall is true and there are no warnings, then we know that the mail server is good and that the email does not appear to be bad. In general this scenario leads to a 55% chance that the email is deliverable and won’t result in a hard bounce.


Returns true, false or unknown to indicate if the service was able to verify the email address with its host mail server. This value can be treated similarly to the IsDeliverable value. A true value indicates that the email address is deliverable. If the value comes back false then the mail server verified that the email is undeliverable. A false will be accompanied by the warning flag, ‘Email is Bad – Subsequent checks halted.‘ Some common reasons why this value will return unknown; the mail server is a catch-all, the service ran out of time when communicating with the host mail server or the host mail server used a defensive tactic such as a greylist.

A complete list of the output fields and values are available in the service developer guide.

The result fields given above are useful when it comes to sorting, grouping and filtering all of your validated email addresses. This is useful when working on a post-processing email job, which we will discuss later. Next, we will look at some of the descriptive flags that the service will return. These flags can be used programmatically or at a glance to determine the status of an email address.

Warning Codes & Descriptions:

There are many warning flags that the service may return but we will look at some of the more common and critical ones.

DisposableEmail, SpamTrap, KnownSpammer and Bot

An email address may be deliverable but if one or more of these warning flags is returned then it is highly recommended to reject it.

Alias, Bogus and Vulgar

If one of these warning flags is returned then you may want to either reject the email or set it aside for later review, depending on how strict you want to be.

InvalidSyntax, InvalidDomainSpecificSyntax and InvalidDNS

These are warnings for critical checks that failed. If one of these flags appears then it will be immediately followed by the warning flag ‘Email is Bad – Subsequent checks halted.

Email is Bad – Subsequent checks halted

This warning indicates that the email failed a critical check and is undeliverable. If the flag is not preceded by one of the critical warning flags then it simply means that the email’s host mail server verified that the email address is undeliverable.

A complete list of warning codes and their descriptors are available in the dev guide.

Note Codes & Descriptions:

The note flags will return descriptive information about the email, not all of which will affect the score, but we will focus on the ones that will explain why some email addresses came back as unknown.


The service is good at detecting greylist behavior from mail servers and has procedures in place to avoid them, but not all greylists are avoidable. If the service encounters a greylist then it is temporarily unable to verify the email address with its host mail server. If you encounter a greylist then chances are good that if you try to validate the email again a couple of hours later that you will get a better response.


This flag indicates that the service was able to connect to the email’s host mail server, but that the server was temporarily busy or unavailable and it was unable to verify the email for us. If you encounter this flag then try and validate the email again a few of hours later to see if the server becomes more responsive then.


This flag indicates that the service was unable to establish a connection with a host mail server. A possible reasons for the connection failure could be that the mail server is completely offline or it is responding too slow and unable to respond in time. Some mail servers are configured to commonly respond slowly, taking as long as 60 seconds to respond to a connection. This behavior is rare but it is not entirely uncommon. If an email returns this flag then try and enter a longer timeout time to allow the service the time it needs to verify the email.


This flag indicates that the service was unable to finish verifying the email address with the host mail server in the time allowed. The mail server could be responding very slowly or the timeout time given to the service was too short. If an email returns this flag then try and enter a longer timeout time to allow the service the time it needs to verify the email.

A complete list of note codes and their descriptors are available in the developer guide.

Use case 1 – using ValidateEmailAddress for form validation

The ValidateEmailAddress method has four input fields that are all required.

Input Field Name Description Notes
EmailAddress The email address you wish to validate.
AllowCorrections Accepts true or false. The service will attempt to correct an email address if set to true. Otherwise the email address will be left unaltered if set to false. The majority of the email corrections are being performed on the domain. The local part of the email address, the portion before the @ symbol, is generally left untouched.
Timeout Accepts an integer as a string. Timeout time is in milliseconds. Do not include any commas or non-numeric values. This value specifies how long the service is allowed to wait for all real-time network level checks to finish. Real-time checks consist primarily of DNS and SMTP level verification. A minimum value of 200ms is required. When it comes to form validation it is recommended to use a timeout time that is short enough to not keep your user impatiently waiting, but long enough to allow the server-to-server communication time to finish. A relatively short timeout time between 2 to 4 seconds is generally recommended.


LicenseKey Your license key to use the service.

Accept, reject or review & retry


Emails with a score of 0, 1 or 2. In general it is recommended to not be too strict when accepting emails in a form because you do not want to potentially lose an end user.  Also, when performing form validation an end user may become agitated if they have to wait more than 5 seconds for the validation process to complete, but some slow mail servers may not be able to respond in that short amount of time.


Emails with a score of 3 or 4. If you do not want to be too strict then you can accept 3 for review, but you should always reject an email that receives a score of 4.


Depending on how strict/cautious you want to be you can choose to not initially accept emails with a score of 2 and instead put them aside to have them reviewed. If the IsCatchAllDomain field is not true then you can try and validate the email again later. Email addresses that return a score of 3 can also be set aside for review if you do not want to initially reject all of them. An email will commonly be given a score of 3 if a potential vulgarity or string of garbage characters is found.

In form validation the programmer is sometimes allowed some luxuries while others are taken away. For example, a programmer can be given the opportunity to communicate a result back to the end user but is usually restricted to a shorter timeout time so that the end user is not kept waiting too long. If you have the ability to communicate back the end user then ask the user to check for a typo and try again or try a different email address. If you don’t want to accept a role or alias type email address because they are commonly not accepted by mass email marketers then you can catch for that and tell the user to try again with a different email address.

Use case 2 – using ValidateEmailAddress for batches, email campaigns and data hygiene

The ValidateEmailAddress method has four input fields that are all required.

Input Field Name Description Notes
EmailAddress The email address you wish to validate.
AllowCorrections Accepts true or false. The service will attempt to correct an email address if set to true. Otherwise the email address will be left unaltered if set to false. The majority of the email corrections are being performed on the domain. The local part of the email address, the portion before the @ symbol, is generally left untouched. Since you are unable to ask a user to re-enter and try again if they make a mistake you can set this value to true and allow the service to make corrections.
Timeout Accepts an integer as a string. Timeout time is in milliseconds. Do not include any commas or non-numeric values. This value specifies how long the service is allowed to wait for all real-time network level checks to finish. Real-time checks consist primarily of DNS and SMTP level verification. A minimum value of 200ms is required. For non-form validation it is recommended to give the service plenty of time to verify an email address with its host mail server. Most mail servers will only take about 2 seconds on average to verify an email address, but for the occasional slow mail server that requires more time it is recommended to set the timeout time to 65 seconds. The number of mail servers that require this much time is generally minimal, so the long timeout should not make a big impact on the overall batch job.


LicenseKey Your license key to use the service.

Accept, reject or review & retry


Emails with a score of 0 or 1.


Emails with a score of 3 or 4. If you do not want to be too strict then you can accept 3 for review, but you should always reject an email that receives a score of 4.


Emails with a score of 2, unless the IsCatchAllDomain field value is true. An email that gets an unknown score  due to a greylist, timeout or temporarily busy server should be checked again a couple of hours later.

If you would like to discuss your particular use case for recommendations and best practices contact us!

Will Omnichannel Someday Die Out Because of Big Data?

You probably know what omnichannel means, but a quick definition is always helpful. It refers to the various touch points by which a business/organization can reach a customer. The idea — and the ideal — is to get the offer in front of them at the time they’re most likely to be interested. Typically in the modern business ecosystem, omnichannel refers to:

  • Website
  • Brick and mortar locations
  • Social media
  • Other digital efforts
  • How you come across on mobile
  • Face-to-face interactions between customers and employees

There is more you could group under omnichannel, but that’s a good start. Unfortunately, in a few years from now, we may need a different approach entirely.



Consider this: in 2020, it’s possible 1.7 megabytes of new data will be created for every person on the planet every second. If you do the full math on that, the total volume of data globally in 2020 might be around 44 zettabytes. A zettabyte is a trillion gigabytes. This is somewhat because of “The Internet of Things” — connected devices and sensors — which should have an economic value of $3 trillion by 2025. Internet of Things tech alone will be 3-6 zettabytes of that total.

Now we know the rapid scale of Big Data. It’s actually arriving in daily life maybe faster than even mobile did. What are the repercussions?


As noted in this post on Information Age:

Companies hoped “omnichannel experiences” would enable them to anticipate customers’ needs to provide them with a personalised response, which meets or even exceeds their expectations. And this effort is based on the company’s ability to mobilise the necessary data to deliver.

But what happened?

Today, these same companies struggle to draw together all the information required to give them a unified view and appreciation of their customers’ needs. The result is a mixed bag of omnichannel initiatives, many of which result in failures. In the retail sector, for example, only 18% of retailers claim to have an engagement strategy, which covers all channels.

The sheer math looks like this: 44 zettabytes of generated data in 2020 is 10 times — yes, ten times — what we are generating now, three years earlier. Companies are already struggling to manage data properly towards better customer experience. What will happen when 10 times the data is available in 33 months or so?


