Maximizing Deliverability

How New Gmail Image Caching Affects Email Marketers

gmail image cachingLast week Gmail began to cache images for messages received by its users. This caused an uproar within the email marketing industry, as this action negatively affects a marketer's ability to track total opens.  If a tracking image pixel is cached, it can only be used once - all subsequent opens of that image would not tracked. Since this was first noticed, there have been many public discussions among email marketers about why Google would make this change.  Well, it looks like we now have our answer.

Google announced today that it would begin showing images in messages by default. Gmail indicates that now "your messages are more safe and secure, your images are checked for known viruses or malware, and you’ll never have to press that pesky 'display images below' link again." 

This would appear to be a win for marketers and consumers. Marketers' messages will now display the way they intended them to, and they will likely see an increase in unique "open" data as the tracking pixels should be enabled by default as well.

The one initial downside could be a decrease in total opens due to the issue mentioned above; however, the usefulness of the total opens metric has been under debate for a while. The good news for consumers (and marketers) is that they will no longer have to click to allow images to be displayed for every message they receive.

You can read about it more on the Gmail Blog:

UPDATE 12-13-13 - It looks like Desktop Gmail users started getting images on by default today with mobile users being affected in the New Year. More information at MarketingLand. and Washington Post

Posted by: Sean Wirt at 2:44 PM
Categories: gmail deliverability

The New Gmail Inbox

This week Google announced that it is rolling out a new Gmail inbox for its users. Google says that the new inbox "puts you back in control using simple, easy organization." The short of it is a new filtering system that organizes incoming email by its type and/or function. Here's how it works.

The new Gmail inbox will have four tabs for categorizing your mail: "Primary" for your most important messages, "Social" for social media updates, "Promotions" for marketing messages, and "Updates for bills, receipts and other transactional communications.  Google is rolling out the new interface gradually, and once rolled out, Gmail users will be able to choose which, if any, of the tabs they would like to use.  

Once you've been switched to the new inbox, Gmail will automatically drop your messages in the appropriate tab. For example, if you would like messages from a certain sender to always appear in your Primary tab, you simply star one of the sender’s messages and all future messages from that particular sender will always be assigned there. If you’re not a fan of the new look or experience, you can choose to switch back to the old interface. However, if you're not a fan because you're a marketer, the solution isn't so easy.

A marketer's biggest concern will be to the extent that the new Gmail inbox assigns their messages to the Promotions folder – never to be seen again! One way to prevent this is to encourage your customers to star your messages so they will always land in the Primary tab. This also highlights the need for your messages to be relevant, expected and desired. If you use good content, offers or other lures to properly incentivize your customers to read your emails, there's a better chance they'll track them down wherever they wind up.  Obviously, having your messages land in the Primary tab is the best option, but landing in the Promotions tab isn’t the end of the world if your established a valued relationship with your customers. There is also the issue of adoption. If consumers reject the new inbox and revert to the old style, you'll see little impact at all.  

As marketers, we won't know the real impact until it's rolled out more universally, but it's a good excuse to watch inbox placement at Gmail and focus on sending relevant content. If you would like to check out the new inbox sooner rather than later, and possibly even do some testing, Gmail advises to "keep an eye on the gear menu and select Configure inbox when it appears in the Settings options."

Engagement will most likely still be a key factor in determining reputation and, ultimately, overall delivery. Thus, you should keep a sharp eye on delivery and engagement metrics (opens and clicks) to monitor performance over time.

Posted by: Sean Wirt at 2:19 PM
Categories: gmail, new gmail inbox, gmail inbox

A Creative Approach to Solving Gmail Deliverability Issues

I've been a BIG fan of Shari's Berries and ProFlowers for years! Whenever my family is in a pinch to send last-minute gifts, we almost always send berries. As a fan, I subscribed to their mailing list years ago so that I could take advantage of their great deals. Occasionally, I noticed that some of their messages were going to my spam folder in Gmail. Knowing the effect this had on my receiving their messages in my inbox, I naturally clicked the "Not Spam" button in Gmail. (Of course, many "average Joes" don't realize the impact that has, but I won't go off on that tangent!)

Anyhow, a few months back, I started noticing that the subject lines of some of my messages From Shari's Berries and ProFlowers were targeted at Gmail users. There were subjects such as "Gmail Users Weekend Sales Event: 59% off a Gift Mom will Remember Forever" and "Our Easter Flash Sale for Gmail Users is Now! 63% off Delicious Easter Strawberries." I remember being at a MAAWG event when I received the first one and pointed out to colleagues what a great idea it was. They even went so far as to send out a message with this subject: "Gmail Notice: Please check your settings today." I distinctly remember forwarding that one out to our deliverability team saying something like "Wow! Check this out!"

