Marketing automation – not e-mail marketing, and yes, there is a difference – has been the backbone of successful recruiting campaigns for going on a decade.  Marketing automation, when designed properly, drives leads through the sales funnel with the goal of nurturing, engaging and ultimately converting qualified leads into sales. Marketing automation relies on collecting, sharing and displaying meaningful content in a timely manner to make an impact – and recruiting requires the same best practices for success, albeit with the process ending in a hire instead of a sale. As marketers become savvier with automation, e-mail providers have tried to become increasingly more restrictive – and protective – of their users inboxes.

But while filtering and flagging automated marketing messages have long been considered a security feature, the recent announcement by Google that they will now be displaying, by default, pre-loaded images directly in Gmail signifies a potential bellwether move for the industry – and, by extension, recruitment marketing. It’s no secret that Google reaps most of its revenue through advertising, and their latest move could well be a signal of a seismic shift designed to maximize advertising dollars and marketing budgets. The battles for online advertising spend, until now fought primarily with keyword bidding, behavioral targeting, SEO and other marketing methods are now spilling over into your inbox.

GMail Marketing: Image Displays & The Big Picture

This change by Google is, for many e-mail recipients, a good thing.  There’s little compromise to security and prevents browsers from revealing online activities, user history and other personalized data.  This is a change from the traditional Gmail display functionality – and unknown to most users, when you receive a promotional e-mail and click “Display All Images,” you’re triggering a lot of behind-the-scenes actions by authorizing this function:

  • A Reverse IP lookup takes place, allowing user web browsers to capture your approximate IP address and geo-location data.
  • HTTP Referrer Insight is granted, which simply means that the sender of the e-mail receives a report on the browser you were using, whether the e-mail was opened on a desktop or mobile device and where the e-mail landed within individual inboxes.
  • Opened Images allow marketers to determine which e-mail recipients on a particular send or campaign have opted in to having images displayed in their inbox.

Feeling Lucky: 4 Key Takeaways for Recruitment Marketers

Prior to this weekend’s announcement, this information allowed marketers to display meaningful content to the most targeted audience by making changes and optimizing campaigns for better conversion.  In a B2C setting, increasing conversion means increasing sales; in recruiting, this means identifying the leads who have the most interest in your message – and, by extension, are likely the most open to exploring new career opportunities.

Google just announced that they are making marketing automation tactics off-limits by displaying and creating a cache for all images received by all Gmail users.  This means that GMail will save the images on their servers, modifying the original e-mail slightly to ensure the images are correctly displayed.

While this will increase Google’s ability to control – and potentially keep secure – more user information, it will also create a few issues for those of us reliant on Google for our inboxes. Here are four things users can do to regain and increase control over their messages:

  1. This feature can always be disabled by end users in GMail settings once this change goes live – while desktop devices are beginning to switch over after this weekend’s announcement, this setting will be spilling over to mobile devices in early 2014.
  2. When the switchover occurs, marketing data and activity monitoring will more or less go in the crapper for GMail recipients by disappearing entirely – which is good for end users, but bad news for the marketers hoping to target them.
  3. This change creates a bigger conversation regarding e-mail privacy. Google is now effectively scanning user emails, rendering a new version of messages for recipients while collecting the original – retaining a valuable cache of information on the backend as a tradeoff for proper image displaying across the Google universe on the front end.
  4. Marketers must consider increasing their spend on CRM and campaign automation.  Why? Because Google, which has long controlled lead generation through AdWords and PageRank, are now also controlling lead nurturing data for their users, too – and if marketers can’t effectively collect user data, they can’t effectively market their products or services to the right targets – which, in the case of recruiting, means the right talent for the right jobs.  Which may prove a high price for any end user to pay in Google’s quest to control (and monetize) the data representing our daily digital lives.

We’re curious to see how this marketing play plays out, but for now, this change by Google signals that even in something as seemingly insignificant as displaying images, there’s a bigger picture – and bigger changes ahead in the bigger picture of online marketing and recruiting.

By Ryan Leary

Ryan Leary helps create the processes, ideas and innovation that drives RecruitingDaily. He’s our in-house expert for anything related to sourcing, tools or technology. A lead generation and brand buzz building machine, he has built superior funnel systems for some of the industries top HR Tech and Recruitment brands. He is a veteran to the online community and a partner here at RecruitingDaily.