Google Update Cuts Off Data from Linked Images in Gmail
Google recently made a change (very quietly, it seems) that affects how linked images are handled in Gmail. For the general public, this probably won’t have much of an obvious impact. For marketers, though—especially those who rely upon image-related data from their email campaigns—this could cut off their access to some valuable information.
In order to understand the impact of this, you must first think about the process involving these email images. Basically, the first time a recipient accesses your image, Google will now shift it to their own servers, thereby replacing your url with one of their own.
As some marketers may already know, when a user downloads your image by opening the email message to which it is attached, they unknowingly reveal several important pieces of information. But this new Gmail change will keep you from seeing this data any longer.
Derek Harding discusses these pieces of information in his ClickZ blog post, Google Quietly Updates Gmail to Cache Images: Impact for Email Marketers.
Location: Normally, a downloaded image reveals the IP address of the user, which can be used to identify that person’s location (at least the general area). The new Google cache system shows IP addresses of the Google data center that will house the image.
Referrer: This tells you what folder your message landed in, and the number of readers using the Gmail web interface. This will no longer
Browser: This would have indicated the browser type and version, along with the operating system and device. Without this information, the image cannot be optimized for a particular browser or device.
Counts: Since the image will now only show as being downloaded once per recipient (at most), the total open rate will decrease.
The main impact of this change will be to analytics and reporting for email campaigns. However, you may also need to make adjustments if you routinely design your images based on device, location or timing.
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