Gmail has announced improvements to the way they handle images, which affect marketers reporting. We are happy to add some clarity as to how this change will affect email recipients and marketers.

Good news for email recipients. According to Google, the changes have been made for the following reasons:

Safer content: caching images on their secure proxy servers will result in better security for Gmail users, as they’ll be scanned for malware and viruses before you open them.

  • More secure links: the changes will hopefully help eliminate ‘phishing’, where the link text is different to the link location. Since images will now be loaded from Google’s servers, the original host location of the images will not be used – so phishing is not possible.
  • Better user experience: from now on, images will be downloaded automatically unless the user manually selects ‘Ask before displaying external images’ in Gmail settings.

The last point might have you looking twice – images will now be displayed by default as opposed to previously, when recipients were required to click to download the images. This automatic download will provide more accurate open rates for email marketers. In the past, readers would open your campaign and unless they responded, or displayed images – you wouldn’t know. But now, those people will be displaying images automatically, so the eMarketing Suite will be able to tell you.

Why is this good news for marketers?

Cached images, stronger DKIM, new mailboxes, routing results and traffic through Google –there’s a lot of change happening in email right now. And they are changes that good email marketers should welcome: the end of ‘Grey mail’ and SPAM . The arch nemesis of the marketer.

It’s a good move for marketing technology providers especially. Previous industry results were not comparable, some systems use alternative metrics to classify and record opens and clicks.  For example, some systems classify a click in an email as an open and click. Whereas, others categories a click as just a click because the images have not been downloaded to validate and open.

The changes to how images are now cached, removes the ambiguity of said terminology by providing greater standardisation of what is considered an open. The benefits of this are two fold:

  1. Standardisation of terminology means it’s easier for buyers to choose a marketing technology provider based on its average open rates, although when choosing, overall open rates should not be the determining factor (handy hint: look for an provider who offers great customer support, is full of advice and best practice and a user friendly platform).
  2. What is now considered as an open will provide a (albeit slightly) more accurate indication of how engaged a recipient truly is. It’s the rise of ‘engagement marketing’ – google will be collecting more data on email, what you open, how long you view it for and what you click, that will most likely make it into the scoring process and algorithms they use to decide on message placement and which folder to file it in.

For marketers, the likely increase in open rate shouldn’t be the ‘win’. The best thing about this change is that accuracy.

In summary, although it’s tempting to focus on opens and clicks, there are more reliable metrics to measure true engagement levels. If you’ve got any questions I’d be happy to help so feel free to leave a comment or two.