The Effects on Email Marketing as Google Starts Caching Email Images

By OctaneGo, December 20, 2013 | Tips & Resources

Just when email marketers had started to understand the impact of the changes Google had made to Gmail with the inbox tabs, there is another change that has struck the email marketing world like a bolt of lightning. So what has Google done now? Is it good for our campaigns or bad? Well let’s try to understand what’s happening first.

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So, Google announced a few days ago that for Gmail, it is now displaying all images automaticallyfor all received emails by caching those images on their own server (googleusercontent.com) and scanning them for security vulnerabilities there. That’s a win for Gmail users and for mailer security but that will also impact the tracking and analytic metrics for email campaigns. On Octane, that primarily comes down to functions like real-time image updating; and metrics like geo-locations and recipient device/OS/browser information in the reports section. However, while there is an impact on these metrics, as per our current testing for the Octane platform; the total open data is not getting impacted (due to some clever coding) which is a big positive for our users as some of the other ESP’s (Email Service Providers like Octane) across the globe are facing trouble with tracking their total opens data now.

For email marketing campaigns, all ESP’s place a pixel image that helps them in tracking opens, geographical locations (via IPs), browser, operating system (OS) and the device used to view those campaigns. Normally, with every open on an email, the user side client/ISP would fetch the images from the ESP server where they would be stored linked to the sent email campaign. With Google’s new change now, with every open, request for the associated images would be sent to the Google cache and not to the originating server of the ESP. Therefore, the location shown to all ESP’s worldwide could be changed to Mountain View, CA (Google’s HQ). This is why there will be an impact on the tracking metrics. The good news here is that there will an increase in the number of unique opens. This will be because all those people who were opening the campaigns but not loading the images will also now get recorded in the reporting data.

With this change, Google is aiming to make Gmail a more secure place for its users by taking away the menace of malicious code in email images and performing security scans on its own servers. But at the same time, this change can also have a negative impact as it can potentially validate data for spammers (in terms of confirming an active email address). Generally, when you don’t load/download images in an email, spammers don’t get to validate your email ID as active or dormant/fake; but with automatic image downloads on Gmail, they could now validate and identify active email IDs.

In the long run, automatic images can be quite the blessing for email marketers but for now, we need to figure out how to make sure our analytics data stays accurate and relevant. Therefore, at Octane, we are investigating this situation further in great detail. We will keep you posted as we move ahead to resolve these issues. You can keep a tab on our latest updates on this issue (and other things of the email marketing world) on Facebook,Twitter and LinkedIn.

More soon!

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