If you've noticed an unusual drop in open rates for messages sent to Gmail accounts—and for B2C companies, this could represent a large percentage of subscribers—it's probably not your fault. "There's growing evidence that Gmail is disabling images for senders that users had previously whitelisted and enabled images for. Near-term, this means that your open rate may dip," Chad White recently reported in a post at the Retail Email blog. If your list has a high number of Gmail addresses, White has this advice:

Add whitelisting instructions at the top of your messages. While White usually prefers not to use header space for this purpose, it's not a bad idea in this case, in order to bring the subject to the reader's attention by inviting him or her to whitelist your campaigns.

But don't keep making the same request. "The real estate at the top of your emails is precious," he says, "and if subscribers haven't whitelisted after a few requests (including the requests on your sign-up confirmation page and in your welcome email) then they're not likely to ever whitelist you."

There's an added quirk at work here, too. "It appears that even when users re-enable images for a sender … images are being turned off for future emails from that sender," White noted last week. "Gmail is aware of this issue and reportedly working on it."

The Po!nt: Get to the root cause of deliverability problems. Drastic changes in data could be caused by an unexpected variable like this.

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