Gmail adds its own unsubscribe link

Gmail Unsub

Gmail Unsub

Gmail is now adding an unsubscribe link at the top of the email, after the Sender Name

Gmail’s had a busy time lately: tabs and auto image loading being the most recent two and before that, smart labels and priority inbox. All there to improve the user experience of the Gmail inbox.

Gmail’s latest little trick is to add an unsubscribe link at the top of the email. This is not far all senders and is not in fact a new feature, they’ve just moved it so it is more prominent.

Back in 2009 Gmail decided to make Unsubscribing easy. This simply gave the user the opportunity to unsubscribe when they hit the spam button. This was kind of pointless, because people who hit the spam button had done so because they did not trust the unsubscribe mechanism provided by the sender and were worried that by doing so they would merely alter the sender of their existence thus ensuring more spam. Alternatively the email might not have had an unsubscribe button at all. All the user wanted to do is not see anymore emails from that sender.

Either way the spam button was still hit and the damage was done to the sender’s reputation in Gmail.

How they unsubscribe them

They key point here is how they were able to unsubscribe them. The funny thing is that Gmail did not invent anything new and nor did any of the other ISPs who also rolled out that same functionality. The method employed is in fact very very old and it’s called the “List-Unsubscribe Header”. (Try reading that back again but in your best Jeremy Clarkson voice!).

In the old days is was simple and the receiving server or person would just process the opt-out of the address which sent the email. Nowadays we have software to send millions of emails very quickly all from one spot, ie: ESPs. This means that the unsubscribe method has to be unique for that recipient at that sender and sometimes even on that particular list but it works the same.

All that used to happen was when someone hit the spam button on an email with an Unsubscribe-Header, Gmail would let them also unsubscribe thus stopping that sender from hitting someone’s junk folder for ever or until they did some engagement cleaning.

(That is if they did engagement cleaning, they might be one of the “Never Remove Inactives Crew” which incidentally has a very long list of “Don’t be stupid rules” which if you break them and have deliverability problems, you don’t get to blame the people who told you to never remove inactives and it’s definitely not their fault, it’s your fault).

So in short, the List-Unsubscribe header is quite a bit like a Feedback loop when activated automatically by hitting the spam button and quite a lot like a unsubscribe link when activated manually by the user.
Of course all of this relies on the sender having these headers.

What Gmail Have Actually Done

Gmail have simply copied the “Unsubscribe” bit of old “Unsubscribe and report a spam” from their spam button process, into the inbox.

Only one email I get actually employs the List-Unsubscribe header, and it’s my Favourite place to get baby gear from for my daughter – free next day delivery if you spend £30 – Kiddicare.

This is what I get from my favourite on-line shop when buying toys and stuff for my kid – this lot do free next days delivery on orders over £30 if you order early enough in the day!!!

… Below they are correctly signing with DKIM, if they didn’t properly sign the Sender-Name would be followed by some kind of “via e.sendersender.com” or something like that and then they would have the unsubscribe link.

kiddiecare

Essentially it looks a little like an Inbox Snippet Preview, where in the inbox they take the top line or two from the message and stick in grey after the bold subject line, except it’s underlined to show it’s a link.

Apparently it is to save their users from scrolling around looking for the link. I think it is far too prominent and should be at the bottom of the page where everyone expects it to be. It could be at the bottom of the frame so people still don’t have to scroll, it would just mean that as they open the email, the new easy to use unsubscribe link won’t appear right under their mouse.

Either way, it’s here if you have a List Unsubscribe Header.

If you don’t and are quite spammy, you might think, “I’m not getting one of those, people will just hit that link”, what you are missing is the fact that without that link your recipients are just hitting the spam button!

If you get on the eventual Gmail FBL you’ll be able to see the counts and when you add your List-Unsubscribe header you should see the complaints go down.

Gmail Android App now auto-loads images

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Got the update through the play store yesterday, updated the app this morning.

We knew it was coming but how they did it was the question. They tend to like to roll it out in bits; for instance: both of my personal accounts got auto-images immediately but my work one only got it last week.

I’ve no idea if they can throttle the roll out of the app update, I’d presumed it was all or nothing but I’m quite content to be wrong about that if anyone knows facts.