This is obviously hard to predict. In times of great complexity, though, sometimes sticking to the basics — i.e. The Five Customer Experience Competencies — isn’t a bad idea. A strong base almost always beats an all-over-the-place strategy.

In my mind, this is what needs to happen:

  • Companies need a good handle on what really drives their business now and what could drive it in the future.
  • This involves products/services but also types of customer and platform they use.
  • Once that picture is mostly clear, senior leaders need to be on the same page about the importance of customer-driven growth.
  • “Being on the same page” also involves, ideally, vocabulary and incentive structures.
  • If the customer-driven plan/platforms and senior leadership alignment are there, now you need to make sure the work is prioritized.
  • No one should be running around on low-value tasks when great opportunity is right there.
  • Kill a stupid rule, etc. Basically move as many people as possible to higher-value work, especially if lower-value work can be more easily automated.
  • It’s all been important so far, but let’s bold this: You don’t need to collect all the data. You need data that relates to your priorities and growth. 
  • That data should be analyzed and condensed for executives. You may need “data translators,” yes.
  • Decision-making should come from relevant information and customer interactions.

This flow is hard to arrive at for some companies, but essential.

Phrased another way: trying to be “omnichannel” in five years and looking at an Excel with trillions of touch points/data on it? That will just burn out employees and managers alike. You need a prioritized, aligned plan focused on customer-driven growth and well-articulated goals. That will get you there post-omnichannel.

Reprinted from LinkedIn with permission from the author. View original post here.

Author’s Bio: Jeanne Bliss, Founder & CEO, CustomerBliss

Jeanne Bliss pioneered the role of the Chief Customer Officer, holding the first-ever CCO role at Lands’ End, Microsoft, Coldwell Banker and Allstate Corporations. Reporting to each company’s CEO, she moved the customer to the strategic agenda, redirecting priorities to create transformational changes to each brands’ customer experience. Her latest book, “Chief Customer Officer 2.0” (Wiley) was published on June 15, 2015.

Making an (email) list and checking it twice: Best practices for email validation

For most organizations, one of the most critical assets of their marketing operations is their email contact database. Email is still the lingua franca of business: according to the Radicati Group, over a quarter of a trillion email messages are sent every business day, and the number of email users is expected to top 4 billion by 2021 – roughly half of the world’s population. This article will explore current best practices for protecting the ROI and integrity of this asset, by validating its data quality.

The title of this article is not just a cute play on words – and it has nothing to do with Santa. Rather, it describes an important principle for your game plan for email data quality. By implementing a strong two-step email validation process, as we describe here, you will dramatically reduce deliverability problems, fraud and blacklisting from your email marketing and communications efforts.

The main reason we recommend checking emails in two stages revolves around the time these checks take: many checks can be performed live using a real-time API, particularly as email addresses are entered by users, but server validation in particular may require a longer processing time and interfere with user experience. Here are 3 of the most important checks that are part of the email validation process:

• Syntax (FAST): This check determines if an email address has the correct syntax and physical properties of an email address.

• DNS (FAST): We can quickly check the DNS record to ensure the validity of the email domain (MX record) for the email address. (There are some exceptions to this – for example, where the DNS record is with a shoddy or poor registry and the results take longer to come back.)

• Email Server (VARIABLE, and not within the email validation tool’s control): Although this check can take from milliseconds to minutes, it is one of the most important checks you can make – it ensures that you have a deliverable address. This response time is dependent on the email server provider (ESP) and can vary widely: large ESPs like Gmail or MSN normally respond quickly, while corporate or other domains may take longer.

There are many more checks in Service Objects’ Email Validation tool, including areas such as malicious activity, data integrity, and much more – over 50 verification tests in all! We auto-correct addresses for common spelling and syntax errors, flag bogus or vulgar address entries, and calculate an overall quality score you can use to accept or reject the email address. (For a deeper dive, take a look at this article to see many of the features of an advanced EV tool.)

Here are the two stages we recommend for your email validation process:

Stage 1: At point of entry.

Here, you validate emails in real-time, as they are captured. This provides the opportunity for the user to correct mistakes in the moment such as typos or data entry errors. Here you can use our EV software to check for issues like syntax, DNS and the email server – however we recommend setting the API configuration settings to no more than a wait of a couple of seconds, for the sake of customer experience. At this stage either the user or validation software has a chance to update bad addresses.

Stage 2 – Before sending a campaign.

Validate the emails in your database – using the API – after the email has been captured and the user is no longer available in real-time to make corrections. In this stage, you have more flexibility to wait for responses from the ESPs, providing more confidence in your list.

It is estimated that 10-15% of emails entered are not usable, for reasons ranging from data entry errors to fraud, and 30% of email addresses change each year. Together these two steps ensure that you are using clean and up-to-date email data every time – and the benefit to you will be fewer rejected addresses, a better sender reputation, and a greater overall ROI from your email contact data.

Phone, Mail, or Email Marketing? The Pros and Cons

There has always been one eternal question in marketing: what is the shortest path between you and your next paying customer?

We already know the right answer to this question: “It depends.” But a better answer is that effective marketing is very context-dependent. So let’s look at the pros and cons of three of today’s key marketing approaches – phone, mail and email marketing.

Telemarketing has practically been with us ever since Alexander Graham Bell first solicited his assistant Watson from the next room in 1876. Its key advantage is that it is the only one of these three approaches that builds an interactive personal connection with a prospect – one that allows you to qualify him or her, ask questions, and respond to their needs. Big-ticket products and services, particularly in a business-to-business environment, are often sold as the result of a sales process that begins with a phone contact. Conversely, large scale telemarketing often is a key ingredient of selling consumer products and services in large volumes.

Telemarketing also has numerous drawbacks. It is labor-intensive, time-bound, and requires a good telecommunications infrastructure when used on more than a small scale. Perhaps most importantly, it requires the right business context. If you are selling an airliner or high-end financial services, those prospects may expect an initial phone call, while carpet-bombing consumers with telephone sales pitches at dinnertime may provoke mostly negative responses. Moreover, unsolicited calls to consumer wireless phones can lead to large fines under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

Direct mail marketing gives businesses an opportunity they do not have with phone or email: the chance to deliver content-rich information in print or even multimedia form. (For example, anyone who belongs to Generation X or older remembers those ubiquitous AOL CDs that were a fixture of the 1990s.) Anyone with a valid mailing address is a potential prospect, it is a medium that lends itself well to A-B testing as well as demographic targeting, and there are few if any regulatory roadblocks to targeting consumers with a direct mail campaign.

Drawbacks of direct mail include its expense per prospect, in terms of time, content costs, and mailing costs. This is particularly a disadvantage for smaller businesses, given the economies of scale that reduce per-unit printing and mailing costs for those who can afford very large campaigns. Response rates are generally low and can vary widely, and the accuracy of your contact data is a critical factor in your costs and profitability.

Email marketing is, relatively speaking, the new kid on the block – even though it now has its own decades-long track record. It has one towering advantage over the other two approaches: a much lower cost per contact that only minimally scales with the size of your prospect base, once you have a list that opts in. Email also gives you the opportunity to include rich media content, or make “warm call” introductions to individual prospects as a precursor to telephone contact.

Disadvantages of email include being the easiest mode of contact for people to ignore – particularly as the inbox sizes of busy people continue to expand – as well as the need to have accurate contact information from people who have opted in to hear from you, to avoid consequences for spamming from your internet services provider.

A common thread through each of these marketing approaches is data quality. Inaccurate, incomplete or outdated contact information will cost you in time and marketing expenditure at the very least, and in the worst cases could subject your business to substantial penalties. And in a world where up to 25% of your contact data is bad, and up to 70% goes out of date each year, a data quality strategy is absolutely necessary for effective marketing.

The best marketing strategy? As we said earlier, it depends. But with the right approach to data quality, you can get the maximum ROI from any approach that fits your business.

No image, text reads Service Objects Tutorials

C# Integration Tutorial Using DOTS Email Validation

Watch this video and hear Service Objects’ Application Engineer, Dylan, as he presents a 22 minute step-by-step tutorial on how to integrate an API using C#. In order to participate in this tutorial, you will need the following :

  1. A basic knowledge of C# and object-oriented programming.
  2. Visual Studio or some other IDE.

Any DOTS Validation Product Key. You can get free trial keys at

In this tutorial, we have selected the DOTS Email Validation web service.  This service performs real-time checks on email addresses to determine if they are genuine, accurate and up-to-date. The service performs over 50 tests on an email address to determine whether or not it can receive email.  If you are interested in a different service, you can still follow along in this tutorial with your service of choice. The process will be the same, but the outputs, inputs, and objects that we’ll be dealing with in the integration video will be slightly modified.


Mother’s Day 2017 – Estimated Spending to Reach $23.6 Billion

While Mother’s Day is all about the Moms in our lives, it’s an even bigger day for retailers. This year the National Retail Federation estimates Mother’s Day spending to reach an all-time high of $23.6 billion; roughly $10 billion higher than 2010. The traditional gifts of jewelry and flowers, along with personal services are predicted to contribute the most to this increase. Needless to say, with Mother’s Day only a few days away, businesses are experiencing a busy week, especially in ecommerce.

