The Effect of Gmail Image Proxy to Email Marketers

Recently Gmail announced its latest feature, called Image Proxy. Before diving into details on this feature and its effect on email open detections, let me mention that it’s the only feature released by email services in the last few years that’s beneficial to email marketers.

You’re reading this right. Gmail’s latest feature is a big advantage for you, email marketers.

How so?

The answer is simple. From now on, Gmail displays images by default. When you send your HTML emails, your recipients will no longer see an email with several empty rectangles in place of images.

Also they will no longer need to click  the “show images inside the email” link to make your email “human readable”.

The second advantage to this is images inside your email will now load fast. This is because Gmail will “cache” them before your recipients open the email. Once the email is opened, the images inside it will be displayed from Gmail’s servers.

Screenshot taken from Gmail's blog

To wrap it up, you have two advantages:

  1. Your email will be displayed with all  its images enabled by default
  2. The images within your email will load rather fast and your recipients won’t have to wait several seconds to see your email’s images

Are There any Side Effects with Gmail’s Image Proxy?

There is one side effect to this cool feature: it makes email open detections inaccurate. Why? This is a bit technical, so let me explain with plain English.

When you send your HTML email, we (and all other ESPs) add a small transparent image into the HTML email content. This image is used to track the recipient’s email open activity. When the recipient opens your email and loads all images inside the email, this image is also loaded and we detect the open activity.

We log the activity. We also log the following data:

  • The number of times each recipient opens your email
  • Unique opens
  • The location of the recipient (city & country)
  • The email client (iPhone mail, Outlook, Apple Mail, Gmail, Yahoo, etc.)
  • Several other metrics

Now, however, Gmail is downloading images whenever your very first email hits their servers,  and before it’s delivered to the recipient’s inbox. When all images are downloaded, the email open tracking image is also downloaded and cached.

This causes all email opens to be detected from Mountain View, California, the location of Google’s headquarters.  As a consequence, email open detections are inaccurate, which in turn, definitely affects email senders who measure their metrics and optimize their follow-up deliveries.

Is There a Solution to This Dilemma?

Yes there is, and we have it. It’s already implemented to all Sendloop accounts.  This solution causes unique email open detections to work as expected, which is the important metric for senders. We can not guarantee if Gmail will apply a new procedure to avoid tracking in the future, but for now, Sendloop’s email open detection system works flawlessly with Gmail’s Image Proxy feature.

Got any questions or comments? Don’t hesitate to contact us anytime.

 

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This post was written by Cem Hurturk at December 21, 2013

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