Email Marketers Should Worry — and Not Worry — About These Changes


The Gist

  • Minimal impact expected. Google’s policy to retire inactive accounts should minimally affect marketers who maintain regular email engagement.
  • Compliance made easy. Google and Yahoo’s deliverability requirements are manageable, with most responsibilities handled by email service providers.
  • Little disruption likely. Apple’s Link Tracking Protection won’t significantly impact most email marketers due to its limited scope and solutions in place.

Email marketers have plenty of significant challenges to overcome as the channel continues to evolve. As we ring in the new year, let’s resolve to focus our attention on real challenges and not get riled up by issues that sound worrisome but generally aren’t.

A person stands on the edge of a gap between two cliffs representing fear or worries in piece about email marketing challenges.
Turning your attention to more significant challenges is a better strategy.SOL on Adobe Stock Photos

Let’s talk about three such issues. We’ll also discuss when you should actually be worried.

1. Google’s Retirement of Inactive Accounts

As of December, Google started retiring inactive accounts that haven’t been accessed in two years so they can reduce unnecessary storage costs and free up desirable usernames. Since Gmail addresses are a massive portion of most B2C marketers’ email lists, this sounds bad.

However, Google has said they’re taking a phased approach and are prioritizing Google accounts that were created and then immediately abandoned. That means it’s unlikely that they’ll retire any accounts near-term that have ever had active Gmail accounts associated with them.

When Google does ultimately shut down accounts that had active associated Gmail accounts, it’s unlikely they’ll recycle those account names and make them available again. The risk of identity theft is just too great, and Google doesn’t want to take on those potential legal liabilities and PR risks.

For perspective, Google’s policy is much less worrisome than that of Yahoo, which has been retiring inactive accounts after just 12 months since 2013, and it hasn’t been a source of problems — either for Yahoo or for email marketers.

Marketers should be minimally impacted by this new policy so long as they…

  • Maintain a minimum email cadence of one message a month, which would guarantee you’d get a hard bounce from the retired address before it was potentially reactivated.
  • Don’t email subscribers have who have been inactive for more than two years — which you should already not be doing because of deliverability risks and legal risks under Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Marketers shouldn’t worry about this unless … you’re sending out a recall notice, an annual privacy policy update and other such legally required notices to customers that you haven’t seen email engagement from in more than two years. In these instances, it would be wise to space out the sending of these notices and monitor your bounce rates closely so you don’t exceed a 5% bounce rate over the course of a month.

Related Article: 5 Truths About Inactive Email Subscribers

2. Google and Yahoo’s New Deliverability Requirements

In an unprecedented collaboration, Google and Yahoo have announced common standards around deliverability requirements for commercial senders. The announcement lays out four requirements, which are that senders… 

  • Keep their spam complaint rates well under 0.3%, and preferably under 0.1%.
  • Honor unsubscribe requests within two days.
  • Include list-unsubscribe headers in their emails.
  • Fully authenticate their email using SPF, DKIM and DMARC.

That first one is solely the responsibility of senders, but shouldn’t be a difficult bar to stay under. Among Oracle Digital Experience Agency clients, it’s rare that spam complaint rates rise above 0.1%, especially outside of peak season mailing periods. If yours is well above that, it’s likely a sign of problems with your permission practices or inactivity management.


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