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What’s new in the world of email marketing – images by default. Yes, Google, in all their infinite wisdom, has decided to make images in Gmail a default setting. Gmail recipients will no longer have to click the ‘display images below’ to see their email in all it’s marketing glory, as it was intended.

This is a good thing, right? Well for email engagement sure, it’s a wonderful thing. New subscribers who have not had a chance to add you as a safe source will be able to see the full email including the images, thus improving engagement. For the tracking pixel, this may not be so wonderful. A tracking pixel is an invisible one pixel image in email that allows ‘opens’ to be tracked by Elite Email and other email service providers. This Gmail image default has the potential to ‘mess up the works’ for collecting ‘opens’.

How? Well in the first place, images in emails could be harmful and compromise your computer or mobile device. This is why you are asked if you would like to display these images. To make ‘display images as default’ work, images will all be transmitted through Googles’ own proxy servers and assessed for risks first. This is where the problem lies, if Gmail is serving the images, then the ESP will not be receiving the ‘opens’.

“There has been speculation within the industry, of what the potential could be and whether there could be an impact on open rates and the ability to track user behavior.” Econsultancy.com

This was the initial thought and fear of the marketing world, upon release of this Google news. It will have an effect on email marketers but not as dramatic as first feared. According to a Google spokesperson, marketers who track open rates through images will still be able to do so. It’s been suggested that the data might even be more accurate now since open rates will count users who read the emails but don’t load the images.

However, there is some other user data that won’t get tracked like, geographical data in the form of user IP addresses and device tracking. It will be interesting to see what these changes will mean to marketers that may lose out on some degree of analytics.

Given the recent changes by Google, the savvy engineers here at Elite Email have found a work-around so that “total opens” still track correctly even with the new image caching system that went live. Of course, we don’t know if Google will do another round of updates that will prevent this clever fix from working. But, for the moment, all Elite Email customers should not have their open reports impacted. The Geo-Reports will be skewed because there is no way for us to detect the location of Gmail users. So, if you notice an increased number of contacts engaging with email from California, that is because Google is making it seem like everyone is living in their data centers.

The change of displaying images as a default turned out to be less earth shattering to marketers then first believed. Opens are still being reported, however with Gmail users some geographical data capture is at the moment offline. This is just one small change of many more coming down the road, but with savvy ESPs, the road should be a lot less bumpy.

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