Gmail opens a new door to your inbox though Google Plus

G plus email

I received this to two of my Gmail accounts that do not have G+ profiles, I did not receive it to any of my accounts that do have G+ profiles

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While they still bang on about respecting our privacy by not sharing the email addresses it does not mean that you are safe from a lot more unsolicited emails.

Essentially, it defaults to “anyone on Google+” so if you don’t change that, anyone with a Google Plus account can now send you an email.

If you change it to only “circles” people who you follow can email you. Which might not be so bad unless you follow people and brand to consume their content, like you would a blog or twitter: you might not want them to now email you to convert you from a follower to a prospect to a customer, like they would with someone who signs up to their list even people who are unlucky enough to be on a list they buy.

Time will tell about how abused this is but personally I’m not a fan, I don’t think it is the best idea with the low level of control Google have left us.

I’m worried that brands and marketers will see this as a new way into inboxes of followers and start marketing to people, not unlike people on Linkedin sending mass personal messages.

There’s a lot to play with and test and time will tell what happens with it.

Google has fallen very short with the opportunity that Google Plus presents. Circles are a good/novel idea and well executed in IU but poorly executed in function.

The fact that your Google profile is permanently stuck to your email address is the biggest fail of all.
Whilst it helped get new Android users set-up and bedding in, it is a massive barrier to engagement for the more savvy user who left Hotmail or Yahoo for security and spam reasons to now have to open themselves up again in order to enjoy whatever the benefits of G+ might be.

This is why  Facebook still owns that space.

Google could better compete with twitter by offering a headline and link feed of G+ so we don’t have to work so hard to aggregate, choose and consume content on G+.

Google is having some success in the B2B sphere with G+ accounts and hangouts working well with the Docs suite as a full business solution. Microsoft is trying to catch up with office 365 & skype but the G+ profile is more like Linkedin than anything MS has to offer.

Inbox Wars – Gmail images

inbox wars

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As you may or may not have heard Gmail has decided to automatically load images for all of its users.

”yaaaay!” I hear you cry.

“But why didn’t they do this earlier?” … is a great question.

Images are blocked to stop spammers finding about live inboxes and to stop viruses getting into your computers and phones through images. This was a famous way of getting infected back in the late nineties when Outlook used the “open doorway to viruses” that was older versions of internet explorer to render emails. Now Outlook uses MS word, you are far safer, however the rendering is horrific. This is when the preheader “Can’t see this email? click here” was born.

On the back of this almost everyone started to block images for security reasons both in installed email clients and the web-app clients. Except on a Mac as they weren’t targeted with these kind of viruses to the extent Windows was.

Then along came the iPhone and suddenly Windows users were presented with an inbox that didn’t block images; at this point people started to wonder why this wasn’t normal practice.

Since Google is in direct competition with Apple for phones and in direct competition with Microsoft for cloud office, their email services had to keep up with Apple as well as stay ahead of Microsofts Office365 and Outlook.com

Outside of the inbox’s “always show images from this sender” button, Microsoft already had a few auto-load images options:

Senderscore certification: if you qualify, you can pay ReturnPath for a whitelisting which tells most big inboxes such as Yahoo and Hotmail (not Gmail) that you are a safe sender. These inboxes will then let you in and generally auto-load your images. This is particularly good as the images off experience in Hotmail is terrible.

Recently with the rebrand to Outlook.com, Hotmail have been using their background reputation system to decide to auto-load images of some senders. This has not been consistent but a nice change.

Gmail meanwhile was not without it’s own tricks: Gmail’s images off experience was one of the best around. Gmail knows that their audience understand image blocking, so doesn’t go over the top like Microsoft has done previously. Instead Gmail will show alt text in most situations, it will show background colours and will let you style the alt text, Pizza Express used this very well!

Also if a user replies to an address more than twice, Gmail will decide that the sender is a trusted contact and start to autoload the images.

Today, Gmail will lead the windows, online and Android inbox experience with consistent autoloading of images, putting an end to having to load the images each time.

Don’t forget to turn on your Android phone’s email sync!

Hello Gmail Images bye-bye Location and Device reporting

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As announced yesterday on Gmail’s official blog, Gmail will now always show images for all inboxed emails on any device.

This means as long as you use a Gmail official inbox you will not have to do anything to get the images to show once you open the email.

Yaaaay!!!

