Remember the rush to create the perfect Yahoo! email address in the late 1990s? It was a lot like the Gold Rush back in the late 1840s. Think about it: In the beginning of the Gold Rush, few people hitched their wagons and headed west. But by 1949, gold-seekers from all over the world were flocking to the Gold Coast hoping to strike it rich. However, aside from the early arrivals, few reaped the rewards they were seeking.
Similarly, early Yahoo! email adopters pocketed the most lustrous email addresses, like email@example.com, for themselves. This left latecomers to frantically pick through riverbeds for dull addresses, ending up with what The Motley Fool’s Rich Smith calls “unwanted email monikers” like firstname.lastname@example.org. “Of course, not all of these adopters actually used the email addresses acquired in their land-grabs,” Smith says. “They just wanted to keep them ‘handy’ in case the urge to use them should arise.”
For more than a decade, these inactive Yahoo! email address owners blissfully held their valuable addresses undisturbed. But now Yahoo! has taken action, scrubbing the inactives by re-releasing IDs and email addresses that haven’t been used in more than a year to reward valuable active Yahoo! mail users. (See the official announcement on Yahoo!’s tumblr.) As a result, there has been a lot of conversation in the industry about the impact of this policy on email deliverability, sender reputation and identity theft.
The Risks and Rewards of Removing Inactives
Yahoo!’s move to redistribute email addresses, as Smith points out, comes with certain risk and reward. “Yahoo! risks alienating the early adopters of the email addresses it is redistributing. The hope, though, is these folks probably weren’t very active Yahoo! mail users in the first place (otherwise their addresses wouldn’t have become orphaned),” he says. “The hope also is the new owners will appreciate Yahoo!’s move more than the old users hate it.”
In email marketing, the potential rewards of removing inactive subscribers often exceed the risks. By not removing inactive subscribers, you risk increased bounces, complaints, spam trap hits and unsubscriptions-all principle components of your email reputation. But by scrubbing your list of inactives, you can prevent email deliverability issues before they arise, help your inbox placement and improve metrics and overall brand reputation.
However, not all email marketing experts agree removing actives is this right move. In the blog “Why inactive subscribers may be too good to dismiss,” Dela Quist argues that even when a subscriber does not open your email, he is still being nudged toward your brand. “Our research has shown that customers often buy a product or service through another channel within 24 hours of receiving an email,” Quist says. “That’s why we provide clients with reports where we overlay the timing of emails sent with the timing of sales from other channels.”
That’s why longterm inactivity alone is not a good reason to pursue removing inactives. Removing inactives is a good approach if inbox placement is a problem.
Intelligently and Efficiently Removing Inactives
To intelligently and efficiently remove inactives, email marketers should take a page from Yahoo!’s playbook. First, give your inactive subscribers a chance to re-state their interest. “Start with an open question,” suggests Derek Harding on ClickZ. “Ask if they want in or out.” Next, let them know matter-of-factly that, without action on their end, this is the end of your relationship. Yahoo! did this by informing its inactives to simply log in before July 15.
Email Intelligence can be used to identify inactive emails that are most likely to respond to a reactivation campaign and shouldn’t be purged from a list right away. And Email validation can be used to scrub a list to remove emails that Yahoo! has inactivated. TowerData’s Email Validation service primarily answers the question “Is this email deliverable?” This is a different question from “Does this email belong to this person?” To that end, our service will continue to behave as it should for Yahoo! emails as this new policy is rolled-out.
Laura Atkin’s Blog “Word to the Wise” has some excellent inside insight on this topic. Most notable is this advice: “If you haven’t mailed a Yahoo! account in more than 6 months, mail it now to make sure it’s deliverable.”
Are you a TowerData client with questions regarding the impact Yahoo’s move will have on your email marketing? Contact us to ask your questions today!
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