Gmail has always been a bit of a quagmire for marketers, they lack feedback loops for reporting on spam complaints, they heavily filter email to the junk folder if users aren’t engaging with it and they’ve recently deployed their “Tabs” which scares plenty of marketers into thinking their emails won’t be seen in the inbox again.
Just this past week on Word to the Wise a blog post appeared confirming that Gmail has been re-writing image links in emails. For the non-technical this means that when an email comes to a Gmail inbox (and has images) Gmail is converting the links from the original email to links to the same images but now cached on the Gmail servers. So the first time someone opens your email and the images get downloaded it will register as an open but any subsequent open will retrieve the image from the Gmail server where it has now been cached instead of your servers (and thus registering as opens and clicks).
Big deal, you say, you only care about unique opens. Ok, so maybe you are alright with your metrics this way, did you use any kind of dynamic content or geo-targeted information in your email? That type of information will be impacted as well, it may render properly the first time but it may not ever again.
The full impact of this image re-writing process is still unknown and Google is mum at the moment on the subject. Happy Holidays, right? That’s exactly the present everyone was looking for…hopefully Gmail will help offer up some alternatives or information on how best to navigate the murky waters of their inboxes.