Tech Trends

Are we witnessing the death of Gmail annotations?

  Gregg Blanchard     Jun 10, 2022    

About 18 months ago I had wrapped up some larger dev projects for SendView and wanted to turn my attention to some smaller features. Specifically, I wanted to check off tracking for a few of up-and-coming tech / code trends.

So I wrote some rules for dark mode.

But I also dug into Gmail Annotations. There seemed to be a good portion of emails using them, so I jumped in, added some flags so I could tell which emails contained the required code, and even recreated my own version fo the Gmail Annotations preview tool so I could put it right into SendView.

google annotations preview screenshot

I watched the numbers that first month after going live and, sure enough, during that first month about 2% of emails we analyzed contained this code.

Since then? Well, it's been less rosy.

Bright Start

That first month was a November - i.e., the Black Friday / Cyber Monday stretch - so rather than start with what might have been an outlier, I looked at the four months that followed to give us a better idea of what usage looked like back then.

chart showing that from dec 2020 to mar 2021 about 1.0% of the emails we analyzed included Gmail annotations code

Starting around 1.3% in December, the percentage of all emails we processed that included the code dropped to about 1.0% in January before rebounding slightly to 1.1% in March of 2021.

And March ended up being pretty representative of the average for this period which was 1.13%.

Slow Decline

What happened during the following few months, however, would take that average and cut it in half and then almost in half again.

chart showing that after mar 2021 the volume of gmail annotation emails dropped quickly to a plateau average of 0.33%

April 2021 saw 0.89% of all emails we processed containing Gmail annotations, May dropped to 0.72%, and by June the number was down to 0.37%. From there through January 2022, the average hovered right around 0.33% of all emails.

Almost Zero

But that plateau wouldn't last long. Since January 2022, things have started sliding downward again.

chart showing that since jan 2022 the number of emails with gmail annotation code has dropped to almost zero

During May 2022, just 0.07% of all the emails we processed included Gmail annotation code. I included June even though it's only a few days worth of data because across those few days, just 0.01% of emails included this code.

Now what?

Here's the thing, I really like the idea behind annotations and, at least in my inbox, the brands that used this code certainly stood out. Domino's Pizza was one of those that I started seeing at the top of my promotions tab on a regular basis.

screenshot of dominos email

But the fact that:

  • there was no guarantee of Gmail actually using this code to make you a top promotion
  • it was just in Gmail
  • it was just for mobile
  • it was only in the promotions tab
  • thought leaders moved on to newer, more effective trends

Well, all of these things made gaining momentum all but impossible for this kind of tool. Like a car that ran out of gas a half mile ago, it's been coasting along...but that momentum is running out.

Are Gmail annotations dead? No. But it doesn't look too far away.

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