The Great Gmail Purge

The Great Gmail Purge:

You may be aware that Gmail are about to do something radical, crazy you might say, out there, and it’s going to have an impact on you and your data and initially it’s going to smart a little. However, when you get over the superficial grazes you’ll realise it’s a good thing. It will save you money in the long term and it will improve your deliverability and user engagement within the Gmail framework and that’s got to be a good thing.

What’s the Deal?

So, what exactly is this Gmail Purge, you ask? Well Google have decided to have a spring clean (although they’re doing it in winter) – from December 2023 they will start deleting Gmail accounts that haven’t been opened since 2021 and their policy will be to start removing accounts that haven’t been used or logged in to for a 2 year period, including content within Google Workspace (Gmail, Docs, Drive, Meet, Calendar) and Google Photos.

WIIFT: What’s In It For Them

Well there’s two things at play here in my opinion, one is what they say and one is the real benefit to them.

What they’re saying is this…People want the products and services they use online to be safe and secure. Which is why we have invested in technology and tools to protect our users from security threats, like spam, phishing scams and account hijacking.

Even with these protections, if an account hasn’t been used for an extended period of time, it is more likely to be compromised. This is because forgotten or unattended accounts often rely on old or re-used passwords that may have been compromised, haven’t had two factor authentication set up, and receive fewer security checks by the user. Our internal analysis shows abandoned accounts are at least 10x less likely than active accounts to have 2-step-verification set up. Meaning, these accounts are often vulnerable, and once an account is compromised, it can be used for anything from identity theft to a vector for unwanted or even malicious content, like spam.

Here is the hidden benefit for them…Deleting hundreds of thousands maybe millions of accounts and their associated storage issues will clean up and declutter servers all over the world reducing storage costs in the process.

Let’s be honest we’re all guilty of digital hoarding, of keeping every email, attachment, and cat meme that’s ever graced our inboxes?

The Panic Button: Time to Tidy Up

In the spirit of keeping calm and carrying on, Google have given us a bit of a heads-up. They sent out warning emails, to the accounts we’re not using! But also to those recovery accounts we’ve provided them. These emails served as a gentle nudge for users to take a peek into their dusty email archives and decide what to keep, what to delete, and what to send down memory lane.

The Digital Memory Lane

For many, sifting through their Gmail accounts is like a trip down memory lane. Old love letters, long-forgotten concert tickets, and emails from a bygone era when “BRB” was the height of texting sophistication all resurfaced. It was as if our digital pasts were being laid bare for us to explore once again.

But, of course, we also discovered some rather peculiar items. Who knew we’d still have emails from that long-lost pen pal we met on a forum dedicated to the art of knitting miniature tea cosies? Or the relentless stream of promotional emails from a shop that mistakenly thought we had an insatiable appetite for knee-high socks with cats wearing monocles?

Google’s Offer of Hope

Thankfully, Google wasn’t out to be the villain of our digital tale. They offered a glimmer of hope to those who found themselves facing the dreaded purge. The option to prevent the impending data deletion was there for the taking.

All users had to do was simply log into their Gmail accounts and send or receive an email or two. Voila! The digital guillotine was halted, and your precious electronic mementos were saved for another day of reminiscing.

Alternatively you could…

  • Use Google Drive
  • Watch a YouTube video
  • Download an app on the Google Play Store
  • Use Google Search
  • Use Sign in with Google to sign in to a third-party app or service

Conclusion: What does it mean to the email marketer

For us as email marketers we’ll see an increase of Gmail hard bounces which will in turn reduce our list sizes. And while no one wants their list size to reduce the truth is, these accounts may be owned by your customers but they are not being used by them, they’re not engaged with your brand in these accounts and you are better off not sending to them anyway.

The benefit is twofold, you reduce your per campaign cost, if only by a small amount, but also you improve your user engagement with Gmail and as a result will be more likely that more of your email will be placed in the appropriate Gmail folder for your users to engage. Ultimately, although not a silver bullet, it may improve your customer churn rate and we all know those that stay and pay are the golden customers.