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If you use Gmail, then you know that the basic inbox and interface doesn’t change all too often – and when it does, usually it adds some new and shiny quality of life feature. Considering that our business is all about getting in contact with audiences via outlets like Gmail, naturally we take note when these kind of things pop up. With this in mind, it’s a great time to take a look at the new unsubscribe feature that you might have noticed on your latest email and what it means for you as a user and for the email marketing industry as a whole.

Out with the Old and In with the New

The best way to break this down is to look at how the unsubscribe feature used to work, and how users now access this functionality. Back in 2009, Gmail users had to expand the email details drop down tab and navigate to the actual unsubscribe feature, which would only accept the request after you had reported the email as spam. Even though that doesn’t sound like a lot, in an era of instant access to virtually anything on the Internet, it basically equates to a cross country trip for browsers who demand immediate gratification.

As part of the change, the new unsubscribe feature takes a place of prominence in the body of the delivered email. If you open up a new message on Gmail now, you’ll see an underlined option labeled “Unsubscribe” right next to the sender’s name. Taking our little cross-country analogy a step farther, this change is like bringing the unsubscribe feature not only to your city, but essentially having it move in next door.

What This Means for Gmail Users

Google’s message to Gmail users is loud and clear with this change – if you want to unsubscribe from a promotional email, it should be a simple and easy affair. Considering that Gmail already sorts emails into three basic tabs (primary, promotional, and social), it’s fairly telling that one of the most popular emails services on the web is pushing users to turn away from marketed emails. However, the reality of the situation boils down to a few simple truths. Some people will use the feature often, others won’t even realize it’s there for them to use, and then the rest – which make up the most important group in the eyes of any email marketer – actually want to receive valuable and engaging promotional offers.

Is This Bad for the Email Marketing Industry?

Obviously, nobody in the digital marketing industry wants to see anything that might nudge audiences in the direction of being less accessible. At first glance, it’s only natural to assume that this means email marketing is in for rough seas when it comes to navigating the waters of the Gmail user-base. However, there’s no need to stress – this isn’t exactly a doom and gloom scenario.

Consumers who didn’t connect with your offerings simply would have ignored the email anyway, so it works out to about the same outcome. What really matters is still having access to those who enjoy and engage with your content, which is still a readily available situation on Gmail and every other major mail platform. With this in hand, you can still build a smart and successful marketing initiative that keeps your brand in touch with the right audience.

What About Your Next Campaign?

Given that users have easier access to the unsubscribe feature on Gmail, avoiding a negative reaction will require you to continue offering high quality content, or take it up a notch to keep the viewer interested. Unfortunately for those who are running a barebones campaign that puts an emphasis on quantity over quality, Gmail users might not react so favorably with such a simple and expedient way of saying “No thanks.” To combat this, you’ll have to go above and beyond promotional emails and offer real value in the form of information or discounts to your audience. If you experience an initial backlash from your established contacts on Gmail, remember that patience is a virtue. Between quality offerings and a constant dedication to maintaining and growing your mailing list, the whole unsubscribe dilemma will move from a potential doomsday scenario to just a small footnote in the history of successful email marketing campaigns.

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Google is perpetually looking to break the mold when it comes to allowing users to connect with each other. However, the tech giant may have stirred up the pot in a big way with a recent announcement that focuses on its burgeoning social network and one of the most popular email services on the web. Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on, brushing up on this development and how it affects the world of email communications, before the change goes live, is a smart idea for anyone who uses these tools or has an interest in the email marketing industry.

So What Happened Exactly?

In a recent blog post, Google announced a new social media feature for Google Plus. The search engine leader plans to add the capability to email anyone on the Google Plus network, as long as they also have an existing Gmail address tied to their accounts. For those who have been around the social media scene for a while, Google tried this before with its previous social media system, Buzz. While Buzz didn’t blow up and take the Internet by storm as the company would have liked, the networking landscape has changed drastically since that time. Before this functionality goes live, Google plans to email Gmail and Google Plus users to let them know how this new avenue of access may potentially affect their ability to connect and socialize with others who use these services.

How Will It Work?

While it looks fairly simple at first glance, Google has several caveats that affect how you can utilize this service, according to a breakdown from the New York Times Tech blog, Bits. To start, simply typing in someone’s name in the email entry field on Gmail won’t get you on your way to connecting with new friends. Before you can contact these individuals, you’ll have to “follow” them on Google Plus. Once you click the follow button on the person’s profile, which doesn’t require his or her permission, feel free to shoot off an email from your Gmail account by typing the person’s name into the recipient field.

There are a few other things to keep in mind once you send off an email. First, the receiving party’s email address won’t be visible to you unless he or she decides to respond. Additionally, the emails that originate from Google Plus won’t end up in the “Primary” inbox tab in Gmail. Instead, recipients will find these messages under the “Social” tab with other transmissions from social networks and similar properties. Additionally, opting out of the process is also an option. By selecting the “General” tab under the Gmail settings section of the inbox, you can turn this feature off and avoid unsolicited emails entirely.

Why Google Thinks This Is a Great Idea

There are a few other things to keep in mind once you send off an email. First, the receiving party’s email address won’t be visible to you unless he or she decides to respond. Additionally, the emails that originate from Google Plus won’t end up in the “Primary” inbox tab in Gmail. Instead, recipients will find these messages under the “Social” tab with other transmissions from social networks and similar properties. Additionally, opting out of the process is also an option. By selecting the “General” tab under the Gmail settings section of the inbox, you can turn this feature off and avoid unsolicited emails entirely.

Why Others Aren’t So Excited

While the search engine and social media leader might be excited, it’s not unexpected to have a few naysayers pop up around every major announcement. As noted in the aforementioned NY Times blog, the fear of this new feature compromising user privacy is apparently an issue to some. While Internet privacy is a very serious issue and not something to simply brush aside, reading the official blog release on the subject illuminates two key points on this subject. First, simply not responding to entries that fall into the social tab is completely acceptable. Second, the aforementioned opt-out feature exists in this new structure to allow those not looking to make new connections a chance to turn off this functionality and close the doors to outside communications if they so choose.

What It Means in the Long Run

So what does this mean for email communications moving forward? To start, if adoption of this new program enjoys sustained success, expect other major players in the email and social media industries to follow the lead and build connections of their own. Even if this doesn’t happen, simply having one of the leaders in this sector bridge the gap opens up some great opportunities for individuals and organizations looking to reach out to others with similar interests or shared needs.

To wrap things up, this latest innovation from Google has the ability to revolutionize how users of Gmail and social media connect. By offering an optional service to forge new contacts, marketers and individuals alike can reach out to one another and exchange information voluntarily. Naturally, privacy is a big issue when it comes to meeting new people on the Internet, and many will undoubtedly want to opt out before the emails start flowing in. However, Google has clearly offered enough flexibility and options to make this a lasting and potentially beneficial change to how you interact with others in virtual space.

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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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