May 19, 2011

Is Gmail stealing your clicks?

First of all I would like to have the chance to express how much I am fond of Gmail (and google services at large) that I use a lot.
However, since the beginning I have wondered what is the proportion of lost clicks on Gmail addresses.
Why would I suspect a lower click rate on Gmail? Simply because Google displays contextual ads on the right of each and every email received on Gmail.
The ad being contextual, I sometimes see ads for (supposedly) better deals than the one advertised in the email I just received.
I have of course investigated but it is quite hard to have consistent measures on this matter since the click rate on the ads will highly depend on the email itself and its content (I assume that an email with mainly text will be better scanned and the ads will be more precise and therefore will gram more clicks).
This must also depend on the kind of product you sell and how likely it is that competitors might buy related adwords.
As a matter of fact, if I haven't found absolute proof that the number of clicks is lower on Gmail, I have noticed that for most of my clients, image only (mainly I should say) artworks tend to have a higher click rate than the ones including a bigger amount of text information.
Again: I will not claim this to be a proof that Gmail is taking clicks away from email advertisers, my questioning will probably never be answered since it would need a full comparison of clicks on the creative and on the ads which is very unlikely to happen some day.

My biggest concern is more "philosophical": is it really fair that when advertisers pay for an email design, email addresses, data management, broadcast (even though it has been proven that email marketing is among the least expensive forms of marketing), knowing also that the "precedence: bulk" parameter in the header indicates that it is an email blast, Google would display ads there?

here is an example of email I received that illustrates my point (you can click on the image to see a bigger version):

As I said in introduction, I am really happy with my Gmail inbox and I am aware that in order for Google to make cash out of this service, they need to get a chance to advertise on the product.
I sometimes even find the contextual ads quite useful when planning a travel or a night out with friends (the ads sometimes give good ideas or help find good deals), my only concern is that these ads are displayed on advertising emails.
It feels to me as if the Tv ads were displayed with a banner for a competitor at the bottom of the screen.
Google announced recently that they were about to increase the quality of these ads in Gmail, for that matter, is it really a good news?