Q and A: Do Gmail Accounts Ever Expire?

QuestionDear Kalena

I was just wondering if you knew whether Gmail accounts ever expire? About 6 months ago, my company tried to register our brandname @gmail.com so we could associate it with our Google+ account, but somebody was already squatting it. I have been emailing the account every month but my emails are never returned. Is there an expiry period for Gmail accounts and if so, can we apply to take over the account if it relates to our brand name?

thanks
Hannah

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Dear Hannah

I was researching this issue earlier this year for a client who was trying to recover a brand-related YouTube channel and Gmail account being squatted. It took me quite a while to find the answer to this one because Google accounts are a bit of a rabbit hole – even Will Wheaton has trouble with his Gmail accounts!


The Good News

According to a post by a software engineer on the Google Product Forum, a Gmail account does expire and will be deleted after approximately 9 months of inactivity.

It’s not made clear what sort of activity counts, whether logging in, POP/IMAP, forwarding or something else. But if you check the *Last account activity* while logged into your Gmail account, it will show you what type of activity is registered. This link at the bottom of every Gmail page shows you information about recent activity in your mail. Recent activity includes any time that your mail was accessed using a regular web browser, a POP1 client, a mobile device, etc. It will list the IP address that accessed your mail, the associated location, as well as the time and date, so you will be able to determine what Google considers *activity* on your Gmail account and make sure that activity happens on a regular basis to prevent expiration of your email address.


The Bad News

According to a post by John Nu, (an official Gmail Top Contributor), an expired Gmail account can’t be reactivated. Here’s an extract of John’s post:

“Google tracks to determine which accounts have been essentially abandoned by people and eventually deletes them. Each account has essentially two sets of information associated with it, the definition of the account, which includes the account name, ownership information, recovery information, etc.; and the contents of the account. There is also a list of reserved names, which contains every account name that was ever issued by Google and, by implication, variations of the name (e.g., if an account is in the name of “JohnDoe,” then “John.Doe,” “johndoe,” and other variations are implicitly reserved).

The contents of the account are the first to go after an account is deleted. When the account is deleted, the contents only exist in backups. Google only keeps the backups for a limited time, so once the last of the backups that contained the account contents expire, the contents are no longer recoverable.

The record of the account itself is stored separately and has a different retention cycle. That information does not expire until a while after the account contents have completely expired. Once that is deleted, Google has no way to validate ownership of an account.

That leaves only the entry on the list of reserved names. Google leaves the names on that list indefinitely to protect users from potential identity theft: If you abandoned or deleted an account and someone else could reuse the name, it would be very easy for them to present themselves to other websites, etc. as being you. Unfortunately, however, the prior owners are locked out as well, though, because Google lost the ability to verify ownership when the records of the account expired and were deleted.”


Google Account Deactivation and Recovery

According to Google there are several reasons why a username may be unavailable, but they don’t reveal specifics: “To help protect your privacy, we don’t reveal details about why a specific username is unavailable, or whether a username has been deleted.”

Depending on the stage of the deactivation, a Gmail account may still be recoverable. Visit Google Account Recovery and enter the email address.

If it takes you to a *reset password* page, then the account is still recoverable. If you get a message that the account is no longer recoverable, it means that it has likely reached the last phase described above and there is no known way to recover the account or even reuse the email address.


Username Squatting / Brand Impersonation

So having a Gmail account deactivated is one thing, but what if you notice your company name or brand being used on an active Gmail, Google+ or other Google-related account?

Firstly, you’ll need to determine if the profile is being used to deliberately impersonate your brand. It may be simply that another entity shares the same or similar name as your brand and is using the profile legitimately. Google won’t take action against these profiles. However, if you discover content with obvious intent to damage, you *may* have a case for Google to intervene and force a handover of the account or at least, account closure :

“Profiles or pages with clear malicious or personal attacks will be removed, with no proof of identity necessary from the person making the report… Pages that impersonate another company or organization will require an authorized representative of the company or organization being impersonated to provide a form of business verification.”

The process to follow in this case is to click on the Report This Profile link while viewing the profile. Obviously it will help your case if you own the trademark for your brand / company name.


Google Account Deactivation Prevention

There are three lessons here:

1) Reserve your brand or company related Gmail accounts NOW, before they get squatted.

2) If you currently have one or more Gmail accounts, make sure you log into each account on a regular basis to keep them active and make sure they don’t expire. Implement more challenging passwords and other security measures to make sure the accounts don’t get hacked or stolen.

3) If your brand-related Google accounts are being squatted, approach the owners and politely ask if they would be willing to hand over the accounts. If that fails and you don’t have an obvious case for impersonation, trademark violation or copyright infringement, you might consider negotiating a price for hand over. If you own the trademark for your brand/company name being squatted, Report an Inappropriate Profile to Google. If that fails, give up.

