Update: Gmail Image Blocking And Caching
By Amanda Gagnon December 16, 2013
If you haven’t already heard, Gmail will now start displaying images within emails by default, instead of blocking them by default as in the past.
This means more accurate reports of email opens from Gmail subscribers.
Initially, the change also meant repeat opens by the same subscribers would not be communicated, but our devs cracked down and found a fix.
This means both your unique and total open rate reports will, with Gmail’s update, be more accurate than was possible before.
(If a subscriber doesn’t load images, no matter the email provider or service, opens aren’t reported.)
Here’s The Breakdown
Who this affects:
- Your subscribers who use Gmail.
- Your open rate reports from subscribers who use Gmail.
What you gain:
- More accurate open rate reporting, both for unique opens and total opens.
- Open rates will appear to increase as more opens in Gmail are reported.
What stays the same:
- You can still segment by opens and have this include more accurate opens that would not have shown before.
- While some are worried that Gmail caching the images to Google’s servers (details here) would interfere with accurate reports, our recent changes and testing show that it will not be affected.
What your subscribers gain:
- They can see all your images and interact with emails immediately on opening.
- Gmail is more stringently protecting emails for more thorough blocking of inappropriate images.
- If they choose, they can still keep images blocked using the “don’t show images” flag.
A note on timing: the Gmail updates rolling out currently and will extend to mobile apps in early 2014. That means any increases in open rates and engagement will occur gradually during that time period.
For those subscribers choosing to proactively disable images, don’t forget to make sure you apply useful, clear alt text to any images in your emails.
Read the more technical explanation behind these updates on Gmail’s blog.
Also, if you haven’t used images in your emails in the past, consider this: adding even a simple logo will add significant accuracy to your open rates, since all emails that include images can be tracked. You can still send plain text emails and add just a logo or image with the Plain Text HTML template.
Oh, and your images can be hosted on AWeber itself, for free – an unlimited number of them.
CP12/17/2013 11:26 pm
Good to know that this won’t affect the monitoring of open rates.
I think many were definitely concerned that the cacheing might cause many problems.
Kelly Rudolph12/18/2013 5:00 pm
AWEsome! I’m so excited about this and went through 53 autoresponders over the weekend and added my picture and logo to each one thanks to your informative blog posts and emails. Thank you! 🙂
Amanda Gagnon12/19/2013 6:04 am
CP – It definitely rang alarm bells. 🙂
Kelly – You are welcome, and way to get on that!
Martin12/19/2013 4:26 pm
Just to be clear – any images or logos have to be uploaded to and therefore hosted by Aweber to improve tracking open rates don’t they? [Which given Awebers unlimited image storage, that’s not a problem of course ;-)]
fabrice12/19/2013 6:42 pm
Is it better to host the image on my website or on aweber?
Pallav12/19/2013 9:48 pm
I think you misunderstood, the original blog post says Gmail will be proxying all images which means email sender get absolute zero data on opens.
“But thanks to new improvements in how Gmail handles images, you?ll soon see all images displayed in your messages automatically across desktop, iOS and Android. Instead of serving images directly from their original external host servers, Gmail will now serve all images through Google?s own secure proxy servers.”
So bye bye open rates.
They must be doing this to promote their new gmail ad format which looks like an display ad but opens like an email.
Martin12/20/2013 3:43 pm
@Pallav – the Aweber tracking image uses a unique URL for each recipient. So the use of a proxy to fetch the images will not impact open rates – they still have to fetch the image for each user, because it appears to be different.
Amanda Gagnon12/20/2013 5:08 pm
Martin – Nope! Host them anywhere. The difference is, people who opened but didn’t bother to load images before and thus weren’t counted as opens, now will be counted when they open, since the images load by default.
Pallav, That does seem the way of things, but our developers tested extensively, and we’re seeing the opens.
Fabrice, If you want to use the images on your web site as well, you might as well upload them there and then just paste the URL in when you create an email. If not, you might as well save the time and just upload them directly into AWeber. Either way, they’ll work the same in Gmail and everywhere else.
Martin12/20/2013 6:48 pm
@Amanda – Sorry, but that can’t be right :-). If you don’t host an image on Aweber, there is fundamentally no way Aweber can track the loading of that particular image when the email is opened (i.e. there is no http request that goes anywhere near an Aweber server otherwise, it’s purely the image host, Google and the end user). This is why Aweber include a 1×1 pixel within HTML emails for the purpose of tracking open rates.
So if you’re suggesting that including images enhances open rate detection, you must have to upload that image to Aweber. Presumably your techies are then using one of those images as the tracking image (under a unique URL per user) instead of using the 1×1 pixel image, which would be less likely to be blocked or filtered by any email provider.
Amanda Gagnon12/23/2013 9:16 am
Martin, you are correct, we track with the pixel. I am not saying that including other images enhances open rate detection. What I am saying is that, if you were sending plain-text messages before, switching to HTML messages to include images (or for any other reason, actually) means your opens will be tracked. I’ll clarify the language above.
Ivan Widjaya12/26/2013 11:45 pm
I guess this is some good news for e-mail marketers who are simply fond of using HTML in their e-mails. While I am hardly a fan because it may take some time to load and it does not load on my mobile phone, I guess it is a path that GMail wants to take.
Rishikesh Somshetti12/28/2013 4:29 am
This is an interesting development for marketers and end user. For marketers it will give more accurate results and users will have save 1 click to see the images. But recently google has also started caching images which I feel will hit open rates adversely.
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Tour du monde8/11/2014 7:42 am
Thanks for the tips !
I would like to use an image on my emails, but i really don’t know if it’s better to upload them on my website or in aweber !
Could you help me with that ?