The free tool most email marketers don’t know about

There is an email capability that is extremely useful to professional email marketers but which goes largely unrecognized and unused. It’s called tagged addressing and you should be using it.

As email marketers we’re intensely interested in what different brands are doing with email. Style, frequency, content, layout, personalization, the variations are endless.

Knowing what others are doing is hugely valuable. It can trigger great ideas as well as offer cautionary tales of what not to do. Most email marketers therefore end up subscribed to hundreds, even thousands, of different mailing lists and brands.

Receiving so much email presents challenges but also some very good opportunities. One of the biggest challenges is an overloaded inbox.

full inbox

Most marketers solve this by signing up for a separate account to receive marketing email. This type of separation is useful but it can be taken significantly further for better results.

When you’re subscribed to thousands of mailing lists it can sometimes be hard to figure out why you’re receiving a particular message.

The From address and subject may not clearly identify the sending brand; a message with a third-party offer may appear to be from the third-party; your address may have been shared with a sibling brand; your address may even have been sold or worse still, leaked in a data breach.

The solution is to use a unique email address for each list. That way you know precisely how a given sender got your address. It’s easy to filter and sort the messages and so understand the relationships between the brands messaging you.

I know marketers who have many accounts but it’s not practical to setup the hundreds or thousands that would be required. Fortunately there is a solution.

Tagged addressing

Tagged addressing, sometimes called plussed addressing, solves exactly this problem. In tagged addressing a tag is added to the local part of an email address such that the tagged address is an alias of the normal address. For example would be an alias of

With tagged addressing each sender has a unique address for you so you can easily

  • Search for and identify all email from a given sender
  • See when a sender has shared or sold your address
  • Spot when your address has been leaked
  • Identify who is using your leaked address

There are some other side-benefits from using tagged addresses for my email for many years. I know when a solicitor pulled my email address from LinkedIn to cold-email me.

Phishing email is obviously not from my bank because it wasn’t sent to my bank tagged address. Finally I’m far less concerned about data breaches. Since no two sites have the same email address for me not only are my passwords different, so are my account names.

So how do you get this secret sauce?

Fortunately many email systems already support tagged addressing — GMail,, Yahoo plus and iCloud all support +<tag>. The + sign can be problematic as some signup forms don’t handle it well. More advanced users can take advantage of Postfix, Qmail and other tools to use other characters.

While it may seem cumbersome at first tagged addressing is a technique that offers many benefits and rewards for the advanced email user, and shouldn’t we all be advanced users?

Until next time…

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