Just in case you were wondering how Gmail are able to do this safely without the threat of viruses being downloaded through images (this being the reason why they were blocked in the first place), here’s the skinny…

Google are serving the images themselves, not looking them up from your web-space each time!

How, what keh? – I know it’s a bit techy but the point is fairly important, as are the consequences, so bear with me:

When someone, ie: you, opens the email for the first time instead of the inbox loading the images from your image store web space, like a web-page would, Google’s own servers will load the images and save them on Google web space, then the email will load the from there.

Every time you open that email, the images are already at Google and therefore will load much quicker. This also means that Google will have checked every image for security at their end before giving you the images themselves, rather than an unknown party.

I’m not sure how many people visit an email on multiple occasions, but the mobile inbox triage and open by device patterns seem to suggest that people read emails whilst on the go in the day, then click through on the relevant ones when they get home/to work over wifi.

As a receiver and a reader of emails, I am delighted!

As an email marketer I am delighted about the images loading, however I am FURIOUS about the cost!

By caching the images themselves Google has killed off the extra reporting email marketers get when someone loads the images, so no more Opens By Device and Geo-Location reporting.

This is a universal occurrence and will affect all marketers and ESPs a like. It has nothing to do with which software you use to send your emails, it is completely about how Gmail works not how the emails are sent or by who.

The reason why these are affected is because Email marketers’ abilities to have all of this information relies on a single image in the marketing email and the way that image is loaded by the inbox is what tells us which device they use and where(ish) they are.

Now every Gmail open will supply only information about the Google server which caches the images. So you might find that you have a lot of new openers in America or wherever Google’s nearest data centre is.

This is a great pity and I am keeping an eye on the situation. There is a slim chance they will slightly alter the process to let some detail slip through, you’ll know when I know

This will also likely put an end video in Gmail and dull the effects dynamic images.

Video is no great loss, it was only novelty from HTML5 and I’m fine with it being only for web-pages.

Dynamic images are a bit of a loss though. The ability to server up a different image depending on the time someone opens an email is great for sales and deadline offers. If you open an email today you could see an accurate count down timer to Christmas, if you open that email tomorrow the timer will still be correct because it is served dynamically. Now Gmail caches the image you will also only see the first image.

NOT ALL GMail users will be affected – this is only happening to people who use Gmail apps: Gmail browser inbox and Gmail mobile apps; Inboxes like iPhone’s native inbox, Outlook and Thunderbird are not affected!

According to Movableinc: “More Gmail recipients open email on iOS devices (iPhones and iPads) than through any other email service — including web-based Gmail itself, which greatly mitigates the impact of the changes, and is the reason why they only affect 2% – 5% of most email marketers’ subscribers.”

There is rumor that not all ESPs will report repeat opens, any that don’t probably will soon now that EmailExpert has broken the story and given the solution; It is not that worrying for sender, a re-open is very very rare!

Recent Deliverability challenges & getting in the inbox

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Deliverability is always a hot topic, often due to its immense ambiguity.

Working or an ESP where I make it our business to know about this and have produced blogs, guides, infographics and webinars on the subject to continue with our part in “Improving Results together” but it is a consistently evolving area and recently Inbox Placement has got a little harder again.

Some of you may have noticed increased junking or delayed delivery to the big four consumer email providers: Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, AOL on and off since the start of the 2012 this is down to changes that have been going on in email this year.

Gmail

You may have heard that Google has been rolling out updates to Panda this year, they have also been rolling out updates top their junk filters on Gmail.

Gmail has always been more responsive to their users’ activity with their emails as per their Priority Inbox and Smart Label tools.

Recently Gmail has started to tell us why an email is in the junk folder. This appears to have increased the sensitivity of their filters to further increase the priority of emails which each user has shown positive engagement with. As a bi-product emails with less positive engagement has found itself increasingly junked.

The two most common false positive reasons I’ve seen are:

  • It’s similar to messages that have been detected by our spam filters
  • We’ve found that lots of messages from [email] are spam

Some of the false positives include Gmail’s own Calendar reminders.

