It appears that around the start of this week Google implemented a change to how linked images are handled in Gmail webmail.
Update in 2016: this was a temporary change and Google rolled a lot of it back. But it remains a cautionary tale about how easily marketers can find their vital data is cut off. You need a "Plan B".
What can this mean?
- Only the first user unique open may be reported. Reporting of your gross or total open rate for Gmail may drop.
- Geo-location tracking and targeting impacted as location reported is that of a Google server such as Mountain View
- Device tracking shows the wrong device, in particular a drop in Gmail Webmail opens.
- Real time content targeting or dynamic image testing broken as images are not fetched on every load
[The change is that] links to images in emails are being replaced with URLs to Google’s own content serving network.
This means the first time a recipient loads a particular linked image in your email Google will fetch the image from your servers and then for all further loads of that image, by any recipient, if the URL is exactly the same, the image is provided by Google’s own servers.
More from Tim Watson at zettasphere ...
Analysis from Litmus
This is bad news for Email Tracking
Everyone has their own ideas for why Google is making this change - we think it's to speed up GMail, but others suggest it's to collect more data, or hurt the competition. But most email marketers seem to agree that it's a warning flag against open tracking in general. Worse, it would be wise to assume that other WebMail providers will copy Google and do the same. And note that Google could do the same thing with link tracking, by following tracked links and rewriting their destinations back into the email. So both open tracking and link tracking are vulnerable.
You need an Insurance Policy, which is where we come in
Fresh Relevance's reporting data will keep on flowing, because we get data from your eCommerce Website. You'll still get reports on conversions, sessions and purchases. And Triggered Analytics will still load details of your engaged subscribers etc. into your ESP. Not only do you get great sales uplift for little work, you get assurance that you'll still be able to target your emails, whatever Google and other email systems do.
Want to find out more?