Are You Ready? Upcoming Changes in Email Marketing from Gmail and Yahoo

Project Manager, Email Marketing
Published 11/30/23
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By now, it’s no secret that the marketing landscape is ever-changing. As new technology launches and the latest trends arise, it’s important to check-in with your communication strategy and assess what and how you’re communicating with your target audiences. 

For many travel and tourism organizations, email marketing continues to be a critical communication channel and means of connecting with travelers, increasing brand awareness and driving visitation. Historically, it’s also been a valuable source of data and performance measurement (see our previous blog on Apple’s mail privacy protection setting updates for more information).  

Equally as significant as Apple’s Privacy Policy updates is another major change that’s on the horizon. The brightside? Sound list management practices and (for the email marketers in the room) adjusted DKIM, DMARC, and SPF settings will help minimize the challenges these new changes pose.

Here’s what you need to know about what’s ahead:

The foremost development entails Gmail and Yahoo's joint initiative to deactivate dormant email accounts starting in December 2023. Notably, an average individual possesses approximately two Gmail accounts, with nearly 28% of users having up to four accounts. Given the substantial storage capacity required for each account, it is reasonable for these companies to deactivate accounts that are no longer active. While Yahoo underwent a similar process in 2015/2016, Gmail has not executed an email account purge to date. Consequently, if you have not already pruned non-responsive and disengaged subscribers, you may observe a notable surge in bounce rates. This could potentially lead to a decrease in your sender score, resulting in fewer recipients receiving your emails. The recommended approach is to remove individuals who have not opened or engaged with your emails for at least 18 months. While the threshold for removal is set at around two years, industry best practices suggest taking action within the 12–18-month range of non-engagement.

Additionally, both Gmail and Yahoo have communicated their intention to enforce authentication requirements for senders. If you have not yet aligned your DKIM, DMARC, SPF settings with your sending IPs, it is imperative to prioritize this adjustment. Certain Email Service Providers (ESPs) may offer assistance in this regard, although you may require a developer's expertise to implement the necessary changes. 

The final noteworthy modification pertains to unsubscribes. It is imperative to incorporate the list-unsubscribe header into your emails to facilitate the tracking of unsubscribes within Gmail and Yahoo's specific email systems. SendGrid provides a comprehensive article detailing its implementation. Some ESPs automatically include this feature in your emails, so consult your ESP's support and knowledge base documents to ascertain whether this requires your attention. Additionally, both Gmail and Yahoo now stipulate that failing to remove unsubscribed individuals within two days of their request will impact your sender score. Previously, regulations allowed for a ten-day window to execute this removal, but industry best practices have consistently advocated for immediate action. Ensure that your unsubscribe links are functioning correctly and are seamlessly linked to your email database.

 Fortunately, these impending changes are not expected to require a complete overhaul of your marketing approach. With that said, if you have not yet embraced industry best practices, now is an opportune time to review your program setup, ensuring that your deliverability and list size remain resilient in the face of these forthcoming adjustments.