Email sending services don't like people sending emails to non-existing email addresses. The reason is simple - it's a way of preventing spammers from sending their spamming email campaigns. If a high percentage of your emails end up bouncing, your whole account might be at risk of termination. Oh yeah, then there are spam-traps waiting for your email to identify your account as a spammer - we'll get to it later.
Here are the 3 main ways you can check if an email is valid:
- Send an email, wait if it bounces (yeah, probably not the way you need)
- Check if the account exists at the email provider
- Use an email verification service to verify an email
If you feel really technical, you can also use telnet to ping the email without sending and actual email. Check out how to ping an email server here.
Sending an email is the most straightforward method of finding out whether an email works. Most straightforward, and also not usable in most cases. Use only if you need to check an email address or two.
Checking if the account exists at Google or Yahoo (or any email provider) is an awesome method, but might occasionally bring inaccurate results.
1. Try sending an email
The easiest way to know if an email address exists and works is to just send an email to it. The caveat is obviously that the person knows that you sent an email to them - and you could have also just sent the message you needed to instead. Another thing making this non-practical is that it's impossible to scale this. It's an OK method if you just need to check one or two emails, but that's about it.
Another issue is, that there are so-called "accept all" email servers. Even if you send an email to a made-up email address, you won't receive a bounce message (at least not immediately). The server will act as if the message was delivered and will secretly discard it. Luckily for us, email verification services can detect this.
2. Try using sign-in or password recovery pages
This one is a quite effective method (but it's not 100%) to detect if an email account is active. The drawback is that it only works with email services available online (e.g. Gmail, Yahoo, etc.) Try logging in with the email you want to verify, or visit the password recovery page and enter the email. Often, if the account under that email is not active or has never been registered, you'll receive a message saying that "there's no such account" or similar. However, some services might not show such information to protect their users. Other services show that an account is active even if the mailbox itself isn't (this sometimes is the case for Yahoo). Let's take a look at how you can use this to verify emails at some of the most popular services.
Here's how you can check if an email exists on Gmail:
- Click on Sign in on the Gmail homepage
- Enter the email you want to check
- If you see a message saying "Couldn't find your Google Account", the email is very likely invalid as well.
Here's how to check if a Microsoft Outlook email exists:
- Go to https://login.live.com/
- Enter the email you want to verify and press "Next".
- You will either have an option to enter a password, or you'll receive a message saying that the "Microsoft account doesn't exist". That's what you needed to know.
Here's how to check if a Yahoo email is active:
- Go to https://login.yahoo.com/
- Enter the email you want to verify and click "Next"
- If the email doesn't exist, you'll receive a "Sorry, we don't recognize this email." message.
3. Use email verification services to check if your email (or list of emails) is valid
This is definitely the easiest and most straightforward option, especially if you need your emails checked in bulk.
I'm not a spammer, is there any use of email verification for me?
Absolutely! In fact, everybody sending email campaigns to emails gathered more than a month before (assuming you require an email confirmation if someone sign-up for your newsletter) should scrub his email list. There are several reasons why previously legit contacts (emails) might stop working:
- Mailserver/domain no longer working - maybe the contact went out of business and shut their emails down
- Someone used a temporary email to sign up - the email might bounce when you try to send an email now to it.
- Inbox is disabled either by the user or by a service provider (i.e. Gmail might have banned the user for spamming and shut his email down)
It's very likely that your email list contains some of these. The older the list, the more problems there'll be. If you don't want to risk the quality of your IP address used for sending emails or risk the whole account getting shut down, verify your email list now.