Disposable Emails: What They Are and How to Handle Them
Disposable emails – you can find them in most email lists. How risky are they to your email deliverability and how should you handle them? We’ll answer these questions and give you a few pointers on keeping your list in good shape.
We even have a few experts: Emily Ryan, Brian Minick and Vlad Stoian weigh in on the issue and give you some perspective.
What are disposable emails?
Some people regularly use disposable email accounts, which are sometimes called burner or throwaway emails. Others have never even heard of them. But what are they?
They are email addresses intended to be short-lived. They work for a predetermined period of time, such as 30 minutes or even as briefly as 10 minutes. Others are operational for only a few days.
Why do people use disposable emails?
Some people share their email freely. Keeping it a secret isn’t a concern. If they have an interest in getting a company’s emails, they sign right up, no big deal.
However, privacy skeptics are hesitant to give out their actual email addresses. Instead, a common tactic is for them to use disposable or temporary addresses. Many of these people do that to prevent their personal contacts from ending up being sold and used by spammers.
Suppose you’re having a giveaway or promotion. Maybe you’re offering a free audio download, infographic or e-book. These are good marketing ideas, but they may attract people with only lukewarm interest.
They may not care enough to give you their actual email address. Instead, they set up one of these throwaway email addresses so they can get your offer while protecting their real address.
There’s also an element of temporary email address users with nefarious intentions. They could be a competitor or malicious person who uses the anonymity of an email address that will quickly go inactive.
How do you get a temporary email?
They’re easy to get and can even be created anonymously. Various websites provide temporary email addresses, which can frequently be a string of random letters or numbers. Sometimes it’ll be two unusual words like obsequiouscheetah@.
Many of the services that provide burners only let you receive emails, but a few also allow you to send emails.
The ease, dependability and reputation of these sites vary, but they’re quick to set up. Some generate an email immediately on the homepage. However, almost as quickly as these email addresses are generated, they vanish.
What do you need to set up a disposable email?
You don’t need to provide your name, address, phone number or any information about yourself. It’s virtually anonymous. That’s the point! (Speaking of anonymity, here’s a quick way to find out who’s behind those pesky phone calls you keep getting.)
Some temporary email providers allow you to keep the account active by using it or requesting more time. If someone tries to email the address after it self-destructs, it will bounce back.
What if people use it to get your “freebie”?
We spoke with email campaigns specialist Emily Ryan of Westfield Creative, who said every marketer is going to reach people who want something for nothing.
“There’s not much we can do on the marketing side to validate right at the ‘gate’ if an email is valid or not. So everyone – regardless if it’s disposable or not – will get the freebie. WHY? Because most automations are set up to trigger when ANY email is added to our email list.”
Emily, who has vast email marketing experience and is a Mailchimp partner, goes on to explain:
“Even if you have reCAPTCHA enabled (i.e., ‘Pick the squares that are stoplights.’), if the email is an actual email, it’s going to pass this automated check. Automations simply cannot tell at this point if it’s someone’s disposable email.
Very unfortunate for marketers, because those email addresses really hurt our deliverability down the road. That’s why we always recommend an email validation service.”
Email validation helps to reduce the risk
So, how exactly does one mitigate the risk of these anonymous freeloaders?
“Every marketer needs a process for validating their clients’ emails on a regular basis. That’s truly the only way to keep your list clean and healthy which is vital in making sure your emails keep being delivered to the Inbox.”
The email marketing expert warns about deliverability risks:
“If you keep these emails on your list, they will end up bouncing. This shows services like Google or Yahoo that you’re not a valid sender… and therefore, you’ll land in Spam. Platforms like ZeroBounce have a monthly option that is really smart because it will ensure you keep your list clear of these disposable emails.”
If someone really wants to take advantage of your promo, chances are they can. As Emily points out, it all boils down to email validation to protect your list, one of your most valuable assets.
Are you losing potential leads?
Most likely, no. Someone who uses a disposable email address usually doesn’t take your brand seriously. Therefore, marketing-wise, there’s little potential of anything positive happening with someone who is trying to use one.
Also, getting an abundance of burners on your list is not a good sign. It may mean that people see you as unreliable or perceive you as someone likely to send spam. They’re worried you may bombard them so they don’t give up their real email.
Brian Minick, COO of ZeroBounce explains what the dangers are:
“Disposable emails are one of the most detrimental forms of email addresses you can have on your list for a few reasons:
- The email will bounce after a very short period of time (10 minutes – 24 hours)
- You can never contact or re-target that person again for your marketing or sales funnel.
Brian also tells us how temporary emails work:
“A disposable email address is the equivalent to a ‘burner’ phone but it has a $0 cost associated with it. Anyone can go to a website like 10minutemail.com and take out a disposable email address. The email will send/receive mail just like any other normal email box. So it can complete a two-step verification or double opt-in process, but soon after that, it’s gone.”
Our COO concludes: “You don’t want to send emails to these addresses. They’ll bounce and ruin your reputation along with it.”
A bad sender reputation will severely affect your inbox placement. Even the people who signed up with their legitimate address and want to hear from you may end up not getting your emails.
The ZeroBounce email validation API rejects them in real time
In his three years at ZeroBounce, our deliverability specialist Vlad Stoian has been helping many customers handle disposable emails. One interesting fact he brings up is that disposable email providers constantly adjust the way they work.
“Identifying disposable email addresses can be tricky. If disposable email providers used the same patterns and resources for a long period of time, they’d eventually be known for what they are. So they always change the ways they provide disposable addresses.”
“However,” Vlad adds, “with the experience we’ve gained over the years, we continue to investigate and adapt the methods we employ to identify them, maintaining a track record we’re proud of.”
ZeroBounce identifies the temporary email contacts on your list when you run it through the bulk email validator. What’s more, you can use the email validation API to keep off low-quality email addresses in the first place.
Want to see how it works? Connect the ZeroBounce API to your sign-up and registration forms to identify risky addresses instantly.
If you need help, Vlad and our support team are here 24/7 to guide you.
Disposable emails are ubiquitous, but awareness and these proactive measures will help keep your list in good shape. Furthermore, their existence is a reminder that you should always present yourself in the most professional way possible and offer consistent value through your emails.
Not only is this a good way to keep temporary emails at bay but also, to build healthy, long-term engagement with your audience.