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Why Yahoo!'s Dormant-Address Revival is Probably Good News

6/18/13

By Ken Magill

Yahoo!'s planned revival of dormant addresses is looking like good news for marketers who even somewhat follow best practices and the result should be some cleaner files.

The webmail provider last week announced it would reset subscriber IDs that hadn’t been active for a year or more and free them up for others.

“If you’re like me, you want a Yahoo! ID that’s short, sweet, and memorable like albert@yahoo.com instead of albert9330399@yahoo.com,” wrote Jay Rossiter, senior vice president, platforms, in a post on newly acquired Tumblr. “A Yahoo! ID is not only your email address, it also gives you access to content tailored to your interests – like sports scores for your favorite teams, weather in your hometown, and news that matters to you.

“So, how are we making these Yahoo! IDs available? We’re freeing up IDs, that have been inactive for at least 12 months, by resetting them and giving them a fresh start. In mid July, anyone can have a shot at scoring the Yahoo! ID they want. In mid August, users who staked a claim on certain IDs can come to Yahoo! to discover which one they got.”

The question for readers of this newsletter, of course, is how Yahoo! will treat the commercial email these dormant accounts are already receiving.

After all, they’re live addresses that presumably have not been bouncing. Most marketers aren’t overly fond of removing email addresses from their files simply because they haven’t been active in a year. As a result, it is likely some of these dormant addresses may be on some marketers’ email lists and receiving messages from them.

Yahoo! has considered this possibility and is apparently taking the appropriate steps.

“We're taking every action we can to ensure that users who sign up for recycled Yahoo! IDs receive as little commercial email or spam as possible,” wrote a Yahoo! spokesperson in an email exchange with the Magill Report.

[And, yes, we appreciate the fact that the Yahoo! spokesperson differentiated between commercial email and spam.]

“First, we'll be shutting down inactive accounts for 30 days before releasing them to new owners,” wrote the spokesperson. “During that time, we're going to unsubscribe the inactive accounts from as much commercial email as possible and all incoming emails will receive bounce back messages.”

So there you have it: All email marketers have to do is honor unsubscribes and remove addresses that bounce and Yahoo!’s recycling of old addresses shouldn’t cause any trouble.

Moreover, the action might help some marketers identify addresses that should have been scrubbed a long time ago.

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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Andy
Date: 2013-06-21 00:16:31
Subject: Are we (ESPs) making a mountain out of a molehill?

So I’ve let my Yahoo! account lapse and as a result they’ve recycled my ID. It was god@yahoo.com, so I have a hunch it’ll be snapped up again … (three months later) And it has, this time by a new, nefarious god, looking to get rich quick from his newly acquired Yahoo! ID. He sits on the account for a couple of months, waiting for unwitting companies that were unlucky enough not to get a bounce back during the account’s month of deactivation. Success! The Bank of Pearly White Gates and Widgets.com have slipped through the net. For obvious reasons, he starts with the Bank of Pearly White Gates. They’re kind enough to include the client ID in the email, but alas, when he tries to login a password is required. There’s a password reset function, but it’s convoluted - birthday, mobile number and address details amongst other things are needed. Out of curiosity he tries his own bank and finds the same thing. Turns out these financial institutions don’t make this fraud thing easy. He rings the call centre armed with his client ID and hits the same wall. Time for an easier target. He manages to gain access to the old god’s Widgets.com account. He goes berserk, spending up large on exotic widgets from around the world, he’s a couple of steps from completing the purchase, then disaster, changing the delivery address triggers a request to reconfirm the card number. Thwarted again. Who’d of thought these online companies would’ve made it so difficult to defraud them?! Yes we need to be vigilant, and as the experts in this space we need to be giving our clients expert advice on mitigating the risk from this, but the chances of a genuine fallout resulting from this Yahoo! policy change are very remote. As for the impact to deliverability, this is an unknown. How many inactive addresses translate to inactive Yahoo! accounts? We don’t know. Fortunately, most ESPs have a dedicated deliverability resources that can monitor and react to this situation as it unfolds. My hunch is it won’t even register as a blip on the deliverability radar, but that will depend somewhat on the actions of Yahoo! during the account deactivation period.
Posted by: Alex
Date: 2013-06-18 18:02:43
Subject: What is the bounce code?

There has been a lot of coverage about this lately, but nobody seems to know or want to tell what the actual bounce code is that Yahoo is using right now to indicate these "soon to be deactivated" addresses. I want to start hard bouncing those addresses now, and not looking forward to manually searching through SMTP logs to track down this bounce code. Does anyone know what it is?
Posted by: John Murphy
Date: 2013-06-18 16:39:04
Subject: How will Yahoo opt-outs?

I wonder will ESP's like ReachMail etc. receive Spam Complaints and how will Yahoo consider those when factoring in deliverability. I do think it's a good move on Yahoo's part.
Posted by: Bill Kaplan
Date: 2013-06-18 15:27:02
Subject: Yahoo's Dormant Address plan

Susie's idea of shutting down inactives for longer than 30 days makes lots of sense. Many companies ignore their inactives, figuring that sending emails is so cheap it's worth waiting around until these former customers re-engage. A 30 day window before reassigning these addresses will definitely result in a lot of spam complaints. From our experiences at FreshAddress working with many leading marketers, most of the inactives in a marketer's file are the result of sending emails to dormant accounts, like the ones Yahoo is planning to purge. So marketers should be more proactive in removing these from their files and running them through an ECOA service to re-engage these customers at their current preferred addresses. If Yahoo sticks to this 30 day policy, marketers should scramble now to purge inactives from their lists. High spam complaint rates are one of the leading three factors that cause blocking and blacklisting issues.
Posted by: Susie
Date: 2013-06-18 14:57:19
Subject: 30 days bouncing seems too short

It would probably be better if they shut down inactives for 180 days, not for 30 days. Not everyone mails once a month (although they should), and they are going to get hit for high complaints if they happen to miss that month. Of course, people really should purge their list of people who aren't opening for 6 months or more... but that's another matter.
Posted by: Ken Magill
Date: 2013-06-18 14:47:03
Subject: Account Security

You make a great point, but how likely is it someone is using a dead address in their ecommerce transactions? Not saying you don't have a point, but it seems unlikely to me. I've been wrong before though.
Posted by: MO
Date: 2013-06-18 14:10:37
Subject: Yes, but what about account security?

I agree that email marketers shouldn't sweat this...schedule a campaign at the right time to receive the Yahoo bounces and remove those from your list. Easy! But what if you're an ecommerce site and have thousands of Yahoo addresses in your customer database, many of whom may not be opted in for marketing messages? There is a concern that the new Yahoo email address owner could reset passwords for online retail accounts, and the e-tailer has no way to know if its the real person or not.

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