Back in February 2023, Gmail rolled out a major update to their Annotations code. The Single Image Preview was finally removed from the site (even though it had been deprecated sometime in 2021/22), and the Product Carousel was added. This seems to have happened about the same time that auto-generated Annotations started showing up for 100% of Gmail users, as there was a large reporting uptick of email geeks seeing these in the wild.
While many email geeks jumped into testing, right off the bat something seemed off. The Gmail team has provided some additional details which help clarify what is going on:
- All auto-generated and code-based Annotations will only show up for sending domains on an internal allow list Gmail has. Contact p-Promofirstname.lastname@example.org to be added.
- Product Carousels have launched to all Gmail users except to those in the European Union, which will come later (originally reported as 2023, but seems more like 2024).
- The testing accounts with the format promotabtesting will not display Product Carousels.
- At first, there was not a preview tool for Product Carousels, but that did show up later in 2022 and can be accessed at https://developers.google.com/gmail/promotab/preview
While we were thrilled about this re-launch, it seems too restrictive to warrant using code-based Annotations at this point, as there is no way to get a live preview and you have to be pre-approved on Gmail’s allow list.
More worrisome, as Gmail now auto-generates Annotations, is that there is no way to A/B test whether adding Annotations improves performance because, sometimes, even if you don’t include Annotations, Gmail will add them.
While Deal Annotations returned in late-2023, there is no way to track those yet.
Where does this leave PeakInbox?
PeakInbox is the only tool ever developed to provide Annotation analytics. PeakInbox is the only tool to ever have live A/B Annotation testing. PeakInbox is the only tool to ever have live previews of Annotations. We hope someday to get back to that level of product, but we must await Gmail’s program development and final rollout.
And PeakInbox might be more than just about Gmail Annotations someday. There are services from other mailbox providers, such as View Time Optimization (VTO) from Yahoo! that are catching our attention. We also have some exciting ideas around making Product Carousels analytics even better in PeakInbox.
Also, at some point – the Gmail team has told us – we might see single image previews come back: which link into the email, not directly to your website like Product Carousels do.
But for now, we wait.