Google’s Inactive Account Policy Update: What Marketers Need to Know

Beginning December 1st 2023, Google will implement a significant policy change which will delete accounts that have remained inactive for more than two years. This move by Google is not just a routine update but a major shift that could have wide-ranging implications, particularly for marketers who rely heavily on email.

There are some exceptions to the policy, including an account that has a gift card with a monetary balance, an account that has a published application on the Play Store, or a school or business account. (Other exceptions to this policy are available here.)

Affected Google subscribers that fall into this inactive category, and have a recovery email associated with the account, will be getting a notification from Google prior to deletion. Notifications are beginning to arrive for affected subscribers, but deletion won’t begin until early December. (The official announcement from Google can be found here.)

Unfortunately, the timing of this policy change adds a layer of complexity for marketers, coinciding with the busy holiday season, which is a critical time for engagement. In this post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about Google’s new policy and share strategies to minimize the impact on your holiday campaigns.

Why is Google Doing This?  

Inactive accounts represent a significant security risk, both to the individual account owner and to Google’s broader network. Older accounts are often less protected and lack security features like two-step verification which makes them prime targets for malicious activities such as phishing and spoofing attacks. Inactive accounts can also be used by cybercriminals to spread spam and malware.

By purging inactive accounts, Google aims to reduce the overall vulnerability of its network and protect users from potential security breaches. All in all, this is a good thing for everyone.

What Should Marketers Do Next? 

To avoid a spike in hard bounces, we recommend that clients segment all Gmail email addresses that have had no open or click activity in the last 24 months. It is highly possible these addresses will hard bounce after December 1. It is a general best practice to not continue actively sending to subscribers that have not opened or clicked over an extended period of time. If this is not a regular practice it will be critical to address this inactive audience as soon as possible.

If you wish to continue mailing to this audience, we suggest sending a reactivation message.  Depending on the size of the audience it will be best to send it out slowly, monitor progress, and pause as necessary if hard bounces begin to spike. If the customer takes no action following the reengagement message, records should be flagged as unmailable or unsubscribed.

Also remember that your downstream metrics will be impacted as you increase suppression. Your overall denominator is going to change, but in a good way. This suppression exercise will help clean up your list and help overall engagement increase in the long run. Be sure to communicate to your internal stakeholders why your metrics are changing and what they can expect moving forward.

Make List Hygiene a Priority Moving Forward

Some marketers will take a hands-off approach to Google’s update, simply allowing the emails to bounce and trusting their systems to handle it. However, that can be detrimental to deliverability and consequently, email ROI. 

Consider emulating Google’s approach and make list hygiene a regular exercise. It’s important to periodically cleanse inactive subscribers to maintain a healthy email list. Keeping your list clean ensures good deliverability, keeps you in good standing with email providers, and ultimately increases the efficacy of your marketing.

How Zeta Can Help

Take a proactive approach by using Zeta’s engagement and past purchase metrics to help identify and remove inactive and unknown users. Taking the initiative sends a positive message to the mailbox providers that you care about your subscribers and your email program health.

Strategies for addressing this Google change will vary by business, size of inactive Gmail subscribers, and overall sending reputation. We strongly suggest connecting with your Customer Success team for more specific guidance and recommendations.

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