How To Avoid Gmail Clipping

Andrew Fernandez, Marketing Strategist

Andrew Fernandez, Marketing Strategist

Gmail has grown phenomenally over the last decade, particularly from those early days when access to Google’s huge portfolio of primarily free applications and tools required a Gmail address. Now you can use Google products and even create a Google account without creating yet another email address. Many brands forget that one person can have multiple email accounts and may only see some new messages a week or more after the initial send. But it’s important to keep that in mind, especially when creating segments on last open date. But today, let’s talk Gmail clipping.

What Is Gmail Clipping?

When you send an email, Gmail assesses the file size, not including images as those are hosted elsewhere. After the first 102 KB of code is rendered, the remainder of the content is “clipped” or cut off.

Why Is This a Problem?

If your email is more than 102 KB, the remainder of your message will look something like this:

If you think that’s bad, remember it’s even worse on mobile clients. There’s no explanation – just three dots (…).

For many senders, this means Gmail ends up cutting off some of the most important content in the message (unsubscribe links, managed preference center access, company address, contact information). Additionally, in most cases, tracking pixels are right at the bottom of an email. If the user doesn’t open and click to view more, you may not be able to recognize the open.

What Can You Do About It?

Ideally, we’d all keep our content as concise as possible to drive people toward conversion with emails that are below 102 KB. After all, we can’t buy from email … yet. But in some cases, this can be very difficult, particularly when you have several groups invested in product placement and promotion. Not to worry, there are other options.

Once you’ve streamlined your copy, the next step is to streamline your code as that’s what Gmail is really looking at. Remember: A WYSIWYG editor doesn’t usually code as well a human, so send a test email to Gmail and see if it gets clipped. (This should be part of your standard QA process anyway, so nothing new here.) If your message is being clipped, view the online version so you can see the whole message and then view the source code. Here’s where it’s ideal to have someone with HTML coding experience on hand.

A few common things to look out for:

  • Excess code for spacers.
  • Excess comments.
  • Excessive use of separate desktop and mobile elements (e.g., show this in desktop and show that on mobile). In terms of code, the email will need both parts as the same user may see the email on desktop and mobile.
  • Ideally, emails should be mostly responsive (change size based on width) as opposed to adaptive (change size based on device). So, your hero image should stack well on mobile, as opposed to having one image for desktop and one image for mobile.
  • Use adaptive coding (show on desktop only/show on mobile only) sparingly. Reserve it for messages where there’s a real need, particularly where display issues may occur, such as abandoned cart messages, order confirmations, etc.

If you’re still having issues, you could try an HTML minifier/compression, but I don’t recommend it. This option means your HTML code sits in one block and can be hard to read and make changes to.

While I don’t recommend this alternative either, if the email simply must go out as is (in terms of design, etc.), you can use a more image-heavy approach or use fewer links, both of which decrease the size of the code. If you do decide to go down this path, be sure to place your open tracking pixel at the top of the email along with your unsubscribe link. While we never want to encourage people to leave us, it’s important that customers have a choice to opt out. We also want to keep them from hitting the junk button, which could affect deliverability and inbox placement. Additionally, it’s worth having your address higher up so it falls above the cut-off point.

Despite your best efforts, if you should still have disagreements in-house (product feels one thing simply must be in the message, merchandising needs something else, the executive team thinks another item needs to be there, etc.), I strongly advise running a split test. Is there a difference performance-wise between a shorter (non-clipped) message and the current version that’s being clipped by Gmail? To make it a fair test, limit your send to emails containing @gmail or @googlemail with a last open date within seven days. If the results show you can get away with the shorter message, go for it.

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