Hope this helps!
Kalena

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Q and A: How can I use Pinterest for Business?

QuestionHi Kalena

I am the online marketing manager for a medium sized toy retailer. We have brick and mortar stores but also allow people to purchase online from our toy catalog. Increasingly, our web sales are outperforming our offline sales, and we are trying to grow this side of the business.

One of our staff here is a big user of Pinterest for her crafting hobby and she said we should be using the site to promote our company and products.

Can you please advise if this is a good idea and if so, suggest ways we could get started using Pinterest for business?

Thanks in advance,

Liam

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Hi Liam

Your staff member is right. Despite being initially hyped as a site for hobby bloggers, Pinterest has exploded into the online marketing space since its astounding popularity and skyrocketing user numbers were revealed.

According to Mashable, customers who find a product via Pinterest are more likely to purchase it than those who find the product via other social networks. Although over 80 percent of Pinterest users are currently women, I imagine that would be a good match for your target market, given women are traditionally the gift purchasers of the household. You might also want to look at the more detailed lifestyle demographics of Pinterest users.

In terms of how to use Pinterest for business marketing, initially, I would talk to your staff member about how she uses Pinterest and how she thinks it could be used to promote your products. I’m not sure how long she has worked at your company or in what department, but if she has familarity with your products and understands your target market, she will probably have some good ideas already.

If you need more inspiration, there is a free eBook on how to use Pinterest for business. Plus here are some related articles that should tweak your imagination:

5 Creative Ways to Use Pinterest for Business

Boost Your Business With Pinterest

Why You Should Be on Pinterest

Honda’s Pinterest Debut

Hope this helps!

Kalena

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Q and A: How Do I Convince an SEO Client to Start from Scratch?

QuestionHello Kalena,

I don’t know if you remember me or not from last year, but I’m a graduate of Search Engine College and I’ve now launched my own SEO business, though it’s going very slow, just out of the gate. Great potential in my small town within Colorado USA, but still trying to gain momentum being a new business.

Anyway, here’s my dilemma and subsequent question.

Recently when talking with a potential client, he informed me that he wanted to give one my business cards to his wife. He said she would definitely contact me regarding her own website which is in need of SEO. He was right, she did contact me and I met with her for an initial visit to discuss matters. I’m not quite sure how to break it to her that she might be better just scrapping her site and starting over! On her site I’ve found aspx, iframes, javascript, tables, nested tables, php, hidden items as well as excessive and duplicate code bloat on every single page, which I think is due to a .dll pulling from another site for her search field feature! Please help, because her husband is the executive director of another company in our town who could be a potential huge client for me.

I don’t want to offend her and be the recipient of a trickle effect for lost work. I typically don’t divulge my clients or the issues involved, but this case requires professional input and therefore I must provide you the info: http://www.clientsite.com [Actual URL hidden for privacy reasons]. My suggestion would be to design a new, optimized site using WordPress and then use a robot.txt file for her Products page and only have the search field on that page since she has over 800 products, am I right? How would you handle this client tactfully and would you use the same remedy? Any suggestions would be immensely appreciated, thank you in advance Kalena.

Sincerely,

Angela

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Hi Angela

Lovely to hear fom you and congrats on launching your SEO business.

Regarding your question, it can be a bit tricky giving advice to potential clients when you’ve looked at their site and it’s a SEO nightmare. Often, you know it is going to be easier for them to wipe the slate and start again, but convincing them of this can be extremely difficult!

With SEO, what I recommend you do is to ALWAYS go with your gut. If you are performing a site analysis and there are more ticks in the *negative* column than the *positive* one, you should absolutely not fear recommending a new start to a client – whether they are a big or small potential client, they are asking for your advice and you should give it to them honestly, without fear. If you explain to them the reasoning behind your recommendation and they trust you, they should have no problem taking your advice. If they baulk at the idea or refuse to discuss it as an option, they are probably not a good match for you as a SEO client anyway. You want to take on clients who trust you to know what you are doing, welcome your advice and encourage you to educate them along the way.

Here are a couple of tips you can use to help convince a potential new client to start over:

1) A site analysis or SWOT report that points out the many negatives of the current design and the many positives of shifting to a new design.
2) A graphical mock up of the new site you have in mind (e.g. using a WordPress theme or similar)
3) A ranking report that shows how poorly they rank for target keywords against their major competitors.
4) Take them through Google’s Webmaster Guidelines – a list of recommendations as to the best way to design pages so they are found more easily.

It’s hard to argue with someone when the truth is staring them in the face!

