Thanks, Google: Cashing In on Gmail Caching

Inplace #2

ADOTAS – Last month, Google announced that it was going to be making a few changes to Gmail:

  • Gmail will automatically display images in emails viewed on both the Web version of Gmail and on mobile devices when viewed within Gmail’s app, unless users choose not to allow it. This means no more need to click on “Display Images.”
  • Gmail will now host those email images, meaning they’ll be downloaded once by the Google caching server and delivered by the Gmail server.

Google claimed this was good for consumers.

How? Before the changes, when people downloaded images, the third-party server that sent them could collect a ton of data about them.

That was great for email marketers who rely on that info to optimize their targeting capabilities. With the changes, email marketers can no longer access the same rich real-time data because embedded email images will be downloaded by the Google proxy server rather than the actual end user’s email client.

So, like anything new and innovative, this news was greeted with a frenzied panic in the email marketing community.

But there’s another point of view. We could choose to believe that what’s good for the consumer is good for the email marketer. We could actually embrace image caching as just another in a series of welcome innovations by Google that helped make 2013 “The Year of Email,” and one that will ultimately be seen as a boon to email marketing and creatives.


As soon as people open their email, the creative images marketers so carefully craft have the chance to delight — instead of getting lost in the void of unloaded images.

Plus, email opens – as measured by email marketers – are sure to increase. For many reasons.

For starters, impressions are counted as soon as users open the emails instead of after they take the extra step of clicking on “Display Images.”  This means more email ad creative being seen by consumers without requiring more clicks.

Second, since emails are more privacy-friendly than before, people are more likely to open them.

Third, images will entice more opens. Images will always be more powerful than any copy or subject line. And now those images will be rendered in their full glory, even through the preview pane.

Will this provide some new challenges for marketers and their email ad campaigns, since they’ll no longer have access to the same data about the end user? Of course. Anything new that is introduced to the inbox environment is guaranteed to throw some kinks into established ways of doing things.

But there are ways around the impact on email ad targeting capabilities. For any ad campaigns that are relying on targeting criteria that might be compromised by Gmail’s caching, marketers can use offline first- and third-party data, or custom audience (non-cache based) techniques.

Or marketers can use browser targeting to exclude Gmail users who are actually using the Gmail web interface, to ensure that all impressions are accurately targeted.

The important thing is that Gmail’s latest inbox innovations mean more ads delighting more customers, which means each impression is bound to have more brand-boosting value. And that’s a good thing for everybody.