How Effective Is A.I. Email Scoring: The Easy Way to Validate Catch-all Emails

On July 24, 2020
6min read
Corina Leslie PR Manager @ZeroBounce

If you’re into email marketing, chances are you’re hearing a lot about A.I. email scoring. How effective is it and how does it improve your email list? It depends on who you ask. While some marketers are reluctant to believe in its power, others consider scoring an integral part of email marketing. 

In this article we’ll take a close look at how A.I. email scoring works, how it helps you further validate catch-all emails, and how you can get started with it yourself. 

Let’s dive in!

What is A.I. email scoring?

An A.I. email scoring system uses artificial intelligence to determine the quality of an email address. In email marketing and any kind of email outreach campaigns, the quality of an address refers to:

  • its activity levels, and
  • the likelihood that a particular prospect will engage with your content

For instance, someone may have a Gmail account that they log into every two months. The address is valid, so you keep emailing it, but is that a great lead for you? Not really – you want people on your list who check their inbox often and can see your message. This is exactly what email scoring helps you achieve.

A.I. email scoring services analyze data relating to the activity of an email address to come up with a score. The higher the score, the better your chances to connect with the person on the other end and, eventually, convert them. 

It all starts with a healthy email list

Before you even begin to look for a good A.I. email scoring system, let’s take a step back and look at the state of your email list. 

What’s your average bounce rate? Also, how many spam complaints do you usually get? Would you say your subscribers engage with you – do they consistently open and click through your emails? Do they ever write back? 

These are all important questions to ponder on, as your answers will paint a clear picture of your strengths and weaknesses. So, make time to study your email marketing reports from the past six months: what stands out?

Here are some average metrics to compare your stats against:

  • different sources offer different numbers, but in 2020, a good open rate is around 20%,
  • your spam complaints should be less than 0.1%, according to industry standards, and
  • your bounce rate should not exceed 2%.

Are your metrics close to these benchmarks? If they aren’t, you know it’s time to reassess your strategy and take action. 

Usually, the first aspect to check is the quality of your email list. There’s no benefit to hiring an A.I. email scoring service if your list is messy to begin with. 

Inspect Your Emails

Find out if your contacts are still valid

In general, email databases decay at a rate of 22.5% every year, according to HubSpot, which cites a MarketingSherpa study. Add to that the effects of the pandemic – during which millions of people have lost their jobs – and that number will be even higher

B2B email lists tend to decay faster even in stable times. That’s because people change their jobs more often than they change their personal email addresses. 

As you can see, your email list – especially if you’re communicating in the B2B sector – is an ever-evolving entity. So, for your email marketing to work, you have to tend to your contacts regularly. 

The easiest way to do it is by using an email verification service. For most email marketers nowadays, list cleaning is a common practice as it helps them ensure they reach the inbox.

A reliable email validation and verification system can detect and weed out:

  • invalid addresses – misspelled or accounts that have been deleted or deactivated,
  • abuse emails – they belong to email users who habitually label messages as spam,
  • role-based addresses – their format is easy to spot (contact@ or office@) and they have low email marketing value,
  • temporary addresses – why would you keep them in your list since they self-destruct and bounce?
  • catch-all emails – some of them are valid, others will bounce. It’s essential to isolate them from the rest of your contacts first.

These are just a few examples of risky email addresses you should remove from your database before scoring it. Such contacts only cause bounces, spam complaints, and poor engagement. Prune them out so you can start with a fresh list.

How A.I. email scoring helps you validate catch-all emails

A special category of risky email addresses are catch-all emails. Set up by organizations to accept all the email sent to them, these emails are a real challenge for marketers. 

For starters, the “catch-all” feature can easily by disabled on any domain. So, a catch-all email that was valid last week will end up bouncing the next week. 

Furthermore, catch-all emails tend to receive a high volume of email and get full quickly. At first, that will cause a soft bounce – meaning the server will temporarily reject your message. Later, if your email doesn’t manage to get through, you’ll get a hard bounce.

The first important thing you should know is that no email verification system can tell you whether a catch-all email address is valid or not. They can detect these domains so you can easily segment them from your list, but finding out which ones are valid and active – that’s another story.

This is where A.I. email scoring can help. By analyzing the activity levels of an email address, a scoring service can give you some perspective on its validity. 

So, let’s say you’ve just validated your list and some of your results turned out to be catch-all emails. How do you proceed? Do you throw them all out fearing they’ll bounce? You could, but that means you’d probably throw away a few valid leads, too.

Do you keep sending to them and take the risk? Either option is going to hurt your email marketing somehow. A.I. email scoring helps you avoid these risks and email more confidently.

How to tell the good ones from the bad

Each email scoring service has its own features and algorithms, but scoring, in general, operates under a classic principle. If you’ve created a lead scoring system with your marketing and sales team, you know what I’m talking about: a high score equals a good lead.

A.I. email scoring works the same way. You upload your database for analysis and you get back a quality score for each email address. If a contact (such as a catch-all email) got a score of 0, it’s clear you’re dealing with a low-quality lead. Chances are slim that you’ll manage to engage that person – if there’s even a person on the other end. 

On the other hand, a score of 10 indicates you not only have a valid, but also an active email address. Its owner is very likely to open your email and click through your content. Obviously, these are the types of addresses you want to have on your list.

Enjoying this Post?Join Our Newsletter

Only the best content, delivered once a month. Unsubscribe anytime.

How much should you rely on A.I. email scoring?

Scoring your email list can reveal valuable information on your subscribers and what you can expect from them. 

Sometimes, knowing you’ve got a valid email address isn’t enough to determine you have a good lead. To learn more about that contact, you can score it and get your result back within seconds. 

But should you base all your email marketing decisions only on that result? Of course, it depends on the service you use – some are better that others. Either way, you can look at email scoring as a guide to filter out low-quality leads and focus on people who are more likely to respond to your marketing. 

Why email engagement matters so much

In a nutshell: because the number of people that open and click through your email content has a dramatic impact on your sender reputation

When you send emails people love, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) think of you as someone who practices email marketing with care. You have a healthy list, your bounce and spam complaint rates are under control, and your content is compelling.

As a result, you have a higher chance of landing in the inbox and conveying your messages successfully. The more proactive you are about your email list hygiene, the better your reputation and inbox placement will be.

To foster great email engagement, consider these best practices:

  • Email regularly: a consistent sending schedule keeps your IP warm and your brand top of mind. When people become familiar with you, they’re more inclined to open your emails.
  • Make sure your “From” field is easily recognizable. It should either be the name of your company or, if one of your employees is the author, it could be “Name from Company.” This will help you keep spam complaints at bay.
  • Segment your email list and create personalized campaigns for each group. Of course, personalization should go beyond name and location. Use more advanced criteria, such as past shopping behavior or browsing history. 
  • Make every email great. The most successful senders are people and brands that put in the time and hard work to produce outstanding content. 
  • Subject lines are crucial. Write down several versions and pick the best one. Also, run split tests to see what the people on your list tend to react to. Then, send them more of that.
  • Weed out subscribers who haven’t clicked on any of your emails for more than six months. Some email experts advise pruning unengaged subscribers even more often – every three months. 

Email marketing is not a puzzle you can solve in an hour. It takes time to figure out the best tactics for your business and see results. By using the tips above, you’ll build a better list, boost your metrics, and harness the real power of email.

Article by Corina Leslie PR Manager @ZeroBounce

Corina Leslie is the PR Manager for email validation company ZeroBounce, an Inc. 5000 honoree. Most often, you’ll find her on the ZeroBounce blog, where she shares her tips and interviews experts on digital marketing and PR.