Welcome to PeakInbox

Just want to jump right in? Head to over to peakinbox.com/earlyaccess

As email developers, the most exciting moments for us are when new technologies emerge and invite us to imagine the future of email.

After more than two decades of experiencing the cycle of curiosity, excitement, and eventual disappointment (Hotmail Active View, anyone?), we are truly excited about Gmail Annotations. It’s different, and we hope it’s here to stay.

How does Gmail decide who sees Annotations? How can we test their impact? Do they have any impact at all?

Days of solving problems like these are the ones we love most, and Annotations promises many more of them ahead.

As developers, we regularly put our brains to work breaking, rebuilding, and taming technology. We began this journey with Annotations in November 2018 and, as time went on, we started to wonder what else we could do with it.

That’s when it struck us to do live real-time A/B/n testing using our own analytics and testing tool, PeakInbox.

PeakInbox is the result of months of solid, thoughtful development. While Gmail has been working on deploying Annotations to Gmail web, we have had time, ahead of even a soft launch, to refine the tool.

Now, we’re ready to share PeakInbox with the world. Starting today, anyone can try PeakInbox for free as a part of our Early Access program.

PeakInbox is the only tool that can perform analytics and testing of Gmail Annotations. It tells you exactly how many of your email recipients saw the Annotation image and then opened your email, giving you insights you can use to refine your Annotations and drive more engagement.

Once Gmail brings Annotations to the web interface, you can run a basic lift test (segment your @gmail.com email addresses and send to 50% with an Annotation and 50% without) to assess the impact of your Annotations.

Having used PeakInbox for a few months now, we’ve seen large variations in when Gmail shows the Annotation and when it doesn’t — even for the same sender. If Gmail doesn’t show your Annotation (and you don’t use PeakInbox), data from your basic lift test might look like this:

AudienceSentUnique Opens
50% @gmail.com – Control300,00060,000
50% @gmail.com – w/Annotation300,00060,000

You would conclude that Annotations isn’t helping your email marketing program — but it’s possible that, in your test cohort, the Annotation never actually showed up for anyone. In other words, you didn’t actually test anything.

This is where PeakInbox comes in. It tells you exactly how many of your email recipients saw the Annotation image (“Annotation Impressions”) and then opened your email. Your test results with PeakInbox might look something like this:

AudienceSentAnnotation ImpressionsAnnotation OpensUnique Opens
Control300,000n/an/a60,000
w/Annotation300,00025,00018,00068,000

Will Annotations work for everyone? We doubt it. But you have to test for yourself. Join our free Early Access program today at peakinbox.com/earlyaccess to get started.

Thanks for joining us on this adventure!

Brian Sisolak & Brian Vallelunga

Co-Founders, PeakInbox

Logos in the Inbox: Microsoft

Welcome to the PeakInbox blog! While we wait for annotations to be released to the Gmail web, we wanted to start sharing some of the tips and tricks we have learned while building the only tool for Annotation analytics and real-time A/B/n testing. Want to get in on Early Access? Read our blog post for more details and sign up today – it’s totally free!

10% increase in open rates, based on one small change

When a brand logo is displayed in the inbox, recipients are “10% more likely to actually open the email, because they see which brand it is from, and they are more likely to trust it,” according to Marcel Becker, Director of Product Management at Verizon Media Group (Yahoo! Mail and AOL).

This is the first hard data I’ve come across directly linking brand logos to email performance. Testing is ineffective, as logos are always either on or off, not conducive to a 50/50 split test. But based on Becker’s statement, I’m even more inclined to recommend adding logos to all emails. It’s not easy (Yahoo! Mail, Outlook, and Gmail all require different setups), but it’s not impossible.

I’ve laid out the process for setting up logos in Gmail here, and below, I’ll explain how to do it in Microsoft.

Microsoft

Setting up a brand logo in Outlook is simpler than setting one up in Gmail. Before you begin, know that you’re required to have “at least 100 followers on at least one of your social media platforms and have made a post on one of the accounts in the past 30 days.”

