Last week, Google announced that by the end of the year it will commence deleting Gmail accounts that have been inactive for at least two years — a move that the company says is intended to prevent security risks. The policy takes effect immediately, and dormant accounts will be purged in December 2023. For users, Google says it will send “multiple notifications over the months leading up to deletion” to the address and any attached recovery email.
With many individuals and organizations using their Google accounts for media storage, alias addresses or in cases where they may have lost access, but have content stored — this is certainly inconvenient. For marketers, though, the worry is that the deletion of accounts will lead to hard bounces in email sends, possibly skewing metrics.
We sat down with Principal Marketing Consultant on our Global Strategy Team, Rima Deming to get the lowdown on everything marketers need to know about the recent changes, how it will affect them and what action you should take to get prepared for this change.
Why is Google taking this action — is it just a security and spam issue or more to do with cost?
Google has stated that this move is intended to protect users from security threats. Accounts that had not been used for an extended period of time were more susceptible to being compromised.
An internal analysis that Google conducted found that these older accounts were less likely to have implemented their two-factor authentication, and this extra verification method helps to confirm a user's identity and accounts that don’t have it are often more vulnerable and at risk for identity theft. Although the policy has already gone into effect, Google will not be deleting unused accounts until December at the earliest, starting with accounts that were set up but never used. Google has provided options to keep accounts active which include the following activity:
Reading or sending an email
Using Google Drive
Watching a YouTube video
Downloading an app on the Google Play Store
Using Google Search
Using “Sign In with Google” to sign in to a third-party app or service
What impact will this have on marketers?
The biggest impact that marketers will face is that their list size will decrease since there are likely dormant email addresses as part of their overall email marketing database. However, this will be less of an impact to customers who have proactively already been removing inactive accounts. This change presents an opportunity to implement reactivation strategies that go beyond the 24-month mark of disengagement since Gmail has made it clear that they plan to purge after two years. The risks involved going beyond that timeframe involve running into deliverability issues that can easily be avoided by routinely doing a database cleanse.
What can marketers and organizations do to mitigate any risk to their sends and campaigns?
Our biggest recommendation is to start thinking about list cleansing, which includes mailing to only users who have engaged in the last 12 months (either an open or a click) and removing email addresses that do not meet this criteria. This will lessen the impact of list size decreases once this feature is implemented in December.
Anything else marketers should know to be prepared?
This isn’t the first time we are seeing an ISP launch an inactivity policy, Yahoo has already implemented an even more stringent policy that deletes email accounts after 12 months of inactivity. However, since Gmail has the market share for most utilized email addresses the impact seen will be greater across organizations.
The positive aspect to this change will be that this creates an opportunity for marketers to dig deeper into their customer database and to start thinking about opportunities to reset their overall approach when it comes to how far back they are willing to go to message customers.