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What Marketers Need to Know About Yahoo Mail's Birthday Makeover

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History is filled with examples of improved technologies outperforming predecessors—from the typewriter to word processor to computer, or from rotary phone to iPhone 6... That pattern is true among email service providers, too, with Outlook and Gmail overtaking more players such as Yahoo Mail.

Yahoo Mail is not going down quietly, however. Although it has fallen from its top spot among email services, Yahoo Mail is working to revive both its user base and its features to regain dominance.

On its 18th birthday, Yahoo Mail underwent a full makeover to tackle its shortcomings and to better serve its 1 billion active monthly users.

Although it has traditionally failed to keep up with consumers' email habits in an increasingly mobile and e-commerce-driven environment, Yahoo Mail is attempting to become a more intuitive and useful platform. With improvements to search filters, design elements, and security, Yahoo Mail's transformation will offer today's users many benefits.

As more consumers choose to remain with or adopt Yahoo Mail, marketers need to understand how its recent changes will affect the email industry—ESPs as well as engagement and deliverability rates. Though many of Yahoo Mail's updates will improve marketer-subscriber engagement, some of the changes could require marketers to reimagine how they will reach consumers.

Of the variety of updates Yahoo Mail has implemented, the following five are among those that most directly affect marketers.

1. Avatars

To address issues of spam and malware, Yahoo Mail offers avatars to help users locate "authorized senders." To provide contextual information about users' contacts, Yahoo Mail pulls images from popular social channels (Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook) and links them with incoming messages.

Tip for marketers: Take the time to personalize your email content and avoid sounding robotic. Yahoo Mail makes it easier to distinguish between personal messages and marketing emails, which means that generic outreach will tend to end up in the spam folder.

2. Search Filters

With Yahoo Mail, users can filter emails based on both sent and received messages. Users can also search through their images and documents, or even within a specific person or brand's contact for content.

Tip for marketers: Include important keywords within your email copy. Subscribers have the ability to more easily search through their inboxes for relevant emails, both when shopping in store or online. Your email copy—from updates to promotions—should facilitate this process in real time.

3. Design Elements

To complement its other features, Yahoo Mail comes with an improved user interface on both mobile and desktop. Notably, the new iteration is more intuitive and aesthetically pleasing than the previous version.

Tip for marketers: Incorporate responsive design into your email campaigns so that subscribers have a seamless digital experience from one channel to the next. Although Yahoo Mail's design updates do not directly affect marketers, per se, they're a good reminder that subscribers are more likely to engage with simple, easy-to-use design, especially on mobile devices.

4. Multiple Inboxes

As a nod to its competition, Yahoo Mail now allows users to access email from other providers. With the Yahoo Mail app, users can connect their Yahoo Mail inbox with other popular providers (although Gmail is not among them).

Tip for marketers: Take the time to update your data via a subscriber preference center, as many consumers have multiple email addresses. Subscribers will not have the patience to receive the same email more than once in their collaborative Yahoo Mail inbox.; those multiple emails may be seen as spam, causing shoppers to disengage or even unsubscribe from your brand.

5. Embedded Brand Logos

In Yahoo Mail, users will see a company's logo alongside branded emails in their inboxes. However—in compliance with a DMARC security feature Yahoo Mail had previously introduced—that will only occur once Yahoo Mail has officially verified the sender.

Tip for marketers: Confirm that Yahoo Mail has signed and verified that your company is an appropriate sender. Doing so adds validity to promotional emails (because they are Yahoo Mail-approved); moreover, a company logo is a branded feature that consumers will easily recognize and respond to.

* * *

Yahoo Mail's 18th birthday makeover will affect how marketers reach consumers in the future. In fact, updates such as search filters, avatars, and embedded brand logos actually have the potential to make marketers' email efforts more productive.

To benefit from those changes, however, marketers have to take the time to learn more about them. Only by understating Yahoo Mail's newest features can you craft a strategy that maximizes engagement and deliverability across the provider's growing subscriber base.

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Brad van der Woerd is director of deliverability and market intelligence at Yesmail Interactive. In that capacity, has worked with various Fortune 500 companies (including HP, eBay, and Coke) to improve deliverability rates and maintain a positive email reputation.

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  • by twelvedancer Fri Jan 8, 2016 via web

    How does one contact Yahoo Mail to become a "Yahoo-Mail Approved" sender?

  • by Bonnie Parker Fri Jan 8, 2016 via web

    I was wondering the same thing twelvedancer. I'm guessing it means having a whitelisted IP.

  • by Thomas O'Leary Tue Jan 12, 2016 via web

    I was curious as to Yahoo's 'verified sender' list that you reference in number 5. I have not heard of this before and I was wondering if you could point me to a Yahoo resource that discusses this process. Thanks!

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