Google: Gmail Image Change May Improve Open Rate Data, But Will Strip Other User Data

gmail-logo-240pxWith 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.

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

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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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