Impact of (not provided) and cached Gmail images on marketing campaigns in Kentico

Google recently made two major changes which may impact your on-line marketing campaigns running on Kentico. We will look into the details of these changes and review how they will impact data available within Kentico. One of the changes is not providing search keywords for organic search queries leading to your web site. The second change is caching images for Gmail users.

(not provided) keywords in organic search

What happened?

As you might have already learned, Google is no longer providing search keywords as referrer data for your landing pages. As Google claims, this change aims to provide extra protection for searchers. It started in October 2011, when Google began encrypting keywords for logged-in Google users while searching. By logged-in Google users I mean essentially anyone logged into a Google service such as Gmail, Google+, YouTube, etc. At that time it was estimated that 10% of search queries were encrypted. During 2013, especially in September 2013, Google started encrypting search keywords even for anonymous visitors. This led to a rise of (not provided) search queries from Google above 80% and is expected to come close to 100% at some time in the beginning of 2014.

What this means to your marketing campaigns in Kentico?

Search keywords from external search engines are used on two places within Kentico
  1. Search keywords report within Web Analytics
  2. Two default activity types were able to leverage organic search keywords: ‘External search’ activity with ‘Search keywords’ property and ‘Landing page’ activity with ‘URL referrer’ property. Additionally, any custom activity can be using organic search data.
Other search providers such as Bing or Yahoo are still serving organic search data within URL referrer, though it may just be a matter of time before this stops as well. Even if these data will be available in the future, you should rethink your marketing campaigns since Google is typically a major source of the traffic for many web sites.

What you can do?

First of all, if you are using search keywords in some of your KPIs it’s time to stop doing that. When available search terms get below certain point (30% of your total visitors) then statistical validity of your data is low and unreliable, thus useless.
Next, stop thinking in keywords and start thinking in the intentions of visitors. Kentico provides you with many other resources for learning about your visitors. Within Web analytics, you are able to leverage reports such as Top landing pages/Top exit pages, Referring sites, Visitor country, Browser capability etc. As an alternative to Web analytics, you are able to get insights from Activities of web site visitors. Information from these sources might supply missing keywords data in some sense or even provide you with a more complete view of your visitors than keywords have. Site navigation patterns and landing pages get higher importance; for example – location of a landing page and a consecutive activity of a visitor might bring you more value than just a searched term.

Next activity after landing page - custom report. You can download SQL code for generating this report and use it on your site.
Third, leverage the internal search on your web site. The power of internal search within Kentico rises as less useful data can be gained out of external search. Within Kentico, you are able to use the Smart search module based on the Lucene search engine. You don’t only provide your visitors with a powerful search tool; you also get a great source of data for analysis.

Sample list of internal search activities.
Finally, create segments of your visitors and provide them appropriate content or create relevant reports of these segments. With little effort, you will get far better results with marketing campaigns for advanced segments compared to campaigns based just on traffic split by keywords. Within Kentico, you are able to create visitor segments through Contact groups. This gives you a powerful tool able to shape segments out of explicit data, such as visitor’s age or job title, implicit data such as visitor’s behavior, and context data, such as the current time or location of a visitor. Using segments, you can launch e-mail campaigns, run automated marketing processes or personalize web site content.
Example of a contact group.
Bonus: What can be used as an alternative to Contact groups within Kentico? Personas in the upcoming version 8! Personas will provide you with an easy way of segmenting and personalizing content and will allow you to send personalized e-mails!
Additional note: Don’t forget about A/B and MVT testing! These should be a part of your marketing campaigns whenever possible. If you do web page optimizations and you are missing one source of information (keywords from organic search) then by properly testing all changes you will be more confident about improvements.

Additional resources:

Cached Gmail images

What happened?

Just couple of days ago Google made change to how it displays and stores images in the Gmail service. Images are now displayed by default and they are cached on Google servers. As Google mentioned – they did this to improve the safety of Gmail users. Images are loaded and stored on Google servers the first time a recipient opens an e-mail instead of being loaded from third-party servers. This speeds up image loading times for Gmail users and also removes any malicious code which may be appended to an image.

What this means for your marketing campaigns in Kentico?

As you might know, there is a common way of tracking opened e-mails through tiny invisible images appended to the content of an e-mail. When a recipient opens an e-mail, the tracking image is loaded from an external server. Loading a tracking image provides information that recipient just opened an e-mail so the e-mail statistics can be updated. This way of tracking e-mails is also used in Kentico.
Google caching e-mail images on its own servers has impact on 3 important things:
  1. You are no longer able to see if an e-mail was opened multiple times by a recipient. Each tracking image is stored on Gmail servers and you get no further information from the image after the first opening of an e-mail.
  2. You are no longer able to see the location of the recipient of an e-mail. Images are loaded by Gmail servers, thus locating a recipient by IP address doesn’t make sense any more.
  3. You do, however, get more reliable information on the number of opened e-mails.  Images are displayed by default, so you get a higher number of recipients actually sending you information about opened e-mails.
Location of recipient provided by IP address is now useless as it represents Google servers.

What you can do?

Data on how many times an e-mail was opened are available within Kentico through activities, though currently no report is built on the data by default. Therefore, this Gmail change will have impact on your e-mail campaigns only if you have a custom report built on the ‘Opened newsletter e-mail’ activity type. If you are using such a custom report, you should consider how many of your recipients are using Gmail and then determine if the report still provides relevant information.

Location of an e-mail recipient is also available within Kentico but neither this Gmail change will have a great impact on your marketing data, because you can also get the position of a contact from a web site visitor’s location. You should evaluate if you are using e-mail recipient’s location as a specific source of data (e.g., as a trigger of a marketing automation process) and decide if this is still valid.

Finally, the positive result of Gmail changes is that you get more reliable data on how many recipients opened your e-mails. Of course, this depends on how many of your recipients use Gmail but for some of you this might actually be very good news. 

 Opened e-mail statistics are now more reliable especially if you send your e-mails to Gmail recipients.

Additional resources:

As you can see changes from Google are significant for many marketing campaigns. However there are many flexible tools within Kentico which enable you to substitute loss of marketing data. In near future we can expect that other companies will follow Google’s steps so it’s best time to prepare for it right now.

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Vita Janecek

I'm Online Marketing Product Owner and I'm writing mainly about Kentico features such as Contact management, Marketing automation, E-mail marketing, A/B testing, etc.


Vita Janecek commented on

Hi Brian,
thank you! I'm glad that you find this report useful :)

Brian McKeiver commented on


Great blog post. I am definitely going to use and re-use this new Next activity after landing page report for my Kentico EMS users that I support.