Now, in the specific site you are referring to – there are quite a few SEO issues to be addressed, including the many you brought up yourself. There is also huge SEO potential in the site that is not being utilized. For example:

  • All your client’s product categories are database driven *dynamic* pages generated on the fly based on multiple search parameters instead of stand-alone hard coded pages. So while humans see the pages: http://www.clientsite.com/search.php?product=ducks&catnum=291 and http://www.clientsite.com/search.php?product=caps&catnum=143 as separate pages, search engines will usually only index http://www.clientsite.com/search.php and ignore the parameters following.
  • Best case scenario, Google might index URLs containing single parameters, but your client’s pages are stuffed with multiple parameters. Google highlights multiple parameters as problematic in their Webmaster Guidelines. This means that hundreds of pages of product content are likely not being indexed by search engines. I see your client has a XML sitemap that consists of a number of those dynamic pages, but that’s pointless if they are ignored or can’t be indexed.
  • If you conduct a site search in Google for the URL: site:http://www.clientsite.com, you’ll see that – as suspected – only about 12 pages on your client’s site are indexed. What a lost opportunity! Imagine if all product category pages were stand-alone, keyword-optimized pages such as http://www.clientsite.com/products/rubber-ducks/ and http://www.clientsite.com/products/caps-hats/ etc? To address this, your client could use WordPress to create static product pages or, at the very least, implement a parameter work-around to turn the dynamic pages into static URLs and add them to her sitemap, which will encourage deep content indexing.
  • Another major issue is that when you click on some product types within a category page, you are taken to a completely different web site (the dll issue you found). On second look, it seems that much of the product content for this site is actually being fetched from http://www.thirdpartysite.com and presented in iframes on the http://www.clientsite.com site. If the third party product company own the product content, it may be problematic for your potential client to re-design their site from scratch. But it would certainly be worth looking into. Product specific content on your client’s site would make great SEO content if optimized well. Sadly, the way the content is currently being presented means that the third party site gets all the benefit of link popularity, TrustRank and SEO while your client’s site gets none.

Anyway, those are just a couple of major issues I spotted. You sound like you know exactly the best way forward for this client so all that remains is for you to convince her.

Good luck and let us know what happens.

Kalena

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Q and A: How do I get started with Google Webmaster Tools?

QuestionHello Kalena

I’ve just take over the role of Online Marketing Manager for our company but I am learning on the job. I’ve got a very basic understanding of SEO and I know AdWords ok, but my focus is really social marketing, Facebook in particular.

The person I am taking over from left suddenly and I don’t have any of her files or records, so I am basically starting from scratch. My boss has asked me to do a full site assessment by next week!

My colleague suggested I start by finding out how many of our sitemap pages we have listed in Google. Now I have heard you can do this using Google Webmaster Tools, but to be honest, I’ve never used it. I’m a bit embarrassed actually, because I know I should have been using it before now, but I’ve never really had to.

Can you recommend a tutorial online somewhere about how to use Webmaster Tools, or perhaps give me a quick overview for getting started?

Thanks
Aaron

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Hello Aaron

Your colleague has given you some good advice about Google Webmaster Tools. That is definitely the best place to start. Get your site verified in Webmaster Tools and then grab the sitemap URL for your site and upload it via the console.

In terms of a tutorial, this Beginner’s Guide to Using Google Webmaster Tools is probably your best bet. There is also Google’s own Webmaster Tools documentation to help you out.

Once you’ve got the feel for the console, you can generate lots of reports that will help you put together a full site audit for your boss. Have fun!

Kalena

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Q and A: Where can I learn how to use all the features of Microsoft adCenter?

QuestionHi Kalena

I’ve been using Google AdWords for years and feel quite confident with the program, however it has literally taken me years to learn all the features and how to tweak things for better results and more conversions. I’ve just started using Microsoft adCenter recently and I’m finding it hard going. There just seem to be so many features I’m unfamiliar with and even getting my head around the interface is a struggle after so many years of AdWords exposure.

Do you offer a course at Search Engine College that is solely dedicated to MS adCenter?

Thanks

Sophie

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Hi Sophie

We offer two courses in Pay Per Click Marketing – a PPC Starter course and a PPC Advanced course, however while both courses do have lessons dedicated to MS adCenter, the bulk of the lessons cover all aspects of PPC marketing. If you’re looking for something more granular in terms of using MS adCenter, you should check out their adCenter Training Center which contains around 35 training videos designed to teach you all aspects of using adCenter. You can even sign up to take the Accredited Professional Exam when you’re finished.

In case you’re not already aware, Google also offers similar video training for AdWords plus detailed lesson modules via the AdWords Learning Center.

Kalena

 

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