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What Google's Email Search Test Means to You: Nothing

8/21/12

By Ken Magill

Google has begun an experiment that could breathe new life into some old emails.

Some experts are claiming the development has the potential to drive unprecedented collaboration between companies’ search and email marketing efforts.

Members of digital creative teams better pray they’re wrong.

Google earlier this month announced it was testing adding the contents of people’s Gmail accounts to their search results.

Under the test, when participating Gmail users do a search on Google, some presumably relevant emails from their own inboxes will appear in an expandable box next to the organic and sponsored links on the search-results page.

“So if you’re planning a biking trip to Tahoe, you might see relevant emails from friends about the best bike trails, or great places to eat on the right hand side of the results page,” a blog post announcing the test said. “If it looks relevant you can then expand the box to read the emails.”

Presumably, searches for products and/or services would result in relevant commercial email messages in the results from the user’s inbox, as well.

So maybe a year-old pitch in a hoarder’s inbox on winter sportswear might get another shot at outfitting one of this year’s ski trips.

Conceivably, the test also has the potential to pit marketing email against Google’s ordinary and sponsored search results.

What does the test mean to email marketers? Nothing yet. Maybe nothing ever.

Initially, the test is open to only 1 million people. Plus even if Google rolls it out, it’s only with Gmail. So unless Yahoo! and Hotmail roll out something similar—and they may—it won’t affect the majority of most consumer marketers’ customer email files.

It’s difficult to imagine this service affecting business-to-business marketers significantly under any circumstances unless Bing integrates Outlook.

However, if the moon and stars align for people’s inbox contents being included in their search results, there may come a time when some of consumer marketers’ months- and years-old messages get resurrected in search results of Google, Yahoo! and Bing.

Not surprisingly, the search-engine optimization folks are all over this development.

“This addition to Google search could result in huge potential for email marketers and SEOs to collaborate, joining keyword research with traditional email marketing principles,” said a blog post by KoMarketing Associates. “Getting into a prospect or customer’s inbox could have just become more important than ever.”

Well, not really. First, getting into the inbox is neither more nor less important now than it was in July.

Second, while my understanding of SEO is admittedly spotty—spotty possibly being very generous—SEO and email marketing collaboration would presumably involve weaving certain keywords into email subject lines at the very least and probably body copy, as well.

As a professional writer who has produced every kind of copy imaginable—with the exceptions of radio and TV—I can’t overstate how much I recommend against copy writers being given a set of keywords to be integrated into their work.

It’s a needless distraction that will accomplish nothing beyond watering down the power of their words.

A former publisher urged me and my fellow writers to work certain keywords into our copy. I ignored the request.

If someone is writing about a subject even just competently, the relevant words for any search should naturally appear without the writer having to clutter their mind with needless directives and parameters.

Not every development in the online world requires a reaction from digital marketers.

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