However the change occurred senders want their emails back into the inbox, so there are a few things you can do to help them on their way and to increase your reputation with Gmail:

  • Ask for white listing
    • Ask your recipients to add you to their contacts list
      Being in the address tells the inbox provider that the sender is a trusted contact, so it has an easier time getting to the inbox.
  • Ask for images to always be loaded
    • Images are blocked for security reasons, so telling the inbox to always load the images is a sign that it is from a trusted sender.
  • Invite replies
    • Once someone has replied to an email twice, Gmail will auto-load the images from then on, knowing that their emails are from a trusted contact due to the conversation.
  • Get Forwarded
    • As you may have heard, send to a friend is kind of dead and sharing emails to social media rarely done by recipients. They will forward the emails and share the landing pages.
      So the inbox knows that if you are forwarding an email to one of more people, you are most likely to be sharing good and interesting content that is not only relevant to you but also so remarkable you are sending to other people because think it will be relevant to them.
      This is a good sign and helps reputation
  • Get marked as not spam
    • If you are in the junk folder and a recipient goes in and marks your email as not junk, that is the loudest noise someone can say about it.
      They are telling their inbox that they have made a false positive and not to do it again.

The best time and place to do this is at the point of sign-up on the thank you landing page.

There’s no shame in asking people to check their junk folder for the email. Tell them the from name, tell them the subject line, ask them to safe list it. Then in the email ask them to load the image images. This is the point where they are very engaged and are most likely to do these things, so make sure you ask them.

Yahoo & AOL

Historically Yahoo was the first of the old Big Three (Hotmail, Yahoo AOL) to publically adopt reputation monitoring but the only recently got a feedback loop, whereas AOL and Hotmail have had one for a very long time.

Historically AOL had the largest and for many people, the best email support with the largest postmaster team.

However, with technology being able to do more and more postmaster teams have shrunk significantly and free inbox providers are less engaged with the bulk marketing senders and more on their users, who essentially pay the bills, which is understandable.

This means that senders have to work harder to stay in the inbox, they have to stay relevant, make clean emails, design with mobiles in mind and most importantly collect addresses organically through sign-ups rather than purchase or forced and sneaked opt-in.

Spam Traps

This year, a lot of new spam traps were created by inbox providers and spam protection agencies like Spamhaus.

Some of them are not the typical traps to catch scrapers either, a fair few of them were “zombie traps”; these are addresses that have been dormant for over 10 years.

They may have signed up for emails over 10 years ago but have not, apparently, taken any actions with an email for 10 years until recently, when they have been blacklisting people.

They have all done exactly what they are there to do: catch people who are not cleaning lists properly or people who are buying lists, particularly old lists of very poor quality, possibly even scraped.

At the same time the importance of avoid spam traps from the free inbox providers seems to have increased, thus reducing the reputation of senders hitting them even more.

So it is vitally important that your data acquisition process is safe, if do anything other than an explicit opt-in to your brand, ensure you can track the address back to the owner filling out a form in the five years. If you do any affiliate or co-reg work, make sure people are not being forced to enter an address for no relevant reason and that your partners can prove to you the sign-up was from the owner in the last 5 years and they know what was going to happen.

Sending Speeds

One of the biggest reactions to poor reputation from a large inbox provider is to reduce the amount of email they will accept from you in a short space of time.

So if you are experiencing junking, try sending slower.

Content

Another symptom of poor reputation is less tolerance of content. By changing your creative and trying to reduce potential spammy phrases, you could find yourself back in the inbox. Common tolerances include: “% Off”, “Sale”, “Discount” etc. Also: anything about winning and financial aid like loans, approval etc.

This would then get you back in the inbox where your preheader could ask for ‘always show images’, ‘add to contacts’, ‘reply to this email with any feedback or questions’ etc. then as your inbox placement increases you will have more freedom with your content.

Senderscore Certification

Our partners ‘Return Path‘ have some cracking tools on measuring and assuring deliverability as well as a very effective anti-phishing tool.

As far as getting emails delivered is concerned, if you are Senderscore Certified you do not have any volumes throttling to providers like Yahoo and Hotmail and your images load automatically upon opening the email.

The service is not free but not expensive and when you see the inbox placement results you’ll see it’s worth every penny.

It’s not available to everyone, only full organic opt-in senders are likely to qualify but we and Return Path together can offer the support and advice you need to achieve Certification and make deliverability issues far less of a consideration.

Originally written for Pure360 “Deliverability challenges & what to do to get in the inbox