According to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, 30% of Mother’s Day shopping is to be done online this year. Most ecommerce sites have already experienced an influx of orders over the last few weeks. With an even bigger rush coming in now from typical procrastinators (like myself) who will take advantage of two-day delivery from retailers like Amazon. Online shopping has become even more convenient with the addition of mobile shopping. With thousands of easy to use mobile apps offering gift cards for anything from dinner to spa treatments, redeemable right on the recipient’s mobile device, digital sellers have definitely made Mother’s Day purchases easier than ever…even for the most ardent procrastinators.

Unknown to most, data quality solutions are quietly working behind the scenes contributing to a smooth and happy Mother’s Day for businesses and celebrants alike. Data quality solutions have made processing increased online holiday orders, restaurant reservations, and mobile app purchases more efficient and safer than ever. By leveraging tools like our Address, Phone and Email Validation services, our clients ensure that their customer contact information is complete and accurate while also identifying malicious fraud before transactions are completed. Our data quality tools give businesses more time to focus on providing memorable experiences for their customers and achieving their revenue goals on the busiest of holidays, including Mother’s Day.

Whether our clients are experiencing or still preparing for a busy Mother’s Day, our data quality solutions will be running smoothly in the background for them the entire time. If your business needs any assistance now or before the next major holiday contact us.

Maintaining a Good Email Sender Reputation

What are honeypot email addresses?

A honeypot is a type of spamtrap. It is an email address that is created with the intention of identifying potential spammers. The email address is often hidden from human eyes and is generally only detectable to web crawlers. The address is never used to send out email and it is for the most part hidden, thus it should never receive any legitimate email. This means that any email it receives is unsolicited and is considered to be spam. Consequently, any user who continues to submit email to a honeypot will likely have their email, IP address and domain flagged as spam. It is highly recommended to never send email to a honeypot, otherwise you risk ruining your email sender reputation and you may end up on a blacklist.

Spamtraps typically show up in lists where the email addresses were gathered from web crawlers. In general, these types of lists cannot be trusted and should be avoided as they are often of low quality.

Service Objects participates in and uses several “White Hat” communities and services. Some of which are focused on identifying spamtraps. We use these resources to help identify known and active spamtraps. It is common practice for a spamtrap to be hidden from human eyes and only be visible in the page source where a bot would be able to scrape it, but it is important to note that not all emails from a page scrape are honeypot spamtraps. A false-positive could unfortunately lead to an unwarranted email rejection. Many legitimate emails are unfortunately exposed on business sites, job profiles, twitter, business listings and other random pages. So it is not uncommon to see a legitimate email get marked as a potential spamtrap by a competitor.

Not all spamtraps are honeypots

While the honeypot may be the most commonly known type of spamtrap, it is not the only type around. Some of you may not be old enough to remember, but there was a time when businesses would configure their mail servers to accept any email address, even if the mailbox did not exist, for fear that a message would be lost due to a typo or misspelling. Messages to non-existent email address would be delivered to a catch-all box as long as the domain was correctly spelled. However, it did not take long for these mailboxes to become flooded with spam. As a result, some mail server administrators started to use catch-alls as a way to identify potential spammers. A mail server admin could treat the sender of any mail that ended up in this folder as a spammer and block them. The reasoning being that only spammers and no legitimate senders would end up in the catch-all box. Thus making catch-alls one of the first spamtraps. The reasoning is flawed but still in practice today. Nowadays it is more common for admins use firewalls that will act as catch-alls to try and catch and prevent spammers.

Some spamtraps can be created and hidden in the source code of a website so that only a crawler would pick it up, some can be created from recycled email addresses or created specifically with the intention of planting them in mailing lists. Regardless of how a spamtrap is created it is clear that if you have one in your mailing list and you continue to send mail to it, that you will risk ruining your sender’s reputation.

Keeping senders honest

The reality is that not all honeypot spamtraps can be 100% identified. Doing so would highly diminish their value in keeping legitimate email senders honest.

It is very important that a sender or marketer follows their regional laws and best practices, such as tracking which emails are received, opened or bounced back. For example, some legitimate emails can still result in a hard or permanent bounce back. This may happen when an email is an alias or role that is connected to a group of users. In these cases, the email itself is not rejected but one of the emails within the group is. Which brings up another point. Role based email addresses are often not eligible for solicitation, since they are commonly tied to positions and not any one particular person who would have opted-in. That is why the DOTS Email Validation service also has a flag for identifying potential role based addresses.

Overall, it is up to the sender or marketer to ensure that they keep track of their mailing lists and that they always follow best practices. They should never purchase unqualified lists and they should only be soliciting to users who have opted-in. If an email address is bouncing back with a permanent rejection then they should remove it from the mailing list. If the email address that is being bounced back is not in your mailing list then it is likely connected to a role or group based email that should also be removed.

To stay on top of potential spamtraps marketers should also be keeping track of subscriber engagement. If a subscriber has never been engaged or is no longer engaged but email messages are not bouncing back, then it is possible that the email may be a spamtrap. If an email address was bouncing back before and not anymore, then it may have been recycled as a spamtrap.

Remember that by following the laws and best practices of your region you greatly reduce the risk of ruining your sender reputation, which will help ensure that your marketing campaigns reach the most amount of subscribers as possible.

From Hello Operator to Hey Siri – Accurate Contact Data Has Always Been Crucial

Fueled by our desire to communicate with one another, no matter distance, the telephone has undergone extraordinary technological enhancements since the first test call on March 10, 1876. Today, the average wireless phone even functions as a portable computer offering a multitude of ways to communicate. Although phone technology dramatically changed over the last 141 years and continues to change, one aspect of placing a call remains vitally important: accurate contact data.

Originally, the telephone was sold in pairs of two with a single connection to each other. Since these early telephones were directly connected to each other, phone numbers were not yet required. However, with the invention of the switchboard in 1878, callers could connect with many other subscribers leading to the establishment of phone numbers consisting of a few digits. By 1910 the U.S. population grew to 92,228,496, over seven million of whom were phone subscribers. To accommodate so many users the length of the phone number increased.  For the majority of the 1900s, whether using a candlestick, rotary or push button phone, the telephone operator manually connected callers by switchboard and without accurate contact information to start with callers could not be properly connected. As the pool of subscribers grew further, alphanumeric numbers were introduced and used through the 1960s. This format consisted of two letters representative of location (name of the village, town or city) of the central office that the phone was connected to, followed by numbers.  Although fewer miscommunication between callers and operators occurred with the use of alphanumeric numbers, having accurate information to begin with was still imperative.

Jumping forward to today, various devices ranging from wireless phones, computers, tablets, and even televisions can be used to place calls. Somewhat reminiscent of telephone operators, virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa can even be used to connect to someone by dictation which is how a four year old boy recently contacted emergency services to save his mother’s life. Although a phone number is still required for most devices, platforms such as Skype and FaceTime also use email address as unique identifiers to connect callers. While new types of contact information like email are being used more commonly, once the information is entered into the calling device you don’t need to remember it again. With just a few taps on a screen or a simple phrase, “hey Siri, call mom,” the call is initiated.

Whether placing a call now or 141 years ago starting with genuine, correct and up to date contact data is essential for reaching each other by phone. As forms of contact data continue to evolve with technology, our validation tools will as well to ensure your business communications are as fast and easy as possible.

Real-Time Email Validation and Your Sales Process

Have you ever been to Or Or Well, many of your prospects and customers have, without even knowing it. These are just a few of the misspellings of “Gmail” alone that pop up regularly when people enter their email addresses on your squeeze pages and signup forms – in fact, according to one direct marketer,, roughly three percent of their leads provided addresses that bounced. (Believe it or not, many people don’t even spell “.com” correctly!)

Unfortunately, losses like these can be just the tip of the iceberg. When you follow your human nature and ask potential leads to try and validate their own addresses by re-typing them – or worse, ask them to respond to a validation email – many people will simply throw up their hands and not bother, with no way of tracking these losses. According to Lucidchart’s Derrick Isaacson, the more bandwidth you add to your signup process, the less likely someone is to complete it. And the one lead you can never sell to is the one who doesn’t respond in the first place.

Then there are people who intentionally try to game the system. For example, you are offering a free gift to potential qualified prospects, and someone wants to get the goodie without receiving the sales pitch. So they enter a bogus address directed to nowhere, or perhaps to Spongebob Squarepants. Or worse, your next customer transaction is a scam artist trying to defraud your company.

Is there any way around this lose-lose scenario? Yes. And it is simpler and less expensive than you might think – particularly when held up against the cost of lost leads, data errors and fraud. The answer is real-time email validation. By using an API that plugs right into your email data entry process on the Web, you create a smoother experience for customers and prospects while gaining several built-in benefits:

Accurate address verification: A real-time email verification service can leverage numerous criteria to ensure the validity of a specific address. For example, Service Objects’ email validation API performs over 50 specific verification tests to determine email address authenticity, accuracy, and deliverability.

