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“If a Google Account has not been used or signed into for at least two years, we may delete the account and its contents,” Google announced in a blog post, and that time is coming soon. In December, the tech giant will begin removing inactive accounts along with their content across Google Workspace, which includes Gmail. The policy applies only to personal Google accounts — but for businesses like yours, that may result in a spike in bounces.
Why Google will start purging abandoned accounts
Google’s decision to weed out inactive accounts is another step the company is taking to prevent security threats like spam, phishing and account hijacking.
“If an account hasn’t been used for an extended period of time, it is more likely to be compromised,” Google’s VP of Product Management Ruth Kricheli explains. Abandoned accounts have weaknesses bad actors could exploit. Old passwords and a lack of two-factor authentication make them vulnerable and “a vector for unwanted or even malicious content, like spam,” adds Kricheli.
How to prepare and avoid a massive Gmail bounce rate
For businesses like yours that use email to connect with customers and prospects, Google’s move is a high bounce rate alert. With Gmail being the largest email provider in the world, your email list likely contains many personal Gmail accounts, especially if your business caters to consumers.
Email providers consider a bounce rate under 2% acceptable. But once you’ve crossed that threshold, your emails can start landing in the spam folder. Bounces tarnish your sender reputation, which is a 0 to 100 score Internet service providers (ISPs) use to determine whether you’re a legitimate sender or a spammer. The closer to 100 your score is, the more ISPs trust you as a sender – and deliver your messages to the inbox. Lower scores mean your emails could be spam.
So, how can you prepare beforehand and avoid emailing addresses that may bounce? Being proactive is much easier than fixing the damage.
Remove inactive subscribers
Many businesses hold on to subscribers longer than they should. Having a sizable email list can give you a wider reach. However, in email marketing, engagement trumps such vanity metrics. Also, if someone hasn’t opened your emails in more than six months, what are the chances they’ll ever start engaging again?
So, segment unengaged subscribers and try to win them back with an enticing offer. Make sure you put it right in the subject line and preview text so they can’t miss it. Then, remove non-openers and keep only prospects who click. Before Google starts deleting them, it’s best to prune these accounts yourself to avoid any bounces.
Validate your entire email list
Observing how your inactive subscribers react to a targeted campaign gives you useful audience insights. But inactive subscribers aren’t the only risky types of contacts you could have on your list. Abuse emails, for instance, belong to individuals who tend to report many emails as spam. To avoid potential spam complaints, some email marketers prefer to weed them out using an email verifier.
There’s also the issue of temporary email addresses, which many people use to avoid giving out their real address. Temporary emails self-destruct and cause your emails to bounce, so deleting them from your database is good prevention.
On average, almost a quarter of your database goes bad yearly, according to ZeroBounce’s Email List Decay Report. The upcoming Gmail purge will only add to this natural data decay, so validate your list again to ensure it’s safe to use.
How Google will delete inactive accounts
While Google’s policy took effect in May 2023, it won’t affect inactive Gmail users until December. The tech company will delete abandoned accounts in several phases, starting with those people created and never used again. Could you have any such email addresses in your database? Check your email marketing reports. If any subscribers signed up for your emails but never opened your messages, remove them immediately.
Abandoned accounts are hurting your email marketing
As a business owner trying to reach your customers’ inboxes, you must always be aware of your sender reputation. Bounces and spam complaints affect it dramatically, but so does poor engagement.
When people don’t react to the emails you send, ISPs interpret that as an indication that your content isn’t helpful. As a result, your emails are more likely to go to the junk folder. That’s why email marketing best practices involve regularly pruning unresponsive subscribers. Their mere presence on your email list hurts your email deliverability. And when they’ll start bouncing, the damage will be even more severe.
So, reevaluate the health of your email list so that your newsletters and campaigns can make it to the inbox. The Gmail purge is the best reason to look into the quality of your contacts today.