Google has given email marketers an early Christmas present it seems.
This one is exciting too exciting to wait for I guess.
Now when you use Gmail, all images will be cached on Google servers. What does that mean if the word "cached" made you go back to watching YouTube?
It means better privacy, faster load times and what Google wants, less competition overall.
In short, Gmail has basically said they are now showing images by default. This means that Gmail open rates will be much more accurate than ever before.
Every time you open an email that has images, you will see images hidden by default.
The reason for the "display images" button is because images in an email must be loaded from a third-party server.
When it comes to promotional emails and junk mail, usually this server is operated by the entity that sent the email (think SimplyCast).
So when you load these images, you aren't just receiving an image, you are also sending a ton of data about yourself to the email marketer (again, think of SimplyCast and whoever is sending the email).
You may not realize this but loading images from these promotional emails reveals a lot about you. Don't worry it is not as evasive as you may think.
Organizations sending the email get a rough idea of your location via your IP address. They can also see the HTTP referrer, meaning the URL of the page that requested the image.
With the referral data, marketers can see not only what client you are using (desktop app, Web, mobile, etc.) but also what folder you were viewing the email in.
If you had a Gmail folder named "Shopping" and loaded email images in your email, the referral URL would be "https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#label/Shopping".
See how the folder is listed right there in the URL. The same goes for the inbox, junk mail and any other location.
On a side note, in case you were not aware, marketer's have always relied on the opening of images to help check open rates.
The Game Changing News
Google has announced a move that will shut most of these tactics down. Google will now cache all images for Gmail users themselves.
Embedded images will now be saved by Google, and the email content will be modified to display those images from Google's cache, instead of from a third-party server.
Here is the take away for all of the email marketers out there.
You will no longer be able to get any information from images because they will see a single request from Google, which will then be used to send the image out to all Gmail users.
So unless you click on a link, marketers will now have no idea if the email has been seen.
While this does mean improved privacy from email marketers (and who does not like that), Google will now be digging deeper than ever into your emails and literally modifying the contents.
You Can Still Turn it Off
If you were worried about email scanning before, this may take things a step further. However, if you don't like the idea of cached images, you can turn it off in the settings.
This move will allow Google to automatically display images, killing the "display all images" button in Gmail.
Now when you open your email, the images will just be there, no button to click. Now your beautiful images have a greater chance of grabbing the attention of your readers. If the subject line works, now the images will be waiting to further engage.
Also, Google servers should be faster than the usual third-party image host. Worried about Google taking on all that hosting? Don't worry, it's Google after all.
Hosting all images sent to all Gmail users sounds like a huge bandwidth and storage undertaking, but if anyone can do it, it's Google.
The new image handling has already rolled out to desktop users, and it should hit mobile apps sometime in early 2014.
There's also a bonus side effect for Google. customer care team today or leave a comment below.