Two Ways Google is Integrating Email with Other Channels

This month I’d like to talk about how Google is integrating email with both search and social. For the past few months Google has been testing a feature that displays an email opt-in field in their paid search fields. MediaPost wrote about it at the end of last month. To see it for yourself, search for PetMeds. You’ll see the ad at the top followed by an email opt-in field pre-populated with your Gmail address if you have one. If you are not logged in with your Gmail account, it will just display “Email address.” They also ask for first name and have a link that does not link to a privacy policy, but simply explains what happens after submitting the form.

PetMeds Privacy Link

After submitting the form a confirmation message appears:

PetMeds GoogleAd Email Subscription Confirmation

This feature certainly demonstrates the significant value of an email address.   However, one concern with the subscriber experience is whether this process allows the advertiser enough of an opportunity to set expectations for the email program.  The subscriber has little idea of what types of offers they are signing up for or how frequently they will receive them.   Although to be fair, unfortunately, that is not all that different from the email sign-up process on many websites.  One week after signing up through the Google ad, we had not yet received a welcome message or a promotional message from PetMeds.  This is a pretty lengthy delay in confirming the subscription.  With each day that passes, the subscriber is more likely to forget that they signed up for emails from PetMeds and becomes more likely to register a spam complaint against the sender.   A quick peek in my Gmail Contacts list showed that the PetMeds sending address was not automatically added which would have been an interesting, although questionable, technique for automatic personal whitelisting (by sending an email in Gmail the recipient’s address is automatically added to the Contacts list).  It would be interesting to know whether there are higher complaint rates among subscribers opting in through this channel and also how the response rates of these subscribers compare to those who opt-in on the marketer’s website itself.  This could prove to be a great lead-gen tool, but I would advise any marketers using a new acquisition method such as this to watch these metrics closely.

The other integration feature I wanted to talk about is the image sharing from Gmail messages which I was reading about in this article on Hubspot.  Basically, when an image is shared inline in an email, a “Share” button appears in the lower right hand corner of the image.  By clicking on this link the subscriber can post the image to their Google+ and add comments.  With the all the hubbub about Pinterest, it’s easy to see why this type of image focused integration between email and social would be attractive to users and important for Google’s push to integrate the two channels.  However, it seems that this feature only works when the image is sent inline in an email.  For example, I sent an email to my Gmail account from my work account and inserted (not attached) an image into the message body of the email.  In this case, I see the “Share” prompt.

Gmail Share Images Example

When I opened marketing messages in my Gmail account from marketers such as Gap and Orvis and hover over their images, I don’t see any share prompt.

So while I like the idea of making it easy for subscribers to share content, it doesn’t seem to be working for typical image based promotional marketing messages whose images are hosted on a server and are not in the email itself.  If you’ve had a different experience, please share it here.  I’m sure this is not the last we’ve heard on this topic and I’ll continue to keep an eye on this feature.

This post originally appeared on The Magill Report.

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