Google’s Image Announcement

You probably saw the following Google blog entry or heard about it second-hand: Images Now Showing, by by John Rae-Grant.

This means that Google is now acting as an intermediary between your customer and your email image server.

This was a scary announcement. It could potentially mean a great deal to people who do email marketing. Gmail is the world's largest email service. They had 425 million users in June of 2012 (source). They almost certainly have more now. This announcement means that the metrics email markets use are now in jeopardy.

Metrics are one of the huge advantages of email marketing. By customizing the tags in each email, marketers are able to see who read an email, when they read it, how many times they read it, and generally what city they read it from. They can even make an educated guess, if they care to, about whether the email was read at work or at home. They can sometimes tell if the email was read on an iPhone, and Android device, a Windows computer or a Mac, etc.

In one stroke, Google has taken some of this away. Google will read the images for the recipient, and then display the image to the recipient via their own servers. This allows them to make sure the image is well formed and safe, but also allows them to mask who is seeing the image. No longer will advertisers see lines like this one in their logs: - - [28/Dec/2013:22:40:23 -0600] "GET /ad14_60_10.jpg HTTP/1.1" 200 25184 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 7_0_4 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/537.51.1 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/7.0 Mobile/11B554a Safari/9537.53"

This log entry, as you can see gives plenty of information about the device the recipient is using: an iPhone running Safari on IOS 7, from a Chicago Comcast IP, which means this person is certainly not on the train and very likely either at home, at a coffee-shop, or working at a small business. In some situations, you may even be able to tell whether the email has already been sorted into a folder.

Jensen Toperzer of's In The Box blog says "All this data can be quite valuable to email marketers: location data lets you better target your advertising based on where someone lives, and which folder they viewed it from lets you know if your email is being re-directed to their spam box. (source)"

Instead, now the logs will show the following: - - [28/Dec/2013:22:11:33 -0600] "GET /ad14_60_10.jpg HTTP/1.1" 200 25184 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; de; rv: Gecko/2009021910 Firefox/3.0.7 (via GoogleImageProxy)"

No more insight into where the recipient is, what device he or she is using, or who the recipient's ISP is, because the IP will always be a Google IP, and the browser identification string will be whatever Google decides to send.

But the news isn't all bad. Instead of being prompted whether to load images, recipients are now seeing the images right away. Google is opting-in even people who had set their settings to not show images at all (source). This means that no one is reading your marketing emails without a corresponding line appearing in your image server's access log.

Kirsten Schlau on says:

"For marketers, this is terrific news ... Your creative is front and center now more than ever.

Gone are the days of worrying about ALT Text and planning for images being off. With more of your consumers able to easily view your emails with images on, your creative will soon be able to take center stage, providing a better brand impression for recipients."

And even if that log entry says it's coming from Google, it still has the image name, so images customized for a recipient still work like a champ: - - [28/Dec/2013:22:13:39 -0600] "GET /ad14_60_10.jpg?EMAIL_ID=123456789123456789&target=John_Smith HTTP/1.1" 200 25185 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; de; rv: Gecko/2009021910 Firefox/3.0.7 (via GoogleImageProxy)"

So far, a log line like the above is generated at least the first time the email is opened on the Gmail Web page. Expect your email opened numbers to increase somewhat this month and even more so in January, if Google makes good on their promise to roll this into their iPhone and Android apps.

Posted by Heaju Pomerleau on 01/10