Has Your Email List Shrunk?
When did you last look at the size of your email list? It's something that every business should do regularly and it doesn't need to take long – just a quick glance after promotions, sales drives or other activities is a good way of assessing the impact of such activities on your (potential) customer base.
The size of your list and the number of active accounts on it aren't quite the same thing – you can have contacts in your database where the email address is no longer in existence or no longer used. This happens when users delete their email account, leave the job associated with the account, or when they simply don't engage with your emails any more. When looking at the size of your list you'll get the truest picture when you exclude undeliverable and/or inactive accounts from the count.
Of course, what you define as inactive may not be the same as others – having taken no action on emails sent in the past year is a fairly acceptable definition of inactive. Google defines inactive email accounts as those which have not been accessed or used for two or more years, and back in May they announced that inactive email accounts would be deleted in six months' time. This means that when you look at the number of undeliverable emails from your latest marketing communication you'll see more than usual.
Google is taking this action because of security. They analysed the data and found that inactive accounts are less likely to have two-factor authentication enabled, and are more likely to use the same password for their email account and others. This leaves those accounts open to fraud and identity theft, so the decision was taken to completely delete them.
On the face of it the impact this deletion spree will have for marketers can be seen in two lights. On the upside you're getting a free clean-up of your email list by having these inactive accounts disabled by Google. On the downside your list size will reduce and for some marketers this number is an important metric of reach. We disagree with that idea, because if you're sending to inactive and unmonitored accounts you're not actually reaching anyone. This Google-led email account purge is a good thing for businesses.
Once a list is slimmed down to just the active and engaged accounts, the engagement rate will increase, as will the RoI – if you're driven by getting the best numbers then this action really is a positive one if you can get over the drop in list size.
This action precedes further steps that Google and Yahoo plan to take early next year to combat unwanted and insecure email communications. Bulk senders will be required to authenticate their accounts to stop phishing emails and scams from getting through. At present, scammers can mimic legitimate email addresses that belong to real businesses thereby making a scam email appear to come from a trustworthy source. Requiring legitimate businesses to confirm their marketing and communications email addresses will help put a stop to these scam emails landing in inboxes.
There will be tighter requirements on one-click unsubscribes and a more stringent spam threshold to ensure that only wanted emails will get through to users' main inboxes. The technical stuff Email Sender Guidance can be read here, and it's certainly something we are on top of when we run email campaigns for our clients. If you're unsure of what you need to do, why not let us manage your email lists and campaigns for you to ensure your communications are landing in the inbox of engaged customers?
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