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.