With more information coming in this afternoon, it appears that Google’s image serving change in Gmail is a mixed bag (at best) for marketers.
Google announced today that it’s going to start serving images sent to Gmail users from its own servers, not from the sender’s servers. This is starting today for desktop Gmail users, and will come to the Gmail mobile apps in the new year.
Here’s what we know at the moment:
Open Rates May Go Up
Google has confirmed to Marketing Land via email that the change will not harm open rate data, and it may improve open rate tracking because marketers won’t have to rely on the user both opening the email and loading the images.
A company spokesperson declined to share more specifics on how those tracking images will still send data back to the sender while they’re being served by Google, but when we asked, Does the sender see the email count as an “open” when a user reads it?, the response we got via email was “Yes!”
At least two major email vendors reached that same conclusion today on their blogs: Aweber wrote that “reports may show more subscribers opening your emails,” and Mailchimp — in an update at the bottom of a post written last week — says, “If Gmail is going to display images automatically, those previously invisible opens should suddenly become visible.”
But the change means marketers will get less information about the individual Gmail user.
Other Data Will Go Away
Google confirmed for us that, in the name of keeping Gmail messages “more safe and secure” (the wording in Google’s announcement), marketers will no longer be getting information about the user — like his/her IP address, user agent, whether it was a mobile open, which mobile device was used and so forth.
With mobile email seeing dramatic growth this year, that’s bad news for brands and email marketers. (Obviously, the amount of Gmail users a brand has in its subscriber base will determine how bad is the impact.)
We’re continuing to look for more clarity on today’s Gmail change and what it means for marketers. We’ll either update this article or post new articles as needed.