What is email tumbling?

Child in a checked shirt doing  a forward roll on grass.

It's a Google thing that's going around

Email tumbling is a simple way to filter incoming emails, by using variations of a Gmail address. 

To tumble an email, users just need to insert a "." or a "+" into the [email protected] section of their email, before adding any other text. As long as the @xyz, post @ element of the address is correct, mail will land in their inbox.

Here's an example.  [email protected] is the root email address. [email protected] will work just as well. If Jane is feeling organised and wants to sort her inbox so that a filter auto-archives emails from her online shopping, then [email protected] will also be delivered successfully.

Filtering an inbox with email tumbling

If you use a Gmail account you'll probably be familiar with the filter options. Email tumbling lets users set up filters to move emails around, auto-archive, forward, delete etc.  So when Jane buys online Gmail will deliver her shopping emails into a file automatically, provided she sets a filter up based on her tumbled address.

Child tumbling on grass depicting email tumbling

Should you keep tumbled emails on your list?

In the email validation business, we flag up emails that are indicators of possible bad intent. For example, Disposable Email Addresses (DEAs) are frequently and reliably linked with chargebacks.

Email Tumbling isn't a disposable address. It isn't necessarily undeliverable, or a spam trap either.

If your list contains a growing percentage of tumbled email addresses, you should monitor them to see whether they show any behaviour that is unusual relative to your non-tumbling accounts.

If you are only emailing Jane into her shopping filter, she may not read a single thing you send. Email tumbling offers more inbox flexibility, but it could limit the touchpoint effectiveness for marketers to reach customers.

If you are not using a a proper opt-in process, look out. Tumblers could very easily be used to trigger squealers. For example if Jane uses [email protected] online, she can monitor who is using her email address to send stuff she didn't want to receive. Then it's just a quick tap on the spam button to report you for sending her something she didn't ask for.

Online fraudsters like email tumbling because it saves them time

Online fraudsters are an innovative bunch. They keep up to date with trends and quickly learn how to work the system.

Email tumbling enables them to use multiple email addresses quickly, without having to set up different email accounts. It's a real time saver and if you are online all day trying to get accounts open with fraudulent addresses and stolen credit cards, time is a big issue. This opportunity for fraud is a real concern for online traders - how do you distinguish between Jane Doe+christmas and fraudster+stolencard?

We'll help you keep an eye on tumbled email addresses by changing our reporting system to include a new channel to report these addresses for you. In addition, we'll continue to add bad email addresses and those associated with fraudulent activity into our database, making it quicker and easier to check bad tumblers as time goes on.

What should you do about Email Tumbling?

Apart from setting tumbled addresses to one side and watching results, there isn't a lot marketers can do. On the optimistic side, honest email tumblers could give you an opportunity to engage more effectively, as they will be reading your emails if they are genuinely interested.

We're interested in feedback about tumbling, so please share your experiences with us, to be part of the leading-edge developments in email marketing.

Read here for explanations of email marketing terms

To read what Google has to say about email tumbing, read here

What To Read Next

Email Hippo shortlisted for Tech South West logo
Auth0 and Email Hippo logos on a crowd scene background Auth0 logo is the property of Auth0.
Illustration of the DNA of Email Hippo Trust Score.