Auto-correction: The right interface not only catches typical spelling and syntax errors but can also suggest a corrected address.

Improved lead quality: The very best tools not only check email address validity but can calculate a composite quality score based on its assessment criteria, which in turn lets you accept or reject a specific address.

Less human intervention: The cost of processing an incorrect or fraudulent email address goes far beyond lost sales or revenue. The time you spend pursuing unattainable leads and processing bad data in your sales process add up to a real, tangible human cost that affects your profit margin.

Blacklist protection: Automated email validation protects your mail servers from being blacklisted by verifying authentic email addresses while filtering out spammers, vulgar or bogus email addresses, and erroneous data.

Real-world numbers bear out the value of using automated email validation. For example,’s Isaacson noted that an A-B test showed a 34% increase in product re-use and a 44% increase in paid customers among the automated validation group. On top of sales results like these, you can also add in the cost savings from reduced database maintenance, manual processing, and fraud when you deploy these tools across each of your prospect and customer touch points.

We now live in an e-commerce world that competes on making the prospect and customer’s experience as easy as possible. Automated email validation helps you compete better by reducing their bandwidth and your costs at the same time. It is a win-win situation for everyone, as well as your bottom line.

Why Your Business Should Pay Attention to CASL

Many companies are worried about Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL). A new rule goes into effect next July, and the penalties are harsh. If you email Canadians who haven’t opted in, you could be on the hook for a lawsuit for sending CEMs without permission. Penalties can reach up to $10 million.

So, what is CASL? What are CEMs? And how can you comply?

Understanding CASL

CASL dates back to July 1, 2014, when it first went into effect. Section 6 of CASL covers all of the requirements and provisions of CASL. Several provisions were phased in over time, including the “private right of action” rule, which goes into effect July 1, 2017.

CASL applies to all electronic messages, such as emails and text messages, that are sent in relation to commercial activities. These messages are known as CEMs, or “commercial electronic messages”. Commercial electronic messages must be sent to an address, such as an email address or mobile phone number, in order to be subject to the terms of CASL. Thus, commercial blog posts or webpages are not considered CEMs.

CASL requires obtaining express consent, either in writing (electronic written consent is permitted) or orally, before sending CEMs. There are a few instances where implied consent is allowed, such as for existing business and non-business relationships or voluntary disclosure without indicating that the person does not want to receive messages.

If you send CEMs to people in Canada without prior consent, you could face serious consequences. Starting next July 1st, individuals and organizations can bring civil actions seeking redress in court from anyone in violation of CASL. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission can impose up to $10 million in penalties for the most serious violations.

Not only are US companies concerned about complying with this particular section of CASL, their legal departments don’t want to take chances. Thus, marketing departments are being told not to email anyone on the chance that a handful of contacts might be located in Canada — and it only takes one.

What does this mean to marketing and sales departments? They’re legitimately concerned that new leads will be cut off and wonder how they’ll be able to make up for such a shortfall.

But there are some important exceptions to Section 6. Using email validation tools such as DOTS Email Validation can be your key to keeping email – and the pipeline of leads – flowing.

Avoiding Running Afoul of CASL

First, it’s important to understand what section 6 of CASL applies to and what it doesn’t apply to.

Section 6 of CASL deals with CEMs sent to electronic addresses:

  • Canadian enforcement against spammers operating in Canada is allowed.
  • The Canadian Government is allowed to share information with other state governments that have substantially similar legislation (like the United States’ CAN-SPAM act) if the information is relevant to an investigation or proceeding involving similar prohibited conduct.

Section 6 of the Act does not apply to CEMs under some circumstances:

  • The person sending, causing, or permitting the CEM to be sent (the sender) must reasonably believe that it will be accessed in a foreign state listed in Schedule 1.
  • The CEM must be sent in compliance with the foreign law, which addresses conduct that is substantially similar to the conduct prohibited in section 6 of CASL.

In other words, CASL excludes emails if you’re sending them to someone you are reasonably sure lives in a foreign country that has its own spam laws and you are in compliance with those.

How to Continue Marketing Your Business After July 1st

You can’t blame your legal department for wanting to avoid lawsuits; it’s in your company’s best interest to comply with all applicable laws. However, the answer isn’t to shut down email marketing completely; it’s to become reasonably sure where your recipients live before sending CEMs.

Service Object’s DOTS Email Validation API can help you be reasonably sure where someone lives and which laws might apply. For example, the laws of the country where the person is located may be more liberal than Canada’s and would apply instead of CASL. The vast majority of nations (115 other countries ranging from all of Europe, Australia, Japan, S. Korea, China, Brazil and Russia) do have their own laws, such as the United States’ CAN-SPAM act or Canada’s CASL.

By using DOTS Email Validation software, you may be able to create an email marketing list that is safer-to-send to and will satisfy your legal department.

Sources: – Does section 6 of CASL apply to messages sent outside of Canada? SCHEDULE (Paragraph 3(f)) LIST OF FOREIGN STATES
Canada’s Castle (CASL) – Law on Spam and other Electronic Threats. – full copy of the law passed in December 2010

Is Email Dying?

A Quora discussion recently got us thinking about the status of email in our day and age. As a company, we know how important email is, since we verify hundreds of thousands of emails a day. It’s clearly evident to us that people are still using it. But conversations like this made us wonder if email is actually on the decline after all. There seem to be new task management tools, messaging apps, and other alternative email tools that emerge every day that promise to rid us of the need for email, but will these tools eventually replace it altogether?

It turns out that not only is email not dead, it’s actually growing. It’s the way we’re using it that’s changing. Experts predict that by 2019, the number of email accounts will increase 26% to 5.59 billion. Consider even more statistics below:

  • 88% of B2B marketers say email is the most effective lead generation tactic
  • Marketers consistently ranked email as the single-most-effective tactic for awareness, acquisition, conversion, and retention
  • 42% of businesses say email is one of their most effective lead generation channels
  • 122 billion emails are sent every hour

Given these numbers, email is clearly not dying. It is more important than ever before. Anecdotal evidence supports this, too. For example, think about how you use email in your own life. You subscribe to interesting newsletters, you get your receipts emailed to you, your bills arrive in your inbox, you get alerts from your bank, you correspond with friends and family members, customers contact you via your website and their messages arrive in your inbox. The list goes on and on…

Several new task management tools that intend to “replace” email still rely on you to sign up with your email address, and use your email for updates and notifications. If anything, these new tools and services are just a way to leverage and build off of your email, but certainly not replace it. Likewise, whenever you sign up for a new service, that service requires your email address. Your email address will serve as a communications channel between you and the service provider as well as, potentially, your username.

While social media, instant messengers, and online collaboration tools offer an alternative to email, they don’t come close to the ubiquitousness of email. Just about every Internet user has an email address, but just a fraction have SnapChat, Slack, or Asana accounts.

Email is alive and well, and it’s effective. However, email marketing is suffering from a common ailment you need to be aware of: bad data. For example, 88% of users admit to entering incomplete or incorrect data on registration forms. This is troubling for many reasons, but especially due to the fact that a recent study found that 74% of users become frustrated when websites display irrelevant content. How can you personalize your marketing and create a better experience when the data users give you is junk?

Junk data, indeed. Whether users type the wrong address by mistake, check the wrong boxes in your web forms, or fail to notice that auto-correct has changed their entries, this bad data means your marketing and customer outreach efforts will fall flat. It’s hard to make a good impression when you’re addressing them by the wrong name or sending mail to a non-existent address.

In contrast, when you capture correct data in lead forms and on eCommerce sites, not only will your marketing automation and CRM platforms have correct data in them, you’ll also be able to personalize their experience with your company and brand.

In a world where personalization can make a customer feel welcome and appreciated, you need to get good data — even if that customer actually provides you with incorrect data.

Service Objects can catch bad data and clean it in real time with our data quality tools. These data validation tools instantly compare entered data against a massive database containing millions of verified phone and address records, automatically validating, correcting, and appending the data to ensure that you have current, accurate information. Check out how cool cleaning data is with the email validation slider below. Here we show an example of a bad email address in, and it’s corrected version out:

(Slide back and forth to view Before/After)

Email isn’t going anywhere, but if you want to ensure deliverability of your messages, you need good data. Our data quality validation tools are a must for any business that communicates with leads, prospects, and customers using email.

Get a free trial key today and see just how easy it is to clean bad data.

Using Email Newsletters to Accelerate Growth – 7 Must-Know Tips for Business Owners

According to a 2015 report from eMarketer, research conducted by Econsultancy found that 79% of global agencies indicated that email marketing was rated effective by more agency marketers than any other channel. Email marketing outranked SEO, social media, and content marketing for businesses wanting to effectively grow their brand. If you’re a business owner hoping to capitalize on the revenue-driving success of email newsletters, there are a few crucial factors you need to consider. Before you integrate email outreach into your business-building efforts, make sure you’re well aware of the following email newsletter tips for maximum ROI:

Use a Real “From” Email Address

Don’t send your email newsletters from a ‘no reply’ address. The whole point of sending newsletters is to boost engagement rates. Opting for a ‘no reply’ address immediately tells subscribers you’re not interested in hearing their feedback.

