This article is part of a larger series on Sales Management.
Taking the time to check an email address’ owner before you hit send increases the chance your message will reach its intended recipients. It also helps protect you from falling for email phishing scams or from wasting your time replying to an illegitimate source. In this article, we explore how to trace an email address to its owner along with each method’s underlying benefits.
1. Google Search
The first and easiest way to check email address owners is to use Google. Whether you received a message from someone who didn’t leave a name or email signature, or you want to confirm an address from an email list you purchased, the Google search engine is a good starting point. When you search the address, you’ll be able to see if it matches the information on a directory, web page, or online profile such as LinkedIn.
Alternatively, other search engine platforms like Bing serve the same functionality despite not being nearly as popular as Google. There’s also DuckDuckGo, which lets you search the web without being tracked, storing your personal information, or following you around with online advertisements.
Pro tip: Use customer relationship management (CRM) software to store and organize the email addresses you confirm on Google. CRMs such as Zoho CRM and Salesforce act as a sales database full of leads and their contact information. This lets your sales team easily find email addresses or phone numbers to make email introductions, follow-up, or verify a sender if an unknown contact sent them an email message.
2. Social Media
Using social media profiles can be a valuable place to check email address owners—assuming they made that information public. Prior to launching lead generation campaigns, conduct some prospect research to confirm email addresses are accurate or to find prospects to target.
For business-to-consumer (B2C) businesses, use Facebook and enter the email address into the search bar where a profile will come up if there are any matches. If you’re a business-to-business (B2B) organization, LinkedIn is a great site to use. While you can’t search email addresses for matches, you can search and view profiles—many of which publish their professional email address on their page even if you aren’t connected with them.
Pro tip: Combine your sales and social media management systems by investing in a CRM with social media integration capabilities. HubSpot, for example, is a popular CRM system that also lets you make posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. Additionally, you can monitor keyword mentions, track interactions, and use social media platforms for lead data enrichment.
3. CRM Auto-enrichment Tools
Many CRM systems have data enrichment features or artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities that automatically keep contact information up-to-date. These tools work by monitoring publicly listed information, such as a company website’s contact page and social media profiles where data, including the email address, is constantly updated.
The main benefit of this method to check email address owners is the automation capabilities. Rather than manually searching on Google or Facebook, let the CRM feature do it for you. Freshsales is a CRM system that combines its auto-enrichment tool with its AI feature, called Freddy AI. On a contact profile, users can enter an email address and have the remainder of the profile enriched with all other data and web links associated with that address.
4. Browser Extension Look-up
If you are a Google Chrome user, you’ll love this particular method for how to trace an email address to its owner. Browser extensions such as FullContact compile robust information from your Gmail accounts. Whether you receive an email from a new contact or just do an email search, this Chrome extension pulls in other information from the web such as their job title, company, phone number, and social media links.
An alternative Chrome-extension option is also the supplemental tool available in Copper CRM. Similar to FullContact, you are able to do email address searches or have data compiled as messages are received from new addresses. The main difference here is that Copper is also a full CRM system that can manage leads, contacts, tasks, opportunities, and projects in one platform.
5. Trace the IP Address
Tracing an IP address using an email header is a sophisticated option and useful if you’re trying to confirm an email address for security reasons. The process will slightly vary depending on whether you use Outlook, Gmail, or Yahoo systems, but ultimately involves the same steps.
When you receive a message, go to the message options to view the email header, which will be in different spots based on your email provider. Once there, you can view the IP address where the email came from. Next, you can search the address using an IP address search tool such as whatismyip.com for additional data.
There are a few limitations to using this method. For instance, if the sender used a virtual private network (VPN), address information may not be accurate. This is because VPNs, by design, hide your IP address in order to provide you with an additional level of internet security protection.
6. Use Paid Services
Each of the methods we’ve provided up to this point are free options. To compile information from all sources at once and gain additional insights on someone, you can invest in a paid service such as Spokeo. This platform lets users search contacts by name, email address, phone number, or social media profiles.
This service then pulls from white pages, public records, websites, and social media profiles to obtain results for anything associated with that person. In addition to receiving contact information, Spokeo provides address history, work history, and family connections to each person, but costs between $15 and $20 per month. Because it’s a paid service, we recommend it for sales teams who heavily use email marketing or email introductions in their sales activities.
7. Contact the Company Associated With the Email Domain
The final option for confirming an address is simply by asking. If you received an email from a new sender, want to verify one from a list, or just want to make sure an address is accurate before making an introduction, you can always call the organization and ask. Just about all email address domain names are associated with the organization it came from.
If you receive a message from an address that does not leave their name and you’ve exhausted all other options, Google the company name on the address for a phone number. Call the number and ask them to confirm the address is from their company and find out who the contact is. This method should ideally be used as a last resort if the other options fail, as it does take more time than the other options.
Why Check Email Address Owners?
If you don’t check email address owners, you run into issues of not being able to verify the sender of a message or confirm an address you are sending messages to. There are also additional security, sales productivity, and data-integrity reasons. Sales management should ensure tools and processes are in place to help their team with email verification.
Here are the main benefits of checking email address owners:
- Helps prevent cybersecurity breaches: Many cybersecurity incidents are sourced in an email message phishing for credentials or attempting to get someone to download a malicious file. Verifying an address from the sender helps determine whether the message is legit and if the sender is who they say they are.
- Ensures accurate addresses for sales and marketing initiatives: Crafting personalized email messages often takes ample time and research to get high response rates. All of that time is wasted, however, if the email address is inaccurate.
- Keeps sales data clean: Email addresses are some of the most essential information you can have on a lead or customer, as it’s used for lead generation, lead nurturing campaigns, and promoting special offers. This makes it critical to keep your data up to date and accurate at all times.
The ability to check email address owners is powerful for remaining secure, being more efficient in sales activities, and data integrity. The methods presented range from no-cost to paid options, manual to automated processes, and standalone vs integrating with other software such as a CRM. Based on the tools, budget, and technical knowledge you have, these seven approaches to email verification will meet your specific business needs.