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Immediately after Gmail Labs announced that you can now preview YouTube clips from within Gmail’s reading pane, we started pondering on how our customers could make best use of this feature. As a few of you have expressed interest in segmenting subscriber lists by email client, lets talk about how to create a segment for Gmail users. Finally, as with many email techniques, there’s an important caveat – targeting subscribers by email client is certainly not an exact science.

Previewing video in Gmail: The basics

With Gmail’s new YouTube Previews feature, Gmail users can now view YouTube videos from within Gmail itself, instead of clicking away from the Gmail inbox. If an email is received with a text-link to a YouTube video, a preview is shown directly after the message. Recipients can then click the play button and view the video, as if it were embedded in the footer of the email.


This is great for senders with Gmail users subscribed to their lists, as it means one less reason for folks to navigate away from your email. However, as we’ll discuss later in this post, targeting Gmail users certainly isn’t a foolproof tactic.

How to target Gmail users in your lists

In this example, we will be creating a segment for Gmail users by targeting subscribers by the domain, “@gmail.com”.

In your account, navigate to the subscriber list which you wish to segment. Click, ‘Segments’, then create a new segment. The first rule of your segment should be, ‘Email Address’. Add rule. On the next screen, select ‘Contains’ from the drop-down under the header, ‘Email Address’ and type, “@gmail.com”.


Click ‘Save and refresh count’ to view the number of active subscribers in the segment:


You can now send your campaigns to this segment, just as you would any old subscriber list. Learn more about creating and using segments.

Why this technique may not work

As Mark Brownlow pointed out in his excellent article, “Video in Gmail“, segmenting by domain isn’t a particularly accurate way to pinpoint who actually reads their email in Gmail itself. Commonly, folks use other email clients like Outlook to view emails received by their Gmail accounts; I personally have my Gmail account forward messages to another address, which I then view in Apple Mail. In these instances, the YouTube preview will not display in your alternate email client.

That said, it is certainly more likely that you will be sending to folks who will view your newsletter in Gmail, so it’s certainly worth an experiment to see if a Gmail segment responds to your message differently from the rest of the pack. You could create a Gmail segment and a non-Gmail segment, send a campaign with a YouTube Preview link to each separately, then compare results.

A second consideration is that the YouTube Previews section of an email is both fairly subtle and after a few paragraphs of text, quickly disappears under the fold. If you want to make your video one of the focal elements of your email, be sure to go light on the content. Secondly, don’t assume it’s going to display – adding a call-to-action like “View video below” is certainly a recipe for confusion for any subscriber using a client outside of Gmail.

Mark also has some useful observations regarding embedding YouTube links in email (for example, our tracking links will disable the preview in certain circumstances), so visit his blog for the full story on YouTube Previews.

Hopefully this move by Gmail will apply pressure on other email clients to support the playback of video internally. Embedding video in a secure, non-destructive manner is a positive move and will hopefully lead to a richer, more interactive email experience for everybody.

Have you given the new YouTube Previews feature a shot in your campaigns? Please share your impressions – positive or negative – in the comments below. We’d love to know whether video in email is something you and your subscribers find to be beneficial.

  • Martin Baker

    It’s worth remembering that users in the UK may have signed up with a googlemail.com address (due to now resolved trademark dispute), so that should be added to the filter as well.

  • Pamela

    The link text has to be the url, does that raises spam flags?

  • hcabbos

    There’s no way to turn this off?! Thanks Google :(

    There was a time I found Google products to be unobtrusive. Now they’re trying to think for us. Another case in point, look at presumptuous they were with Buzz. Here are a couple of other things that bug me:

    The embedded videos are very small. Too small for some instances? Most definitely. So the usability factor goes down for me.

    Second, do I really want their implementation messing up the look of my carefully crafted design.

  • Ros Hodgekiss

    Hi hcabbos, the YouTube videos don’t autoplay. When you click on the thumbnail, they expand to the same size that you would regularly view videos in YouTube. This is all after the message itself, so I don’t think it will ruin the appearance of your email.

    Secondly, as has been raised, the link text has to be the video URL to get this to work when using Campaign Monitor (due to our tracking). So if you just link some text or image to the video (as most would normally do), then the YouTube preview won’t appear.

    Google’s recent releases have certainly divided opinions, so we’ll be interested to see what’s next!

  • hcabbos

    Ros, thanks for the clarification. And now I realize it does fall outside of the content area. So that’s cool.

    As far as the URL, that’s a definite plus. Sorry to go on a rant, although my sentiments as to Google remain.

  • Bryan Quilty

    This is something we reported on almost a year ago:

    I thought it would’ve really caught on, but sharing youtube videos via email just doesn’t seem as effective as using AIM or Twitter.

  • Ros Hodgekiss

    Thank you for adding this, Bryan! Yes, it will be good to see how this catches on. Totally love your blog, btw – we do get a lot of inspiration from there from time to time :)

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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