Gmail In Search Will Extend The Reach Of Email Marketing

Email Marketing Conversions

  • Segmented email campaigns produce at least 30% more opens
  • And a 50% higher click through rate than undifferentiated messages.
Lunch Pail Joes

Photo courtesy of Ron Wiecki on Flickr.

Email gets no respect.

Despite the fact that social media, online video and infographics get all the glory, email just puts its head down and goes about its business.

Persevering through spammers and their perverse subject lines, phishers and their fraudulent landing pages, and ham-handed newsletter publishers who pack every bit of irrelevant information into every edition, email continues to convert despite the odds.

Email is the Lunch Pail Joe of online marketing channels. He might be a little grimy and stinky after a long day’s work, but he’s dignified nonetheless because he’s been delivering results for, like, ever.

Email’s Social Toooooo!

It has therefore saddened me to see Email, my good old Blue Collar drinking buddy, get all envious of social media of late.

During the past two years, all the email marketing publications I follow have been making forced arguments about how Email Is Social Too.

Slapping Like and Retweet buttons on your email messages do not make the medium social. All that does is promote a web page that used to be an email message. Email is social to the extent that the content contained therein prompts word-of-mouth buzz, starts an online conversation, or when recipients forward the email itself.

But that’s about the extent of it.

The reason email marketing providers are glomming onto social is partly PR–they feel they need to compete to keep people from shifting their email marketing dollars–but it is also to extend the life of the email.

“Socializing” email does extend email to varying degrees but most of the examples I’ve seen of it in action have been poorly thought out and largely ineffective.

Email Self-Segmentation

Gmail In Personal SERPS

Gmail Emails In Personal Search Engine Results

If you want to give your email campaigns a significant second life, however, Google may have just come to your rescue.

Last week, Google announced the trial (sign up here) of an experiment where they’ll begin to include emails from your Gmail account directly in your personalized search results.

Talk about segmentation! Beyond segments created by the email publisher, the convergence of search and email will allow subscribers to segment themselves through their own search queries.

These results will not be public. You will be the only person who sees your emails and they will only be displayed when you are logged into your Gmail account.

Back in the day (2005, specifically) I was an enthusiastic user of Google’s since-discontinued Desktop Search product that indexed the contents of your computer and allowed you to search your hard drive using Google’s familiar search interface.

It was a far superior experience to hunting and pecking through Windows tree structure. It was a far more enjoyable experience to hunting and pecking (or even searching) through my inbox for that long-lost email I knew I’d kept.

I now use Gmail for all my email addresses exclusively because its search prowess is superior to Outlook or any other email client I’ve used. That said, Gmail’s search is still fairly clunky, certainly not as elegant as Google’s Desktop Search used to be. For these reasons, I believe this new trial has a good chance of becoming a permanent feature in the Google universe.

I suspect the reason Google is rolling out this trial is that the ads within Gmail do not perform as well as they’d like. (I’ve never bothered with these types of ads because I’ve assumed them to be less effective since they are essentially interruption-based advertising. If anyone would like to share success stories, though, I’m all ears.)

If, however, you couple emails within the context of the intent of a search query, all of a sudden the accompanying ads are no longer interruptive but rather requested.

If Google likes the results of the trial and roll out the feature to all Gmail users, it will present a whole new dimension for email marketers that really does extend the life of their work.

Newsletter Publishers

The most obvious group that will directly benefit from Gmail’s integration into search will be newsletter publishers for the very simple reason that email newsletters tend to contain a lot of text for Google to index, analyze, and serve up in search.

The more text there is, the more opportunities there are to match that text with search queries. Newsletter content is likely to get more visibility as people begin to notice it within search results. And they will likely pay it greater attention because it comes from a trusted source, their inbox.

Most people subscribe to at least a few eNewsletters. If you’re like me, you subscribe to a ton of them and as a result, you don’t read most of them regularly.

I subscribe to plenty of newsletters because I may need to refer to them some time in the future. I don’t read them daily or even weekly but I know they’ve got great information that at some point I’ll need. I will know where to look (or search, if Google has its way) for it in the future.

That is precisely the way plenty of subscribers to The Daily Numbers use my eNewsletter. It’s got great marketing trends and statistics that they may need to refer to at some point for a presentation or to buttress an argument but it is not, like other subscribers, something they read every day.

I will gain greater exposure among that segment of subscribers as they begin to search their inbox.

Expert Positioning

Gmail messages In “Email Marketing Expert” Search Results

One of the reasons I publish this newsletter is to demonstrate my expertise in the field so that when you need help with strategic communications, you’ll think of me and hopefully give me a call <GRIN>651-400-0066</GRIN>.

I’m not alone; it is the reason many people publish eNewsletters. Another thing people do when they need expertise is to search for it. According to Google, there are:

  • 49,500 monthly searches for “SEO Expert” and
  • 12,100 monthly searches for “Marketing Expert”

And the list of Expert searches goes on. Needless to say, if your email content shows up in Expert searches, you’ve got an advantage over your competition because you’ve already built a degree of trust.

Media Relations

Public relations professionals should start to seriously think about this dynamic when it comes to their communications with journalists and bloggers.

This is similar to the aforementioned expert positioning.

Not to brag, but I’ve done a fairly good job serving as an expert source for reporters and bloggers and I do it deliberately. They need expertise for their stories and I’ve got it and I’m willing to share it.

A core job responsibility of journalists is to foster relationships with sources and, for many years now, much of that relationship building has been done through email. Another core responsibility of journalists is to be superb researchers. A lot of that research is conducted through searching.

Expose your email communications with reporters to a search interface and…you do the math.


Email marketing is a fundamental tool for driving sales for retailers, especially for online merchants.

But many of those eTailers may now need to rethink their best practices in a world where email is widely exposed to search behavior.

Go through the emails you receive from retailers and you’ll notice that the best ones are beautifully designed, using visual communication tactics to prompt clicks and ultimately conversions.

The problem is that these emails are typically heavy in graphics with precious little text. There is only so much information a search engine can glean from a photo or illustration, and to date, they are not tremendously sophisticated at interpreting imagery.

While we have a lot to learn from retailers who have been refining this art/science, few of these practitioners have any experience in search dynamics. They are going to have to incorporate search experts into their teams and develop new strategies for incorporating search into their campaigns.

These are a few examples of how we can potentially take advantage of the email/search dynamic.

What are your examples? SHARE THEM In the comments.


The e-Strategy Academy covers all aspects of digital marketing including search optimization & marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, video marketing, mobile marketing & public relations.