Marketers excited about Gmail image display changes

Tracking unique users who opened an email was made possible, marketers said

Google's move to start displaying email images by default in Gmail is going to help marketers, in part, to more accurately track how many people open their emails.

Gmail will start serving images through its proxy servers rather than serve images directly from their external hosts, Google announced Thursday. This allows Google to check the images for viruses and malware before an image is showed in Gmail. This extra step means that it is now secure enough to let Gmail users see images displayed in desktop browsers and in mobile devices running iOS and Android, it said.

Before Gmail users had to click the "display images below" link to see them.

Allowing images by default lets marketers better track how many people open their emails. Many email service providers that send bulk email on behalf of clients use a tiny, single pixel sized image in each email, Matthew Grove of MailChimp said in a blog post.

When someone views the images in an email with a tracking pixel MailChimp's image hosting servers gets a request for the tiny image to load, and that request is used to track how many unique persons opened the email and how often they opened it, Grove said.

Google's decision to start caching the images on its servers lowers email marketers' ability to track repeat opens, Grove said, but turning those images on means, in theory, unique opens can be tracked more accurately.

"That's exciting in a nerdy data way," he said.

It would indeed increase overall accuracy of "emails read," said Kimon Zorbas, vice president of IAB Europe, in an email. Before there were probably users who read the emails without downloading the associated pictures, he said. "Now, Gmail will always download the picture, so you capture those users you didn't before."

Google said that in some cases, senders may be able to know whether an individual has opened a message with unique image links. However, if Gmail considers a sender or message potentially suspicious, images won't be displayed and people will be asked if they want to see the images, it added.

Senders can't use image loading to get information like an IP address or location, nor can they use it to set or read cookies in a browser, according to Google. That might be a disadvantage when companies want to know the devices or browsers people use to read the emails and also hides locations based on IP addresses.

Gmail users can still decide to view an email's images on a message-by-message basis by checking the option "ask before displaying external images" under the general tab in settings, Google said. This option will also still be the default for users who previously selected "ask before displaying external content", it added

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

Using artificial intelligence to surprise your customers

​We have expected artificial intelligence (AI) will become part of our everyday lives for quite some time.

Katja Forbes

Founder and chief, sfyte

Is customer segmentation dead?

Ginni Rometty, the CEO of IBM, announced the death of customer segmentation five years ago saying, "The shift is to go from the segment to the individual. She might have been a bit premature for most marketers, but if customer segmentation isn't dead yet, it's definitely on life support.

Richard Taylor

Senior digital strategist, Spinach

How people buy brands

Andrew Ehrenberg was a giant in the field of marketing science. He believed scientific methods could reveal law-like patterns of how people buy. In this post, I summarise one of Ehrenberg’s most important discoveries and its implications on how people buy brands.

Kyle Ross

Strategist, TRP

What a great article. Thanks for sharing. Today Digital Marketing is the basic need for a business to survive. As online presence is very...

Ecomsolver Private Limited

Want to master digital transformation? Stop thinking about your own problems

Read more

Feeling grateful that customer led digital transformation could improve business and generate more business growth. Many companies are no...

Lilly Lawrence

How a customer-led digital transformation has helped this CMO generate $6m in incremental business

Read more

If a business games me happy than there is a higher chance I will go to them.

Martinez

The Iconic: becoming customer-focussed transformed our business

Read more

That’s a great example of surprising AR ad that went viral because it was first of its kind. Probably a similar effect to some scale can ...

Natasha Kvitka

Using artificial intelligence to surprise your customers

Read more

Hey there! it is a really meaningful post. I too have written a few similar articles about SEM, SEO, Social Media, Digital Marketing Tren...

Rohit

Digital advertising continues to dominate marketing budgets

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in