man working at laptop finding ways to aboid gmail bounces ahead of the great gmail purge

The Great Gmail Purge: Avoid Gmail Bounces and Protect Your Email Deliverability

Is The Great Gmail Purge a threat to your email marketing? Not if you prepare ahead of time so you’ll avoid Gmail bounces and maintain email deliverability. 

Google will begin deleting inactive accounts in December to prevent security threats – like spam, account hacks and phishing scams. 

If a Google account has been inactive for more than two years, Google may delete the account along with the content across Google Workspace. That includes Gmail, Docs, Drive, Meet and Calendar, YouTube and Google Photos. 

Google’s approach follows Yahoo’s decision to disable and delete inactive accounts in 2019. Here’s what Yahoo told ZeroBounce about handling Yahoo bounces if you send mass emails. 

The Great Gmail Purge, a way to prevent identity theft and spam

“If an account hasn’t been used for an extended period of time, it is more likely to be compromised,” Google’s VP of Product Management Ruth Kricheli said in a blog post

The reason, Kricheli went on, is that abandoned accounts:

  • tend to rely on old or re-used passwords, which are not secure
  • don’t have two-factor authentication set up
  • receive fewer security checks.

“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,” Kricheli explained. 

To counteract these threats, Google will update its inactivity policy for Google Accounts to two years across all products.

“The policy only applies to personal Google Accounts, and will not affect accounts for organizations like schools or businesses,” Google’s VP of Product Management added.

hand holding phone showing Gmail app to illustrate the great gmail purge google will roll out in december 2023
To avoid having your Google account deleted, make sure to log in regularly by checking your email, accessing your Drive or watching a YouTube video, the company advises.

What the Gmail Purge means for companies like yours

Email is at the core of millions of companies around the world. As a business owner or marketer, you probably use email for platform signups and marketing campaigns, as well as cold emailing outreach to boost sales. 

Getting a high bounce rate on your email marketing campaigns is a sure way to tarnish your sender reputation – and land in spam. 

Related: Learn the difference between hard and soft bounces

Why your sender reputation matters

Email sender reputation is a score – ranging from 0 to 100 – that Internet service providers (ISPs) assign to senders. Through this score, ISPs gauge senders’ legitimacy and trustworthiness, filter out spam and create safer experiences for email users. 

Related: Why your sender reputation is key to getting your emails in the inbox

The higher your score, the more likely your emails are to make it to your customers’ inboxes. By the same token, if your reputation declines, so does your ability to reach the inbox. 

One of the greatest risks to your sender score is a bounce rate higher than 2%. So, how can you safeguard your reputation once Google starts deleting inactive Gmail accounts? 

How to avoid a potential deluge of Gmail bounces

Created by computer engineer Paul Buchheit in 2004, Gmail today holds 27% of the email client market share. More than 1.8 billion people use Gmail, so if you have an email list, Google’s deletion of inactive accounts will affect you. 

How can you mitigate the effects of The Great Gmail Purge? How do you avoid Gmail bounces and protect your email deliverability?

illustration showing the results of the zerobounce email list decay report with purple elements on light grey background
ZeroBounce analyzed the 6+ billion emails it verified in 2022 and found that only 57.21% of them were valid and non-risky.

#1. Validate your email list

More than 23% of the average email database degrades every year. Removing outdated email addresses keeps your sender score high and your emails in the inbox. Ahead of the Gmail purge, reassessing the health of your list is a must.

“When this update rolls out, you’ll want to validate your email list and in particular, your accounts right away,” says ZeroBounce Chief Operating Officer Brian Minick. 

“If your email list has any of the deleted accounts, be sure to remove them before you send your next campaign. Google might also look to heavily penalize the people who are still sending emails to stale accounts. It’s important to follow this closely so you can ensure high email deliverability,” the COO adds.

Validate 100 emails for free

#2. Remove unengaged subscribers

People who don’t engage with your emails affect your sender reputation. Their lack of interaction tells ISPs that your messages are irrelevant. As a result, they’re less likely to go to the inbox. 

To avoid a decline in your sender score, it’s best to remove subscribers who don’t click every three to six months. Doing this will matter even more when Google will start deleting inactive Gmail accounts.

Many companies are reluctant to remove valid email addresses from their databases – even when they haven’t engaged in more than six months. However, the emails you send to those addresses may bounce if they’ve been abandoned and hence, deleted by Google. What’s more, they’ll continue to drag down your overall engagement, thus affecting your sender score and email deliverability

Keep your email list fresh to increase ROI

Growing an email list can take so much effort and time, so parting with leads you’ve gathered through the years isn’t easy. But letting go of obsolete contacts is the only way to keep your database fresh and see results from your email marketing. 

Related: Get the free, 12-minute Email Marketing Checklist to boost your email performance

Google’s upcoming purge of inactive email addresses is a good excuse to look into the health of your email list today.

How many bounces do your emails get? How much do people interact with your emails? Analyzing these metrics honestly will give you an opportunity to improve your list so you can improve your ROI.

ZeroBounce will stay on top of any news regarding the Gmail Purge and we’ll continue to update this article.

FAQs about Gmail purging inactive accounts

Does Gmail purge accounts?

Google announced that in December 2023, it will start deleting accounts that have been inactive for more than two years. For email marketers, the Gmail Purge will result in high Gmail bounce rates, making email validation a vital step of any email campaign.

Is Google going to delete inactive accounts?

In December 2023, Google will start deleting accounts that have been inactive for more than two years. Google’s decision will help prevent security threats like account hacks, phishing scams and spam. However, for email marketers who fail to validate their email databases, it will result in a high number of Gmail bounces. 

Why do Gmail emails bounce?

Emails you send to Gmail addresses bounce because those addresses are invalid. The person you’re trying to reach may have deleted their account. Alternatively, Google may have deleted that account because it was inactive for more than two years.