The basic process is:

  1. Link your Twitter account to a new Bing Page
  2. Contact Microsoft and provide the from email addresses that you want to display your logo

After following this process — which I outline in more detail below — your Twitter profile photo will become your brand logo in the Outlook.com email client (what some of us still call HoTMaiL) and on the Outlook mobile app when using an Outlook.com address.

A couple of important caveats:

Setup Your Bing Page

I’ll use brand@company.com in this example. Please note: You will need access to your brand’s Twitter account.

  1. Go to https://bing.com/bp/verify
  2. Enter your brand’s Twitter handle. (See screenshot)
  3. Log in with a Bing account (if you do not have one you will have to create it). This is a relatively new part of the process and is still evolving. You cannot sign in with an O365 account; it must be a personal Microsoft account of the person who will manage the Bing Page).
  4. Build out your Bing Page by adding your brand’s other social media accounts. (See screenshot)
  5. Authorize the Bing Pages’ Twitter app. (See screenshot)

The Bing team will review your request within three business days and contact you with an approval at the personal Bing account used in step #3.

Link Bing Page to brand@company.com

Once you receive an email from bingpages@microsoft.com, reply with the following request:

Please link this Bing Page to our brand card and populate in Outlook.com for the following email addresses:

[LIST UP TO FIVE EMAIL ADDRESSES] brand@company.com

And that’s it! Microsoft will set you up. Again, Bing Pages are in beta, so this is subject to change at any time. This blog post will be updated as changes occur.

You can read more at the official Bing Pages FAQ.

Have you run into an issue not listed above, or is it just not working right? You can find me at brians@peakinbox.com, or on @EmailGeeks Slack channel DM me @Brian Sisolak.

Logos in the Inbox: Gmail

Welcome to the PeakInbox blog! While we wait for annotations to be released to the Gmail web, we wanted to start sharing some of the tips and tricks we have learned while building the only tool for Annotation analytics and real-time A/B/n testing. Want to get in on Early Access? Read our blog post for more details and sign up today – it’s totally free!

10% increase in open rates, based on one small change

When a brand logo is displayed in the inbox, recipients are “10% more likely to actually open the email, because they see which brand it is from, and they are more likely to trust it,” according to Marcel Becker, Director of Product Management at Verizon Media Group (Yahoo! Mail and AOL).

This is the first hard data I’ve come across directly linking brand logos to email performance. Testing is ineffective, as logos are always either on or off, not conducive to a 50/50 split test. But based on Becker’s statement, I’m inclined to recommend adding logos to all emails. It’s not easy (Yahoo! Mail, Outlook, and Gmail all require different setups), but it’s not impossible.

Here, I’ll dive into Gmail. You can find the blog post on Microsoft here, and on Yahoo! Mail in the coming weeks, follow @peakinbox to get an alert when it’s up.

Without senders taking the time to set their avatars, their logos are just a generic circle with the first letter of the from name on a random background color in the Gmail mobile apps. On Gmail web it’s just a generic person logo.  Apart from Google+ icons (RIP 2019), there has been no clear way to place logos across Gmail interfaces.

Luckily, we now have the chance to place your logo in various places within Gmail to improve the brand experience!

Like with many things about email, getting this right takes a multifaceted approach. To place your logo across all instances of the Gmail mobile and web interfaces requires implementing logos in two separate ways, setting up a Google Profile, and using annotations.

Let’s use brand@company.com for our examples, you will need real-time access to the inbox that receives email for brand@company.com.