Test, Test, and Then Test Some More

A/B test your newsletter content and subject lines. Avoid words and content styles that will trigger email spam filters. Using all caps, too many exclamation points, and words like prize and sweepstakes can instantly send your emails directly to recipients’ junk folder.

Make it Worth Their While

Think of your recipient first. You’re taking up their valuable time by sending a newsletter. They were kind enough to subscribe to your email content. Do everything in your power to ensure they don’t unsubscribe from your newsletters. Is the content of your newsletters valuable to you or to your subscribers?

Also, make sure your newsletters aren’t one big block of text. Create content that is easy to digest while delivering maximum value to your subscribers. If your readers end up wondering ‘why on earth did they waste my time sending this?’ you’ve completely missed the mark. You want readers to be glad they subscribed and feel like they received helpful information in your newsletters.

Don’t Forget Mobile

Before you hit send, view your newsletter on multiple mobile devices. An ever-increasing number of emails will be opened on a smartphone or tablet. Double-check everything from load time to image resolution.

Keep it Simple

Avoid adding extra fluff to your emails. While a company logo and business branding is essential, forgo background images that add unnecessary distractions to your content.

Send it to the Right People

Make sure you’re not wasting your money sending your newsletter to email addresses that don’t exist anymore, or worse, emails that never existed in the first place. Email Validation will prevent bad email addresses from going into your CRM as well as continue to ‘clean’ your lists as you use them.

Give Them an Easy Out

Although it might seem counter-intuitive, always give your subscribers an easy way to unsubscribe from your newsletters. While your communications might be valuable, some subscribers don’t want an overwhelming number of newsletters in their email inbox. In some countries, there are anti-spam laws that require you to include an easy unsubscribe option.

Focusing on the quality of your email newsletters can help keep your subscribers interested. Your content needs to be focused on solving the needs of your loyal followers, but the way in which you deliver your content can have a huge impact on interaction rates. Combining helpful newsletters tools with a top-notch email strategy will ensure your business communications are warmly received. Are you ready to make a concerted effort this year to grow your business via email newsletter marketing?


How a Rise in Disposable Email Addresses Can Affect a Business’s Email Marketing

Disposable email addresses (DEAs) are nothing new, but for business owners, project managers and IT specialists, it can spell disaster for email marketing campaigns. Understanding what they are, why they are used and how they affect businesses can help leaders adjust their strategy when collecting addresses.

What disposable email addresses are all about

Nowadays, most people have personal and business email addresses they use regularly. As the Internet gained popularity, it brought with it a rise of issues. Websites that made use of discussion forums, newsletters and e-commerce started requiring sign-ups for access to content or special offers. This resulted in email owners being inundated with large numbers of emails on a daily basis; many of which were spam.

To combat this annoyance, and as an added measure of security against identity theft, email service providers began offering disposable email addresses free of charge. Disposable, one-time, instant, temporary or fake email addresses are just that; they are impermanent and only usable for a very short time.

How disposable email addresses affect businesses

Although disposable email addresses work wonders for consumers wanting to keep their personal accounts safe and clean, their use can wreak havoc on a business’s email marketing campaigns. Some users have their emails forwarded to real email addresses where they can control what they receive and read. Others never read their emails or let their service provider expire them within 15 minutes to an hour after receiving them.

Disposable email addresses can drastically thwart efforts to reach potential customers—and it can also skew email list analytics. In other words, a business owner may have thousands of subscribers on his or her list with only a small percentage of them actually reading their emails. In this case, quantity over quality loses. Real emails rather than fake emails can be the difference between quality leads and worthless lists.

Ways to combat disposable email addresses

Fighting disposable email addresses isn’t always easy, but there are several ways to increase the likelihood of generating real email addresses from potential customers. For existing lists, email validation determines email address authenticity, accuracy, and deliverability, returning detailed information and error codes. The email validation API performs over 50 email address verification tests, calculates a quality score (accept or reject), auto-corrects common domain misspellings and syntax errors, and removes extraneous characters.

To prevent the continued collection of useless email addresses, encourage users to submit real ones. Providing valuable content is the proven way to keep the attention of those who sign up, whether they use a real or disposable address. Marketing managers can also inhibit the use of temporary emails by using online sign-up forms that make use of email validation in real time to determine if an email address is disposable and block it from being submitted.

The Definition of ‘Garbage’ in Email, and How to Get Rid of It

We all know garbage when we see it — or do we? In the case of Service Objects’ email validation, we have our own definition of garbage and we actively seek it out. We want to find garbage in email and warn you about it so that you can make the most informed decision possible about accepting or rejecting it.

How do we define garbage?

The dictionary defines garbage as follows:

  •  Wasted or spoiled food and other refuse, as from a kitchen or household.
  • A thing that is considered worthless or meaningless: a store full of overpriced garbage.
  • Computing unwanted data in a computer’s memory.

Okay, we’re off to a good start. It’s safe to say that garbage is essentially: trash, worthless or meaningless items, or unwanted data. When it comes to email garbage, our email validation service flags email addresses that contain what we consider garbage. Our developer guide currently explains that our garbage flag:

“Indicates if the email address is believed to contain ‘garbage-like’ keyboard strokes and/or ‘garbage-like’ characters.” 

Garbage-like keyboard strokes might include pure gibberish or typos gone to the extreme. Garbage-like characters could include symbols and characters not typically included in email addresses. For example, hyphens are commonly used in URLs. Thus, an email address with a hyphenated domain, such as wouldn’t necessarily qualify as garbage. On the other hand, punctuation marks like exclamation points and commas are not used in URLs. Thus, an email address such as joe@example, or joe@example! would probably be considered garbage.

It’s not just about special characters


There’s a lot going on here behind the scenes, though. Many bots will use valid email addresses, such as addresses, with randomly generated email addresses. Though theoretically, they could be real, most often they look like complete gibberish or garbage.

Our DOTS Email Validation service checks for known names and dictionary words, various keystroke patterns, vowel and consonant patterns, and special characters that are syntactically valid but often rejected by most mail servers.

Garbage detection is important. Not only is sending messages to bogus email accounts a waste of time, but it could also get you flagged by ISPs. If you have a lot of garbage emails in your database, you’ll also have a high bounce rate. ISPs may think you’re a spammer when you’re really a victim of bots that randomly generate email addresses on web forms.

Just because an email may be considered deliverable, it does not mean it is good. That’s why we run multiple integrity checks, including garbage email checks, as part of our email validation service. If an email is flagged as garbage, then it means you probably shouldn’t accept it.

Self-Learning Validation

Have you ever asked Siri to remind you to buy a certain product the next time you’re at the store, call your mom, or fetch the latest movie times? Technology that was once the realm of fantasy has made its way into your hands, and it’s getting smarter every day. Here at Service Objects, smart technology is integral to our business. Our validation services may not be as personable as Siri, but they’re even smarter.

Our email validation service currently keeps tabs on over 2 million domains each day, and that number continues to grow. The more data our email validation service collects, the smarter it becomes. We like to say that the service is “self-learning” because, with additional data, it can make better decisions about the integrity of an email address. Moreover, the email validation service can tap into this data to predict mail server behavior. 

For example, let’s say a large company obtains a new domain, and begins issuing employee email addresses with that domain. When our email validation service first encounters an email address, it has minimal data to work with and will need to examine other data points as part of the email validation process. Once the domain has been validated, future addresses can be processed more quickly. For example, if someone accidentally enters, our email validation service will have already learned the correct spelling of the domain and will be able to correct the spelling immediately.

Predicting mail server behavior is another area where our self-learning validation technology shines. For example, spammers often use disposable or temporary domains to spam mail forms in websites and mail servers directly. Spammers know that ISPs use sophisticated spam detection tools in an attempt to prevent spam from landing in their users’ inboxes. Thus, spammers obtain disposable IP addresses and domains, burning through them quickly as a means of circumventing spam detection. 

In theory, this would work. After all, new domains and IP addresses haven’t been blacklisted yet, allowing spammers’ messages to go through. Though the IP addresses and domains may change, the spammers’ behaviors, and other signature factors, often do not. As a result, even if a spammer uses a fresh IP and new domain, our self-learning validation service can promptly identify the spam attempt. 

All of this learning takes place behind the scenes — for your benefit.


Catch-all Domains Explained

Imagine launching an online business and associating your email address with your business domain. For example purposes, let’s say your domain is and your name is John. Your email address would be Now what if someone entered If you had a “catch-all” domain, you’d receive email messages sent to — even if senders misspelled your name.

