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Google has started sending notices of deactivating inactive Gmail addresses (actually they are going to deactivate dormant Google accounts, which includes Gmail accounts); and Yahoo posted a notice about deleting inactive mailboxes earlier this year. Microsoft has had such a policy for years. And if you don’t pay attention to this it can, and likely will, hurt your deliverability.
Yahoo’s page on inactive Yahoo addresses says, quite directly, “After 12 months or more of not using your mailbox, it is considered inactive. It will stop receiving new emails, and all mailbox contents, folders, contacts and settings are permanently deleted.”
As for Outlook, Hotmail, and Live email addresses, Microsoft explains that “If you haven’t signed in to your account for a long time, it might expire due to inactivity,” saying that after June of 2014 if your account was inactive for 2 years, it may be deleted.
What’s Happening Now
The reason that we are writing about this right now, however, is because recently Google started making noises about deleting inactive accounts, and also sending notices to accounts which were dormant. Here’s what that notice says (emphasis added by us for ease of reading):
Every day Google works hard to keep you and your private information safe and secure by preventing unauthorized access to your Google Account with our built-in security protections. And keeping you safe means having strong privacy practices across our products that minimize how long we store your personal files and any data associated with them. We want to protect your private information and prevent any unauthorized access to your account even if you’re no longer using our services.
Therefore, we are updating the inactivity period for a Google Account to two years across all our products and services. This change starts rolling out today and will apply to any Google Account that’s been inactive, meaning it has not been signed into or used within a two-year period. An inactive account and any content in it will be eligible for deletion from December 1, 2023.
What this means for you: These changes do not impact you unless you have been inactive in your Google Account for two years or have not used your account to sign in to any Google service for over two years.
While the changes go into effect today, the earliest we would enforce any account deletion would be December 2023.
If your account is considered inactive, we will send several reminder emails to both you and your recovery emails (if any have been provided) before we take any action or delete any account content. These reminder emails will go out at least 8 months before any action is taken on your account.
After a Google Account is deleted, the Gmail address for the deleted account cannot be used again when creating a new Google Account.
How to keep your account active?
The simplest way to keep a Google Account active is to sign in to the account at least once every two years. If you have signed in to your Google Account recently in the past two years, your account is considered active and will not be deleted.
How this Affects You
The way that the inbox providers look at it is that if their users don’t want your email (which is inferred if they aren’t opening it) then why should the inbox providers keep putting your email in the prime real estate of their users’ inboxes?
Now imagine how it looks when you are sending email to dead accounts? Where that user hasn’t opened any email in months and months? Clearly this person does not want your email, because clearly they aren’t reading any email at all!
And, and this is really important: if you started sending email to that email address after the period of inactivity started, well then guess what? If it happens with more than a few random email addresses now the inbox provider can infer that you don’t do any sort of credible opt-in. In other words, you look like a spammer. And guess what inbox providers do with senders that look like spammers?
For all of these reasons, and as we have explained before, it’s crucial that you stay on top of your list hygiene, pruning the dead weight (people who haven’t responded to or otherwise interacted with your email at all), and doing it well before a year has passed.