The email included step-by-step instructions on how to report the message as "Not Spam" and also how to add the "From" address to their address book. Not only did they tell you how to do it, they gave you a visual depiction of the process – love it!


All of this background leads to my point. Industry columnist Ken Magill posted a Magill Report article last week talking specifically about ProFlowers' campaigns (ProFlowers and Shari's Berries are both parts of the Provide Commerce family of brands) and the effect they had on delivery. Ken writes: "But during the week of March 19th, ProFlowers' Gmail inbox placement rate jumped from 35.9 percent to 71.8 percent, according to eDataSource. Two weeks later, the rate surpassed 85 percent, according to eDataSource. The following week—and every week thereafter—the rate has been above 95 percent, according to eDataSource. ProFlowers started using subject lines targeted to Gmail users at the end of February and stopped in April, according to eDataSource. The results speak for themselves."

I love when marketers get creative in their efforts to improve delivery (especially when it works)! The lesson here is that when you think outside the box can you can be rewarded with GREAT results. If you find you're getting caught in the spam folder at one of your key ISPs and any overtures to their postmaster team hasn't produced any results, then don't be afraid to create a campaign to correct the problem.

Posted by: Sean Wirt at 10:51 AM
Categories: deliverability, gmail, email

GMail now displaying images in messages from your contacts

Repost from GMail Blog:

GMail now displaying images in messages from your contacts
Monday, July 20, 2009 5:58 PM
Posted by David de Kloet, Software Engineer

When an email references external images, Gmail usually doesn't display them automatically. Instead we show placeholders and present you with the option to "Display images below" or "Always display images from" that sender.

We do this to help protect your privacy from spammers, who can use images and links to verify that your email address is real.

But often the messages you get with images are from friends or family and there's no reason to worry about your privacy — you just want to see the photo of your newborn niece or the invitation design they're sending you. So, in these cases, we've decided to start displaying images by default. Now, whenever someone you've emailed at least twice sends you a message containing images, you'll see them right away. Note that we picked this threshold of two messages to start with, but we may tweak it if it doesn't seem right going forward. And we only display images by default for authenticated messages (using SPF or DKIM). Gmail and other big mail providers usually authenticate their mail, but other services might not, so it's possible you'll get an email from one of your contacts where images aren't displayed by default.

If you prefer to go back to the way things were, you can choose not to display images from certain senders or from anyone. To disable images from an individual sender, click "Don't display from now on" under the "Show details" link of an email from them with images. To disable images from everybody, select "Ask before displaying external content" under "External content" on the general Settings tab.

Posted by: Spencer Kollas at 9:17 AM
Categories: deliverabilty, delivery, gmail, rendering, spam, spammers

News from Gmail on Authentication

Here's the latest news on Gmail authentication, straight from the source....

New in Labs: The super-trustworthy, anti-phishing key
Monday, July 13, 2009 9:43 AM
Posted by Brad Taylor, Gmail Spam Czar

We're always looking for new ways to protect Gmail inboxes from spam and phishing. Last year, we started taking extra steps to protect you from fake eBay and PayPal emails, requiring that any email claiming to come from one of eBay's or PayPal's domains actually comes from them. We do that by looking at the "From" header, and when it says "" for example, it means it really did come from Anything else is rejected; it won't even appear in your spam folder because Gmail won't accept it.

Now, unless you are a regular reader of this blog with a photographic memory, you may not be aware of this extra protection. So, we thought we'd add a little something to remind you. Turn on "Authentication icon for verified senders" from the Labs tab under Settings, and you'll see a key icon next to verified emails that are super-trustworthy.

"Super-trustworthy" is a technical term I just invented that means: (1) the sender, usually a financial institution, is a target of phishers, (2) all of the sender's email is authenticated with DKIM, and (3) Gmail rejects any fake messages that claim to come from this sender, but actually don't.

It's a bit of work for senders to make their email super-trustworthy, which is why this feature is limited to just eBay and PayPal right now. We hope to add more senders in the future, and when we do, you'll know because you'll see the super-trustworthy key icon magically appear by those senders too. Give it a whirl and let us know what you think.

Posted by: Spencer Kollas at 9:59 AM
Categories: authentication, deliverabilty, delivery, gmail