In fact, that was originally part of the allure of catch-all email addresses. With a catch-all domain, you could tell people to send email to anything at your designated domain such as: sales@, info@, bobbymcgee@, or mydogspot@. No matter what they entered in front of the @ sign, you’d still get the message without having to configure your server or do anything special.

The Downside of Catch-all Email Addresses

Catch-all email addresses were created to ensure that no email to the domain would be rejected and lost. Catch-all domains accept all email without rejection. Though useful for those concerned about potentially missing important messages due to typos in the mailbox, spammers soon took advantage of the opportunity before them. All they need is the domain name. They do not need to hunt for usernames, guess usernames, or scrape email addresses. They simply put whatever they want in front of the domain and send their messages — and those messages arrive as intended. As a result, catch-all boxes tend to get flooded with spam and become unusable.

How Service Objects Defines Catch-All Domains

Service Objects uses the term “Catch-All Domain” to refer to a domain that has its mail server(s) configured to not reject email addresses, even if they do not exist. Thus, if an email arrives to, our catch-all domain example, and that email does not actually exist, it will not be rejected.

Keep in mind, however, that mail servers can be configured in various ways. Traditionally, a “catch-all” message is accepted and forwarded to the designated “catch-all” mailbox.

Mail servers can also be set up to delete incoming or bounce messages when no recipient is found. Bounced emails do not necessarily bounce immediately. Thus, a mail server may accept an unknown message initially and later bounce it back. We know, it’s confusing. Remember that rejecting an email and bouncing one back are not one and the same.

Catch-all Domain Practices

It is considered bad practice for a mail server to accept email addresses that do not exist and then bounce them back later. This practice was initially employed when spammers began mining mail servers for email recipients with the thought that spammers who could not accurately mine the mail server for recipients would simply move on and leave it alone.

As you know, spammers are a creative bunch, and they quickly learned to manipulate this type of server behavior to their advantage. This practice also increases bandwidth usage due to both incoming spam and outgoing bounce messages.

A better approach is to reject nonexistent email outright so that no message is ever received, accepted, and then bounced back.

Identifying Catch-all Domains

Service Objects’ email validation service identifies catch-all domains, giving you a better idea of how your outgoing messages may be handled. For example, messages sent to a catch-all domain may arrive as intended, but they may get lost in a flood of spam messages whereas a message sent to a legitimate business recipient’s mailbox will be more likely to be perceived as legitimate.

The History of Email

Though modern email first emerged in the early 1990s, electronic communication actually dates back to the 1970s. Yes, email is nearly half a century old! If you’re interested in electronic communications, email validation, and email in general, you’ll appreciate the evolution of email.

Electronic communications within the network

Prior to the emergence of email, users of the same computer used a crude system of communicating with one another: putting messages in the other user’s file directory where they would likely see it. As networked computers became more common, the ability to communicate with other networked computer users eventually emerged.

A computer scientist named Raymond Tomlinson is credited with masterminding modern email addressing using the @ sign and sending the first network email message in 1971. This was long before the Internet was born, and these early electronic messages were limited to messages between networked computers — and users had to be using the same software. Members of the military, government, and academia commonly used the forerunner of the Internet, ARPANET and began using email to communicate with one another.

Email moves to the web

The World Wide Web emerged in the early 1990s, bringing with it a profound shift in how we communicate. As Internet access became more widely available and used, and as email programs became easier to use, email quickly took off.

Many of the emerging email options could be used offline as well as stored offline, making it convenient for users to receive messages and review them at their leisure. Senders knew that even if their recipients were offline, their messages would be received.

Popular email brands of yesteryear include: AOL, Lotus Notes, and Eudora. Initial email use took place at work but it wasn’t long before people began using both the Internet and personal email at home. Early on, most people got personal email addresses associated with their Internet Service Providers such as AOL.

Due to AOL’s dominance, most email users became familiar with AOL’s “You’ve got mail” announcement. In fact, that announcement became a meme and was fodder for the movie You’ve Got Mail starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

Email’s evolution

By the early 2000s, webmail had arrived. Users were no longer tied to the email addresses offered by their ISPs. They could sign up for personal accounts through webmail providers such as Hotmail and Gmail. With webmail, messages could be retrieved using a Web browser — no software or setup required. They could access messages at home, at work, at the library, and virtually any other Internet-connected computer.

While webmail freed users from using a single computer to access their email messages, email wasn’t done evolving. Email moved to the mobile realm in 2003 when the original Blackberry phones were released.

The first US president to use email was President Bill Clinton (though he reportedly only sent two email messages). President Barack Obama was the first US president to use mobile email — and is a self-proclaimed Blackberry addict.

Today, smartphones and tablets along with email apps are the latest evolution of email. Email clients and webmail are still popular and have evolved to include calendars, collaboration, tasks, notes, and organizational features such as tags, message rules, and folders.

Email has prompted the development of other technologies such as anti-spam and email validation software. You’re likely familiar with spam-fighting tools. Email validation software is used to verify and correct (if necessary) email addresses.

Despite competition from social networking, instant messaging, online collaboration, and video chats, email is alive and well. It remains one of the best ways to communicate with others whether or not they are online at the time or using the same software.

The History of the @ Sign

The at sign, or @ as we all know it, is commonly used in email addresses and Twitter handles. Formally called an asperand symbol, the @ sign has become nearly ubiquitous in electronic communications today. A few years ago, the Museum of Modern Art proclaimed the @ symbol a design classic. Though it’s most often associated with email and Twitter, the @ sign has a history that predates email and social media by hundreds of years.

Theories about the @ sign

According to an article published on, some believe that medieval monks are responsible for creating the @ symbol as a shortcut for ad, which is Latin for “toward.” Remember, monks frequently copied manuscripts by hand with quill and ink — a tedious process. Shortcuts made them more efficient.

Another theory focuses on the French word for “at” which is à. Think of it as a lazy — or maybe even a fancy — way to add an accent.

Another one suggests that the @ symbol, which looks like an ‘a’ inside of a larger ‘e’, is an abbreviation for “each at.” Merchants used the @ sign in this way to denote units and prices. For example, if you were to list twenty widgets for sale at a price of $20 each, you might express this transaction as: 20 widgets @ $20. Since the @ sign means each at in this example, the total cost would be $400. This usage of the @ sign dates back to the 1500s.

Each of these theories share writing efficiency in common. The @ sign was simply used as a shortcut.

The @ sign’s rise to prominence

ray-tomlinson-photoThough the @ sign had its purposes, it wasn’t widely used until email claimed it as its own. Early typewriters and computer tabulating systems did not feature it, but later ones did. The @ sign remained largely ignored until the forerunner of the Internet, Arpanet, emerged. Ray Tomlinson, a computer scientist involved in Arpanet, needed a means of addressing electronic messages to someone on a connected computer. Just as you address a letter to a person’s name and identify the person’s home address, electronic letters (hello email!) needed to include the person’s name and identify the person’s computer by name.

Tomlinson needed a symbol that wasn’t commonly used in programming, and the @ symbol was it. Though he could have used some other obscure symbol, the @ sign was perfect thanks to its French translation: at. Tomlinson created the email naming system we know and use today, and he’s credited with sending the first email message.

The @ sign and email validation

Though Tomlinson’s email addressing system has withstood the test of time, addressing mistakes happen, making email validation necessary.

With email validation, the words in front of and behind the @ sign are treated differently. Our email validation software understands email addressing conventions: the person’s name comes in front of the @ sign and the person’s computer address comes after it. Thus, if you have a contact named John Johns and his email address begins with “john.jones@,” you’re going to have a high level of confidence that his email address is genuine. On the other hand, if it’s “mickeymouse@,” your confidence level will be lower.

Email validation software validates what comes after the @ sign as well. For example, it can correct common domain name misspellings such as or typos like @gmail.c0m.

The humble asperand symbol has been the domain of monks, merchants, computer scientists, and Internet users. We believe it’s here to stay.


3 Email Validation Terms You Should Know

email-validationEmail validation is an important tool in ensuring the deliverability of your email messages. Not only can email validation correct common typos and weed out bogus email addresses, it is also essential in protecting your reputation with many large mail providers. After all, if a mail provider or mail server thinks you’re a spammer, NONE of your messages will go through because you’ve been “blacklisted.” What does this mean? How can you avoid it? With these questions in mind, let’s go over three email validation terms and what they mean to senders of mass email.


Mail servers maintain several lists, from white to black, in an attempt to keep spam from entering the inboxes of their customers. They don’t take any chances; if it looks like you’re sending spam (such as by sending too many messages to non-existent email addresses or using “scraped” email addresses), you’ll be treated like a spammer. On the other hand, if you play by the rules, you’ll earn their trust. Mail servers can group domains, IP address, and email addresses into three types of lists: white, gray/silver, and black.

