Ding! FreshAddress just detected another disposable email address service!
Dealing with disposable email addresses is like playing Whack-A-Mole. Every time you identify and quarantine one provider, another one pops up in its place. It’s a growing problem and one you must manage to keep your email program on track.
We saw a 120% increase in disposable addresses in client lists from 2018 to 2020. Each one of them represents a lost opportunity to have a lasting, mutually beneficial relationship with a subscriber. That’s why you need to get up to speed on disposable addresses.
Here’s what you need to know:
- What they are and why people use them
- The problems they cause for your email marketing efforts
- How to mitigate the risk they pose for your database and why blocking isn’t the only answer
- Surprisingly, how they can help you become a better email marketer
1. Defining disposable email addresses
Disposable email addresses are also called “throwaway” or “burner” addresses. Unlike a regular email address that’s linked to a permanent inbox, a disposable address can send your emails to a vast repository that accepts all messages. Or, it gets disabled within minutes of using – one use, and it’s history. Any email you send to it will hard-bounce, meaning it’s undeliverable.
They aren’t the same as fake addresses – like the ever-popular “firstname.lastname@example.org” or “email@example.com.” Nor are they secondary email addresses, which are genuine addresses that people use for email they don’t value as much but might look at now and then.
2. Why people use disposable email addresses
Why are disposable addresses so popular? It’s not just because they keep unwanted email from the inbox but also because they’re so easy to get. People use disposables when they feel forced to provide their email addresses before they’re ready. Especially in situations like these:
- Entering a contest
- Accessing gated content
- Getting a quote on insurance or other services
- Downloading information or games
- Signing up for one free trial after another to avoid paying for a service.
3. How people create disposable addresses
A quick Internet search for “disposable email address” on Google will yield a seemingly endless number of options. Most of these are free to use and take just seconds to create. Less time than it takes to set up an alternate Gmail account!
Major inbox providers like Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, and Apple also let their users create temporary addresses. Once again, these are deliverable but low-value.
- People do use them for legitimate reasons, like forwarding email or organizing an inbox.
- More often, though, they’re just another way people get around the email-address requirement.
4. Why they’re a problem
Disposable email addresses represent a potential threat on several fronts. They’re also the canary in the coal mine, signaling you need to fix your acquisition process.
Throwaways have little to no value. They don’t belong to people who will read your messages or help you achieve your business goals.
They can damage your sender reputation. Disposables that explode minutes after creation will increase your hard-bounce rate. The addresses that lead to “accept all” domains will let email pile up unread. ISPs can interpret both situations as unwanted email and block or spam-folder your messages.
The cost to send email to them adds up. If you’re using a premium service with a higher sending cost, that wasted money will mount up fast.
The opportunity cost can be high. Suppose someone uses a throwaway email to sign up for a free trial and then lets the trial period expire without providing a genuine email address. You’ve lost the chance to convert that person into a paying customer. The worst thing is you’ll never know you missed your chance if that address stays deliverable forever.
They’re potential spam traps. Some disposable address providers also sell their databases to blocklist providers as a way to make money. Those addresses can become spam traps on your list and can get your messages blocked or routed to the spam folder instead of the inbox.
5. A symptom of a bigger problem
Stop thinking like a marketer for a minute.
- Why wouldn’t someone want to give you a genuine email address?
- Why go to such great lengths to get a disposable address?
Your acquisition process might be too aggressive. Or, they don’t trust you to handle their addresses responsibly. You could be asking for an email address too early in the relationship, before they have learned to value what you’re offering in exchange.
Or, you’re asking for too much information, especially personal data, up front. Using double opt-in can also trigger people’s objections to giving you a genuine address.
6. Why blocking isn’t the only answer
This is not a DIY project. No matter how hard you try, you can’t track down every single disposable address in your database. There are too many providers, and many look like (or once were) legitimate email services.
An automated service that uses regularly updated algorithms to detect addresses is the only way to properly manage these addresses. Your first instinct might be to block disposable vendors’ domains. This can work if you leverage the expertise of a hygiene provider like FreshAddress to identify those addresses at opt-in and request alternatives. But, someone who has already gone to all the work of getting a disposable address will just work that much harder to get around your refusal to accept it.
Use “accept-reject-flag” instead.
This is a protocol that allows you to accept deliverable disposable addresses and then decide later how you want to handle them. Quarantine those questionable addresses and study them.
- Do they generate any activity at all?
- Are some acquisition points attracting more disposables than others?
- Do you need to change the wording of your opt-in invitation?
Maybe you aren’t showing the value as clearly as you could. Or, you could be making it too easy for people to get their freebies without sharing a legit email address.
This is where disposable email addresses actually help your email program. Like unsubscribes, they can help you diagnose and fix problems or weaknesses.
7. How FreshAddress stays on top of the disposable-address problem
We use multiple methods to detect and flag disposable addresses. We track changes in the email provider world. If a provider buys a domain to expand the number of email addresses they can offer, we will recognize and block or flag that domain. We know the fingerprint that business is using, and our team of experts will check it out.
Disposable email addresses might not comprise a significant percentage of your email database yet. However, they:
- Add little value to your email program,
- Cost you money and engagement opportunities, and
- Put your sender reputation at risk.
Trying to track them down is a thankless task because more keep popping up all the time. Use an automated system like SafeToSend to stay on top of the problem without spending hours in your database every day.