  1. Create a logo file that is 250 x 250 with a solid background (GIF or PNG). The logo will display rounded, so the corners will be cut off. (See screenshot)
  2. Setup a Google without Gmail Account:
    1. Load an incognito window and go to https://accounts.google.com/SignUpWithoutGmail. (See screenshot here)
    2. Create an account for brand@company.com.
    3. You will instantly be sent an email to brand@company.com with a six-digit verification code which you will have to enter. (See screenshot)
    4. Once you are in the account, go to https://myaccount.google.com/personal-info and click on the current logo to update the profile picture. (See screenshot)
  3. In order for your logo to appear in the Primary Tab Teaser, you must use annotations. With annotations you can add a description, image, deadlines and much more. Or, you can simply add a logo by using either the script or microdata version of the annotation code block. Note that your annotation-based logo will also override the profile logo in the Top Bundle section. (Find out more from the offical Gmail annotations site. Much more to come on this from PeakInbox in the coming months.)
  4. Confirm by sending an email from your ESP from brand@company.com to a Gmail (or Google Workspace) account, you will see your logo right away in Gmail web and mobile apps (officially, there is a 24-hour delay in the mobile app, but in our testing, it’s always instantaneous). Your logo will time travel…when you update the Google profile image, it will time travel and appear on all past emails in the Gmail app and web interfaces.

Using Google Workspace?

If the email brand@company.com is set up as its own account in your Google Workspace account, then this is super simple. Just login to that account and go to https://myaccount.google.com/personal-info.

If when you try to update the logo you see this message:

This means your Google Workspace admin has locked this functionality. If a Google Workspace admin sets the profile image for brand@company.com in the Google Admin portal – it will not show up as the logo Gmail! It will show up for on your internal Google Workspace accounts, which is very confusing. You have to have your Google Admin unlock this feature and then set the logo for brand@company.com at https://myaccount.google.com/personal-info.

Using alternative domains with Google Workspace?

A lot of senders use a subdomain that is setup as an alternative domain in their Google Workspace account. You might send from your ESP as brand@email.mycompany.com, but login to Google Workspace with brand@company.com. Have no fear, this is simple as well! Just go to https://myaccount.google.com/personal-info and update the photo for brand@company.com, Gmail figures out the rest.

Using groups with Google Workspace?

Some senders might use a third-party ticketing system so need emails to brand@company.com  forwarded outside of their Google Workspace account. This is done either by setting up a Group or by your Google Workspace admin in user-level routing.

This is the bad news section of this post… sorry. If your sending email address is used on a Group or as user-level routing, you cannot set the logo. Talk to your Google Workspace admin and see if you can get that setup as an Account with forwarding rules instead.

More than one email address?

Once you have your Google account setup (without Google Workspace), just head over to your Account (https://myaccount.google.com) and add alternative addresses (https://myaccount.google.com/alternateemail). The same logo will show for all emails listed as alternatives. You will need to verify ownership of each address by plugging in a new six-digit verification code.

If you are on Google Workspace, your Google Workspace administrator will have to add alternative addresses in the administrator console.

Animated logos? 😊

You can make your profile image an animated GIF and it will animate in the Gmail mobile app! (9/19/2020 UPDATE – It appers animated logos no longer work, I’m working to confirm if this is an update or a bug)

Drawbacks? ☹

By setting up a Google Profile, there is one drawback I’ve discovered. If you are already a Google Workspace user, this is already happening.

In the Gmail web interface, when your subscriber hovers over your logo, they will get the option to start a Google Chat or Hangout with you. If the user clicks the Chat icon an error will appear. If they start a Hangout, it will open but do nothing.

If the user clicks the Chat icon, they will get the following error message:

Given the advantages, this is a small price to pay. (Have you figured out how to get Chat and Hangout disabled? Leave a comment below and we’ll update this post.)

Wait, isn’t Gmail using BIMI?

On July 21, 2020 Gmail announced the pilot for Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI) with only a “limited number of senders”. So as of right now there is no way to use BIMI to get your logo into Gmail. More importantly, there is no need as using a Google Profile + Annotations provides 100% logo coverage.

When this changes, I’ll update this post.

Lastly, in helping other set this up the logos do not always display without a clear reason why. Have you run into an issue not listed above, or is it just not working right? You can find me at brians@peakinbox.com, or on @EmailGeeks Slack channel DM me @Brian Sisolak.