  • Whitelist — Ideally, you want to be on the whitelist. A whitelist is often referred to as an “allow” list. Whitelists can contain domains, IP addresses, or email addresses. Because these are trusted senders, messages sent by whitelist members generally bypass some or all of the mail server’s security measures. Their messages are allowed to go through.
  • Graylist — Also referred to as a silver list, graylists sit between whitelists and blacklists. Graylists are typically used to temporarily block and reject email messages from new and unknown IP addresses, a process known as a “soft bounce.” This is a defense mechanism employed by mail servers to protect themselves from spam when encountering an IP address or domain for the first time. It is not uncommon to receive a soft bounce when sending a message to a new domain for the first time. Soft bounces typically resolve themselves. For example, if the recipient’s email address is valid and you try sending the message again, the message will be accepted and delivered.
  • Blacklist — Blacklists are also known as “blocklists” because they permanently block any and all messages from members on the list. Blacklists consists of domains, IP addresses, or email addresses. If your domain, IP address, or email address in on a blacklist, your messages will be permanently blocked and rejected, a process known as a “hard bounce.” Unlike soft bounces which tend to resolve themselves, a hard bounce is permanent unless the IP address, domain, or email address is removed from the blacklist. Similarly, if you attempt to send email to a blacklisted domain or IP, there is a chance that the message will bounce back.

Mail providers aren’t the only ones to use whitelists and blacklists. For example, interoffice email from your company’s own domain is far more trustworthy than some random @gmail address. Thus, network firewalls and mail servers are often configured to use whitelists and blacklists consisting of domains or IP addresses. End users often use personal blacklists to reject or filter specific email addresses.

DOTS Email Validation helps you to stay off of blacklists by validating and correcting common address mistakes that could lead to hard bounces and subsequent blacklisting. This email validation service also warns you of spam traps, honeypots (stay tuned for a post on this!), and known spammers — each of which could cause you to be blacklisted.


Improved Vulgar Word Detection in Email Validation Service

In our ongoing efforts to enhance our email verification services, we’ve recently updated the way that our service assesses a vulgar word within in email addresses. Our email verification service now more accurately catches vulgar words, and does not flag legitimate words or names with embedded profanity.

email validation service

What exactly is vulgar word detection, and why is it important to email verification?
DOTS Email Validation service performs dozens of validity tests on an email address, and the results of which are used to calculate an overall integrity score for the email address. One of these tests is for vulgar words, which if found, produces a warning in the output code. Vulgarity (along with bogus or celebrity names, an unregistered DNS, and others) is a strong sign that the provided email address is not valid – and not worth contacting.

When running your existing contact database through email validation, the vulgar word detection function can help you weed out fake email addresses, and conversely keep words that may have a shorter vulgar word embedded but not meant as harmful. With real-time validation you can prevent fake email addresses from entering and cluttering your database, and even prompt users to submit real, valid email addresses if they initially try to go rogue.

There is a flip-side to looking for vulgarity in email addresses. Finding a set of characters that one might defined as vulgar does not always indicate a bad or fake email address. There are many dictionary words and common names which may appear to be indecent, but, taken in their entirety, are actually completely appropriate. The new vulgar word detection feature in DOTS Email Validation references our proprietary database of millions of verified dictionary words, first names, and last names, to differentiate valid names and words (which orthographically contain vulgarity), from actual obscene expressions. As a result of accurately distinguishing these cases, much less false positives are returned in the vulgar word check.

Here are some examples of how the new algorithm scores inputs:


Input example

Vulgar flag?


Email address containing a vulgar word which is part of another, valid word


Contains “crap” but is actually part of the acceptable word “scrap”

Email address containing same vulgar word, which is not syntactically contained in another word


The only real word found was in fact vulgar

Email address using a name that contains a vulgar word


“Crap” embedded, but “Crapo” is a popular last name

Email address using a name that explicitly contains a vulgar word


Vulgar word found, no real name found

Now you can be assured that using DOTS Email Validation will properly reject obscene email addresses from your contact database, and accept those that are surprisingly harmless.

Give the service a try free of charge and tell us what you think!

It’s More than Just a List – Six Tips for Maximizing Email Engagement

You’ve heard it countless times, “The money’s in the list.” While there’s no denying that building an email list is smart and profitable, it’s important to get past this mindset. Otherwise, the focus is on numbers when it really should be on engagement.

Engagement is a simple concept that focuses on connecting with subscribers. When your email campaigns are interesting, relevant, and informative to your subscribers, they are engaging. When subscribers look forward to seeing your messages in their inboxes, they are engaged. In contrast, when your emails are boring, filled with fluff and hype, they are headed for the trash. When subscribers see your messages and instinctively move their fingers toward the Delete key, you’re at risk of being unsubscribed.

Use the following six tips to craft more engaging email campaigns:


  1. Clarify your intentions – What is the purpose of your newsletter? If you don’t know what you intend to do with it, you can’t adequately set expectations or even entice people to subscribe. Whether you intend to offer useful tips, academic research, or discount codes, you need to have a clear vision so that you can explain it to subscribers. Clearly explain what subscribers can look forward to by signing up for your campaign.
  2. Live up to your promise – After clarifying your intentions, live up to them! If subscribers expect to receive useful cleaning tips every week, send them useful cleaning tips every week.
  3. Personalize your mailings – What’s more personable, addressing an email to Mr. James L. Jones or to James? Name validation software makes it easy to extract prefixes, first names, middle initials, last names, and suffixes from a single name field. From there, it’s a simple matter of using your preferred form of address.
  4. Send relevant content – This is closely related to living up to your promise. If your subscribers expect scientific articles dissecting the latest biotech research, don’t send them consumer product reviews or coupon codes to Disneyland. But it goes deeper than simply living up to your initial description. You should know what your subscribers are interested in and serve content that’s relevant. This requires segmenting your list based on interests and demographics. For example, if you have customers in both the northern and southern hemispheres, you may want to segment those groups due to seasonal differences.
  5. Send gentle reminders – Make it easy for customers to order refills, gifts, and other products by sending gentle reminders before holidays or when consumables are likely to need to be replaced. Your subscribers may also be receptive to new product announcements and exclusive discounts. Again, keep your offers relevant.
  6. Maintain your list – Make sure to keep your list clean by removing duplicates and bad email addresses. Use email validation software to automatically detect bogus signups such as “Mickey Mouse” or “John Q. Public.” A well-maintained list will technically be smaller than a bloated one; however, you’ll have a better sense of who your real subscribers are.

Engaging prospects and customers through email is a strategy that works. Understand what you want to accomplish, clarify your intentions, and then live up to your promise.

Getting to the Inbox – Five Important Features of Email Validation

Each year over 25% of email addresses in a company’s customer or contact database become obsolete. The reasons are numerous: people switch jobs, change email providers or unsubscribe from a mailing list. As your email list goes out of date, you run the risk of dramatically increasing bounce rates, putting your company at risk of being black-listed by ISPs.

“The most important thing a company can do to protect themselves from being added to SPAM lists is to ensure the deliverability of every email address they have,” states Emanuel Fuentes, Software Engineer at Service Objects. “By regularly validating email addresses in their systems, companies not only maximize the potential of existing relationships, they also reduce inefficiencies in their processes and reduce waste of time and resources.”

Five important features to look for when selecting an email validation service:

  1. Does the service perform error checking on both sides of the @ sign – both in the user name and the domain name. TIP: Look for a company that eliminates invalid email addresses like “,” which appears to be a legitimate email to many services.  Sophisticated algorithms can help weed out these addresses.
  2. Does the service verify that the domain in the email address exists, and has a valid MX record associated with it
  3. Does the service perform a test at the mailbox level, and determine if that mailbox actually receives mail
  4. Does the service detect and flag bogus or malicious addresses that may be cluttering up your inbox
  5. Does the service provide  a free trial so that you can test for yourself and verify the actual match rates

An email validation service like DOTS Email Validation will help protect your business by identifying possible issues, allowing you to address them before sending out an email blast.

Safeguard your business against SPAM violations by ensuring your emails are delivered – every time.

Demographics for Email

What an email may say about your potential customers

Today’s marketer knows that the keys to increased conversion and awareness is understanding your target audience and creating a relevant and personalized experience for your customers and potential customers.

The use of real-time data is becoming more and more commonplace as marketers strive to customize their message for potential buyers. Consequently, accurate and attributable data has become that much more important. Recent studies have shown that email is the popular choice of communication among consumers with the most spending power.

Service Objects DOTS Email Insight can link an email address to compelling demographic and geographic information. By using just the email address marketers can now append information such as age, gender, income, location, education-level, home market value and more.

With DOTS Email Insight companies can analyze their email addresses to understand who is purchasing their product or service. With the data they can determine types of consumers who are buying their products and refine their strategies according to marketplace demands. They can also estimate a potential customer’s location and income-level to create a clear and comprehensive picture of them. With this service marketers can better understand their prospects; and tailor a unique message just for them. Finally, marketers can identify concentrations of potential customers to find untapped opportunities for growth.

Here is how it works: We aggregate email data across multiple sources and make it available through our application programming interface (API). DOTS Email Insight is a database of over 310 million email addresses linked to ZIP+4, Census data, compiled household files and other private sources of consumer information.

