Major Updates to Gmail
In December 2013, Gmail began caching images for users accessing Gmail via a browser and in the mobile Gmail apps. While image caching keeps images safe by checking files for known viruses or malware, it poses a few challenges for accurate collection of open data.
- Opens in the Gmail webmail interface are indistinguishable from opens made on the iOS and Android Gmail mobile app.
- Geolocation data is lost: Opens will show the location(s) where Google’s image proxy server is located.
In addition, some Gmail subscribers have noticed image compression and quality problems, images failing to load, or images loading in the wrong spot.
Action items: Reacting to image caching
Optimize your emails across all Gmail inboxes
Don’t panic. Although device detection is less detailed, you should continue to optimize your emails across all Gmail inboxes. If you relied on geolocation data for targeted emails, you’ll have to try a different strategy for Gmail users—try a campaign or incentive asking users update their location in your subscription center.
Design for images off view
To combat compressed images and non-loading images, anticipate that users may not see images and optimize your emails for this scenario. Use ALT text, background colors, and lots of live text to ensure your subscribers will be able to read and interact with your email regardless of whether images are present.
Automatic Image Downloads
Shortly after introducing image caching, Gmail began automatically displaying images. The effects of this change became evident with an increase in Gmail opens in early 2014—and continued throughout the year.
Email tracking relies on a unique image (often known as a tracking pixel) in your campaign loading within the email. Every time the image is downloaded from the server, the tracking software or ESP marks that email as an open. While Gmail formerly asked users to click a link to download all images (including the invisible open tracking image), all images are now automatically downloaded and displayed. The net result is an increase in open rates.
Overall, Gmail opens increased 73% in 2014, largely a result of the introduction of image enablement and image caching.
Action item: Still optimize for images-off viewing
You’ll have a sense of relief knowing that your Gmail subscribers will, by default, see your design and associated content. However, be sure to still optimize for images-off viewing since many email clients, like Outlook, still block images by default.
In February, Gmail introduced an automatic unsubscribe option, which is available to all users using Gmail in a web browser. Rather than searching for the unsubscribe link in an email, Gmail users can now unsubscribe with a simple click right at the top of the message.
While auto-unsubscribe makes it easier for subscribers to remove themselves from your lists, it may also reduce spam complaints and frustrated users—and may even help improve your sender reputation! Rather than marking an email as spam because a user can’t find an unsubscribe link, they will now easily be able to unsubscribe from your emails. The removal of disengaged and disinterested subscribers from your mailing lists may be beneficial to your overall email marketing program.
Action item: Implement the automatic unsubscribe
Use this feature to your advantage!
Use this feature to your advantage! Having an engaged list and fewer spam reports is definitely good news. The auto-unsubscribe feature is only available to senders who are not known spammers, have a positive sending reputation, and who utilize a “List-Unsubscribe” line in the mailing header.
List-Unsubscribe: <mailto:email@example.com>, <http://somedomain.com/user/unsubscribe/?sid=abcdefg>
You can choose to use an email address, a URL (we’d recommend linking to your subscription center), or both in the List-Unsubscribe header.
In this example, both methods of List-Unsubscribe are used. If this occurs, then the latter of the two will display as the unsubscribe action. If you choose to use an email address, then subscribers will receive the following notice if they click on the auto-unsubscribe link:
In this use case, Google will send an email to the sender requesting to have that subscriber removed from future sendings. However, if you choose to use a URL, then subscriber will receive this notice:
In this case, Gmail is simply passing along the unsubscribe link used by the sender. The unsubscribe process is the same as if the unsubscribe link in the body of the email had been clicked.
And, don’t worry about your unsubscribe rates going up too much! Campaign Monitor found that there hasn’t been a significant increase in unsubscribe rates since Google rolled out this new feature.
Promotions Tab Grid View
In March 2014, Gmail introduced a visual alternative to the Promotions tab, called grid view. Grid view is currently available for users that have opted-in and are using the Gmail web interface. Taking a page out of the Pinterest playbook, grid view brings large graphics and infinite scrolling to the Promotions tab.
In accounts where grid view is enabled, Gmail displays each email with a large featured image, sender name, subject line, and sender image. Note that preview text is no longer displayed!
Action item: Optimize your emails for this new inbox
Define your grid view image with custom Gmail schema
While there was plenty of fanfare immediately following the release of grid view, the excitement (and adoption) has seemed to wane. Unfortunately, there’s no way to measure how many of your emails are opened in grid view. If you’re a retailer that sees a high volume of Gmail opens, have a highly visual brand, or know your audience consists of tech early adopters, you may want to consider optimizing your emails for Gmail’s grid view. You’ll need to implement specific markup—called schema—into the HTML of your email. We’ve developed a handy (and free!) Gmail Promotion Tab Code Generator to help you create the code you’ll need to add to your HTML email campaigns.
For emails that don’t contain this specialized schema, Gmail will use an algorithm to determine which image should be featured. The sender name and subject line still come from your actual email, while the sender image is pulled from your company’s verified Google+ profile. If you don’t have a verified Google+ profile, the logo portion of the message will be the first letter of your sender name.
Yahoo's Update (Or, Step Back)
Yahoo Drops Support for Align Attributes
In May 2014, Mark Lillicrapp, a Litmus Community member, noticed that Yahoo no longer supports the center align HTML attribute. Many email designers use to center tables in their campaigns. This technique helps prevent content from pushing up against the edges of the email body and generally makes for a better looking email. As a result of this issue, tables are displayed to the left of their intended position.
Action item: Use a little code to fix the issue
Set your outermost containing table to
Litmus Community to the rescue! One of our most active members, Mark Robbins, quickly discovered a fix for the alignment issue.
<!-- CONTAINER TABLE --> <table width="100%" style="table-layout: fixed;"> <tr> <td> <!-- NESTED TABLES AND EMAIL CONTENT --> </td> </tr> </table>
This CSS property fixes the issue and doesn’t affect how other email clients render campaigns—meaning that it’s safe to include in your emails from here on out.
Be sure to test (or re-test) templates and emails to ensure the fix is working correctly. Pay special attention to transactional or automated emails that may not see continued edits over time.