Gmail Changes To Show Images: Good Or Bad News For Tracking Email Marketing?


We’ve published an updated story with information from Google about what today’s change means for tracking email marketing. Please see Google: Gmail Image Change May Improve Open Rate Data, But Will Strip Other User Data for more information.

Google has announced a change in how it handles image display in Gmail, one that might be good for email marketers, making it easy to track opens. Or, it could be a disaster, blocking such tracking.

Starting today, Gmail will begin serving all email images from its own secure proxy servers; images will no longer be served from the sender’s servers.

In its blog post, Google positions this with the consumer angle that images are now pre-checked for viruses and malware, and users won’t need to manually click the “Display images below” link that so often shows up in messages.

This may good news for email marketers. Since open rates are usually determined by the display of a tracking image, those images are now more likely to trigger. Ergo, Gmail open rates should go up in your reports, at least a bit. (Gmail users can still use Settings to prevent images from displaying automatically.)

Or, this could be terrible. If Google’s making a copy of the image, and then serving that out directly from its own servers, then many “opens” might happen that seem to the company sending the email as if only one did.

It’s possible that Google is correcting for this in some way. We’re checking further will the company and will update here or in a follow-up story, as we know more.

The change does means that promotional emails will display as they’re intended right away, without the friction of users having to click to see the full email as you and your clients intended it. That’s good news for marketers.

Here’s an example of the change:


Google says the image serving change is rolling out today on the desktop, and will reach Gmail mobile apps early next year.

NOTE: This story was updated to include the possible downsides of the change to marketers that might happen.

Related Topics: Channel: Email Marketing | Email Marketing | Google | Google: Gmail


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Marketing Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • Beth Kahlich

    Just talking about this last night – I for one see the positive aspects. Emails with lots of boxes instead of images does nothing to support my client’s brands. Tracking is great, but communicating brand to your raving fans is better!

  • Startup Savant

    Agreed! All too often we get carried away with the numbers and push our brand image to the side.

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