DOTS Email Insight is based on the principle that “birds of a feather flock together.” It’s a phenomenon that people with similar cultural backgrounds, needs, and perspectives naturally gravitate toward one another. They choose to live in areas offering affordable advantages and compatible lifestyles. That’s why, for instance, many young career singles choose lively urban neighborhoods, and while young families with children prefer the suburbs.

Here is a typical example: Service Objects recently appended demographics and location data to 100,000 email addresses for small California retail chain. The email addresses were culled from the stores’ internal email marketing list. The goal of the project was get more insight into the type of person who shops at their stores; including their gender, age, ZIP code, and household income.

Here’s what we found:



Let us give you more insight on your email data. For starters, send us a list of 500 addresses and we’ll send you back the results for free. Click here to register and submit your list.

Email Append – The Good. The Bad. And the Ugly.

Because of the prevalence of multi-channel marketing, email append has become a widely used method for companies to build their in-house email database with permission-based addresses. It’s one of the most useful tools to get up and running. But it’s a service that is mired in controversy. And rightfully so.

The CAN-SPAM Act, a law that sets the rules for commercial email messages, gives recipients the right to put a stop to any incoming emails that are unasked for or undesired. This law insists that companies sending email make it easy for recipients to clearly understand how to opt out of receiving future emails.

Some in the industry say that appending is simply not an acceptable email marketing practice. That it is not permission-based and is not compliant with CAN-SPAM regulations. What is important to understand is that to use appended email address properly you must ensure that every recipient has, in fact, given their permission to receive emails and retains the right to opt out at any time.

DOTS Email AppendSM is great example of a modern email appending tool and an excellent way to build on an existing contact list. For example, a retail catalog company may decide to use email marketing, a method that is relatively inexpensive compared to direct mail. They already have their customers’ postal addresses and DOTS Email Append uses that list to append email addresses to their existing address data. It is now this company’s responsibility to send newly identified email recipients its own message, asking if they have permission to continue to communicate via email. Our DOTS Email Append requires all customers to take this or similar actions, thereby complying with CAN-SPAM.

Even with an extensive list of customer names and addresses, the catalog company in our example had no way to mine those for email marketing. With DOTS Email Append, they are able to do just that. Now after creating a permission-based email list, they can move forward and use this email list to help increase the effectiveness of all marketing and communications programs.

The bottom line? Used with CAN-SPAM compliance, email append is a great tool to give companies additional opportunity to skyrocket revenue and keep in closer touch with prospects and customers.

Where did go?

19% of email addresses provided in free offers are bogus.

Email ValidationI recently did a study for a client who had a large number of email addresses that they collected on their free-sweepstakes form.  Entrants were asked to enter their name and their email address for a chance to win a daily prize valued at $1,000. On the entry form the marketer did basic JavaScript validation tests on each address entered by the user and this naturally kept out a lot of improperly formatted e-mail address from being written to their database. However, the marketer did not do an outbound verification e-mail to their customer to confirm the accuracy of the email address that was entered by the entrant nor did they do use a real-time email address checker to verify the email addresses.

Service Objects has a corporate client that gave us approximately 120,000 email addresses from various campaigns and on various dates in 2011. Each address was processed through our email validation service. Each address was checked for syntax, domain-level validity and mailbox-level validity; additional checks for vulgar and bogus addresses were also performed.

At first glance the addresses looked OK. They were properly formatted and their domains (right side of the address) mostly belonged to the top e-mail providers like gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail and others. However using email validation tools, we determined that 18.7% (22,700 out of 120,000) had mailbox level errors.  These email addresses are undeliverable because the mailbox element (the left-side of the address) is no longer a valid working mailbox.

An example of one of these addresses is: The address has good syntax, a working MX record, a valid SMTP server but the mailbox element (cgommer) is invalid according to Perhaps this entrant made up this address? Perhaps she moved ISPs? There is really no way for us to know with 100% accuracy. This was a bad address and should have been marked in their database as so.

Why valid email addresses matter: Marketers who look to re-connect with clients need valid working addresses. Email service providers like Constant Contact and MailChimp have rules in which they seek a maximum allowed bounce-back rate of only 5%*. If your bounce-rate is too high (>5%) you will be banned from mailing with their service. They do this to weed-out poor quality lists and to reduce load on their mail servers.

What you do about it: Marketers seeking to improve their email address quality should take the following actions:

(1) use JavaScript based email validation
(2) use a hosted email validation tool
(like those we offer at
(3) send a confirmation email to verify users identity
(4) should periodically re-validate the list prior to any bulk mail campaign


Email to Phone: From your Email Server to SMS Gateway Servers

Beware — sending emails to wireless devices has its pitfalls

More and more people are using cell phones with SMS features these days. In fact, text messaging is becoming the number one means of electronic communication in the United States. This may seem like a ripe opportunity to reach out to people via their hand-held devices and put your products or services at their fingertips, but for businesses, it may not be the right thing to do.

Although the concept of emailing your campaigns to mobile phones is alluring, unless your contacts have specifically asked to receive messages this way, you may be putting your company at risk of getting blacklisted, fined, or perhaps worse, alienating customers and prospective customers.

For one thing, it’s the recipients that get billed for your messages; they may find this not only annoying, but costly, escalating annoyance and provoking them to contact their mobile phone service providers to complain. If you systematically send out unsolicited emails via SMS gateways, and mobile phone companies receive enough complaints, you may be prohibited from accessing their networks in the future.

For another thing, the FCC has strict guidelines within its CAN-SPAM Act1 , mandating that all emails, whether bound for email inboxes or wireless devices, must have a feature that allows recipients to easily opt out of future mailings. While Smart phones recognize live links, other phone types don’t, putting your company in violation of a federal law and potentially exposing you to up to $16,000 in fines for each violation.

Don’t fool yourself: If you think that everyone would gladly pay to hear about your latest and greatest, the coolest and the newest thing, think again. One major Mobile phone company learned this the hard way, when in 2005, UCAN2 brought a case against it for spamming its customers and then charging $.10 for each message.

You can prevent violating CAN-SPAM regulations, avoid potential penalties from consumer protection agencies and protect your reputation by simply cleaning your email list and removing SMS gateway email addresses. In fact, isolating SMS gateway addresses is a good idea even if you’re not worried about getting blacklisted, fined or irritating people, for the simple reason that many cell phones can’t display html (formatted) messages.

There are hundreds of domain names (and growing), specific to cell phones and pagers, that email marketers should avoid. How do you spot them? Use a real-time Web Service like DOTS Email Validation that continuously updates its database of wireless domain names, and flags email addresses that are known to use SMS gateways. To test a few email addresses on this service, go to DOTS Email Validation Lookups and see for yourself.

If you’d like to test a list of email addresses, try our free-trial batch processing or sign up for a live XML free trial key that lets you integrate the service into your own system and try it out for 30 days. See the table below for just a few known SMS domain names to look out for:

1Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act
2Utility Consumers’ Action Network, non-profit, pubic interest consumer advocacy

Facebook Email Addresses: A Boon for Email Validation Systems

Recently, Facebook announced a new email service that allows Facebook users to seamlessly integrate personalized Facebook e-mail accounts with their Facebook profiles. This “social inbox” concept links together SMS, IM, and e-mail into a single platform. The product provides you with an e-mail address that links to your profile. For instance, my Facebook account is:, so my Facebook email would be

This will be a boon for e-mail validation, in that the new Facebook messaging features will allow validators (like us) to link Facebook e-mail addresses to Facebook accounts. Pseudo-anonymous e-mail addresses (like have always been a challenge to businesses; linking Facebook email addresses to profiles will aid in weeding-out unrelated contacts and fraudulent transactions. Linking together e-mail, Facebook accounts, SMS, and the contact, in other words, linking together the channels, will improve visibility into online transactions, and is a win-win for all parties (except the bad guys).

Posted by: Geoff G.

Does Email Validation Help Catch Bogus Email Addresses?

A lot of people ask what an email validation system really does and if it really helps catch bogus email addresses.

The short answer is, it weeds out good email addresses from bad. However, all email validation systems are not created equal. Some help and others don’t.

A standard method is to use server-side scripting on Web forms to verify that emails are input correctly; it’s easy to defeat this method though by simply typing in

With a standard email validation system, this example passes muster because it has a name, an @-sign and a TLD (Top Level Domain. Ex. .com, .org, .net): Not so with an instant, advanced email validation Web Service. If you’re in e-commerce, or any business that’s dependent upon correct email information, you’ll need more than server-side scripts to weed out bogus email addresses.

An advanced email validation Web service uses tricky algorithms to quickly identify bad information within email addresses. Think of an email validation Web service as an online x-ray device that sees through an email address’ basic structure to identify shortcomings that are not obvious by mere observation.

While standard email validation falls short in identifying bogus email addresses, advanced email validation goes the extra mile and does a pretty thorough job. An email validation Web service checks for things like: does the domain really exist? If it does, does it have rules for allowable domain names? Can it contain numbers, vulgar terms? Does the mailbox even exist within that domain? What about the SMTP server?