Warning: The true cost of Yahoo! recycling email addresses

Recycled email addresses and what you need to do about it.

Yahoo! like most established email providers have long had the problem of what to with old email addresses that have long been forgotten, but never closed. The difference is that they are doing something about it which will have a significant impact on how we hold sand use addresses in the future.

Effectively Yahoo! have taken the decision to start recycling old email addresses with effect from August 15 2013. This is going to have 2 key impacts on you as a digital marketer…


You could become a spammer simply by contacting an email address that you already have an opt in for. ICO guidelines treat an email address as an individual in their own right which works well if only one person ever owns that address, but unravels when they are passed on. Best practice has always said that you should gradually strip out old and unresponsive addresses from your list to protect your deliverability, but now it could become a legal matter.


This could compromise the security of your user’s accounts. For many of us, an email address doubles as our username and even if it doesn’t, we need one to send password resets to. Now we will have no guarantee that the person we are sending a new password to is the same person that set the account up in the first place.

What do you need to do?

Whilst it isn’t clear yet exactly how the ICO are going to interpret these changes, it is clear that we need to act now. Somehow you need to identify which Yahoo! email addresses are active and which are not. Whilst there is no exact way to do this, here is what I’d suggest:

  1. Create a list of all Yahoo! addresses who have not opened or clicked on one of your campaigns in the last year. You can do this using the List segments function in your TailorMail account.
  2. Create a simple email with the purpose of encouraging the user to interact with the email in some way. You can make it a sales style email if you want to, but I’d recommend a more admin styled approach even if you are still driving people to your site in the end. Often it pays just to be honest about why you r sending the email.
  3. Make sure the subject line is clear and strong. Remember that these addresses haven’t opened one of your emails in a year at least, so they’ll need to a good reason to open this one.
  4. Send the email out before August 12 to ensure that there is enough time to get the full response before the deadline of August 15
  5. Retire any addresses that do not at least open your email from your list. This might seem extreme, but bear in mind that these people are not engaging with you anyway and are probably negatively impacting your sender reputation.