Email Deliverability Best Practices, Part 2: Navigating Gmail’s Ongoing Purge

Email Deliverability Best Practices, Part 2: Navigating Gmail’s Ongoing Purge

Earlier in December, Google accounts that had not seen any activity in the last 2 years were deleted. The decision was heralded back in May by Google’s VP of Project Management, who stated that inactive accounts can be easily compromised and therefore pose a security threat to other users. “The end is nigh!” cried marketers all over the world, in anticipation of the dreaded and inevitable spike in hard bounces that this purge is expected to cause.

But the world hasn’t ended, and there are a few simple countermeasures built off existing email deliverability best practices that marketers can follow to avoid any negative consequences.

What Is the Effect on Email Marketers?

An erasure of inactive Gmail accounts could mean many of your emails won’t be delivered if your contact list is outdated. Attempting to send a message to nonexistent addresses will result in a hard bounce.If left uncorrected, too many hard bounces result in a negative impact to your email sender reputation, which causes email service providers (ESPs) to flag the sender’s entire domain. Once this happens, it’s not uncommon to find your messages skipping the inbox and going straight to spam.

What Is Email Sender Reputation?

In a way, your reputation defines if people will talk to you or not- much like high school. Your email sender reputation is set by ESPs and determines whether emails sent by each domain will actually be delivered to the desired recipient. In other words, a low score indicates that the sender might be a spammer, leading to their emails being delivered straight to the spam box. Needless to say, it is a big deal to email marketers if subscribers can’t even find your communications. 

When scoring your sender reputation, ESPs analyze sender history (too many emails sent in a short period are a red flag, since they want to protect recipients from spammers), level of engagement (open and click-through rates), unsubscribe rates, spam complaints, and bounce rates, which is why it is important to adhere to email deliverability best practices.

A high bounce rate might indicate that the mailer is either not managing its contact list properly or has purchased a mailing list – a big no-no in the eyes of email service providers. Therefore, even if your org has organically built a mailing list, a high bounce rate caused by messaging nonexistent accounts will definitely lower your email sender reputation score.

Mitigating the Damage

This “purge,” despite its dramatic impact, does not present irremediable consequences to organizations that take the appropriate responses. Email marketers can preserve their sender reputation by simply updating and cleaning their mailing lists. Free tools such as Zero Bounce or Validity Inc.’s BriteVerify can flag any invalid email addresses in your contact. These email validation services identify typos in email addresses, accounts that have marked you as spam, spam traps, and most importantly, invalid addresses.

You should take advantage of these tools or more manual processes in Marketing Cloud (more on that later) to prevent increased bounce rates and optimized email marketing ROI, but that might not be enough.

Further email deliverability best practices to maintain a positive sender reputation include:

1. Avoid spam trigger words

Email service providers have several means at their disposal to protect their users. One that marketers should keep in mind is their list of words that most commonly trigger spam filters. Refrain from using terms that might be classified as clickbait, such as “free” (unless, of course, you are in fact offering something of value for free). Any other words that make a message seem too good to be true are also on the chopping block. Spam trigger words lower the credibility of your email and signal to email service providers that your content is of a quality fit for the spam box. There are great resources online that can help marketers find the perfect balance when it comes to email communications and avoid spam complaints, such as Inbox Monster’s Monster Guide to Sending Frequency.

2. Organically grow contact lists

While buying a previously established contact list might be the most convenient and quick option to grow a database, it can seriously damage your sender reputation. When recipients who are on a purchased mailing list receive your email, they are much less likely to open your message because they did not even want to receive it in the first place!

For email service providers, extremely low open and click rates are a dead giveaway that recipients have no interest in receiving your emails. 

Instead, organizations should organically create and nurture their contact lists. This email deliverability best practice can best be achieved by offering incentives to new subscribers, such as an informative ebook or an enticing promotional offer. Make sure to utilize all the resources at your disposal to expand your subscriber list, such as your organization’s social media channels and blog.

Additionally, it is good practice to send out personalized offers based on consumer behavior – according to a research conducted by Sheer ID and Kelton Global, 94% of consumers are more likely to take action when receiving a personalized offer.

Personalization also contributes to Word of Mouth marketing, as subscribers who receive content that is relevant to them will be more likely to encourage others to join the mailing list. Last but not least, try out A/B testing to ensure that the messages being sent out are the most optimal. You can measure the performance of subject lines, content, design, or even more substantial elements such as offers and discounts.

3. Utilizing double opt-in

“Double opt-in” is the process of sending a confirmation email to subscribers once they have signed up for a newsletter. Many times, users will register their emails just to gain access to some form of gated content and do not have any intentions to receive future emails. By utilizing double opt-in, marketers become certain their mailing lists are filled with only individuals who are truly interested in what they have to say.

In light of Gmail’s purge, a confirmation email might be sent to all low-engagement contacts as a way to double-check your recipients’ interest. If they do not answer, their accounts are inactive or they are no longer interested in receiving your emails. Either way, your contact list is better off without them.

The bottom line – subscribers who hard bounce should be removed from your mailing list. Just like Google deleted irrelevant emails, brands need to proactively protect their databases. This can be done through SQL writing on Marketing Cloud or facilitated by the DESelect Marketing Optimization Platform.

Manually Cleaning Your Contact List in Marketing Cloud

It is possible to find out if your send has bounced without leaving Salesforce Marketing Cloud. To do so, you must utilize SQL to query the _bounce data view in Automation Studio. For accounts that were deleted by Google, the description should be as follows:

Bounce Category

Bounce Category ID

ID Number



Hard Bounce



User Unknown

Address is non-existent at the domain

From there, you’ll want to create a suppression or exclusion list to keep these contacts out of future sends.

RELATED: How to exclude customers who have been targeted recently in Salesforce Marketing Cloud

This process requires a considerable amount of technical skill. Since there is no room for error, having your marketing team manually write SQL queries can take up time and resources that could be spent on more relevant tasks.

Data Cleansing with DESelect Segment 

There are a myriad of uses for DESelect Segment, including filtering, customizing, and of course, segmenting data extensions (DE). However, the functionality that will most efficiently remedy the effects of the purge is the process of data cleansing. This process filters unused (or in this case, inactive) contacts in your Marketing Cloud and is much simpler to execute than manually writing queries. 

DESelect Segment’s Data View option allows you to visualize exactly which contacts are invalid by applying a behavioral filter via simple drag and drop. 

You’ll want to filter based on the _bounce data view, “Bounced in the past x days“. Once you determine the number of days to filter for, all that’s left is to simply define the relationship between the data extension and the data view, linking either the subscriber key or subscriberID.

creating suppression list in deselect

Keep in mind that the purge occurred on December 1st, 2023, so your filter should be applied to posterior dates.

However, you might not want to permanently delete bounced contacts from your database, since their history could be useful for other purposes such as consumer behavior analysis. Instead, you should create a data extension with all the filtered contacts and use it as an exclusion list. This will allow you to keep all the precious information and insights from outdated contacts while excluding them from future sends and preserving your email deliverability best practices.


There is a lot that can be done to prevent the Gmail purge from negatively impacting your email sender reputation. The key is to keep down your bounce rate, which is achieved through verifying your contact list, following the previously mentioned email marketing strategies, and cleansing your data extensions either manually through SQL or automatically with DESelect. Always remember: low bounce rates and good email deliverability will signal to ESPs that your content is legitimate, and therefore will guarantee that your messages are in fact reaching your audience. 

Learn how to keep a pristine sender reputation and email deliverability with this full breakdown on data cleansing with DESelect.


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