How to include a personalized link in a Gmail email marketing campaign

GMass, the ultimate email marketing tool for Gmail, offers lots of mail merge personalization options, from simple mail-merge personalization to fallback values and even automatic first name detection. Sometimes, you may need to get a little more sophisticated and include a personalized link or URL for each recipient of your email marketing campaign.

The best practice for including a personalized URL is to include the full URL, with personalization in place, or an HTML code snippet of the link, as a column in your Google Docs spreadsheet.

Raw URL Example

Below is an example of a spreadsheet where the personalized link is in raw form, with just the URL specified.

After using GMass to connect to your spreadsheet, the Compose window launches, and your message might look like this:

When your email is sent, the recipient, maria@google.com, will get a message that looks like this:

The link appears just as it did in the row for maria@google.com in the spreadsheet. Hovering over the link shows that it points to the same URL as is displayed.

URL with Anchor Text Example

Next is an example of a spreadsheet where the personalized link is part of an HTML anchor tag, such that meaningful text is displayed that, when clicked, will take the user to the personalized URL. The full <a href> anchor tag will be inserted into the HTML message at the point designated by the {PersonalizedURL} mail merge tag.

After using GMass to connect to your spreadsheet, the Compose window launches, and your message might look like this:

When your email is sent, the recipient will get a message that looks like this:

The anchor text is displayed, since it was surrounded by <a href> tags in the spreadsheet cell, but hovering over the link displays the target URL in the bottom status bar of the browser (highlighted in yellow).

Click tracking will not be applied

If you enable click tracking in GMass settings, these particular links will not be modified, regardless of whether you use the raw URL or anchor text approach. That’s because GMass applies click tracking to links before it applies mail merge personalization, so by the time the links are personalized, the click tracking process has already finished altering links in the campaign. In addition, theoretically, because these links are unique to each recipient in the first place, it’s not necessary for GMass to click-track them since they are trackable on the web server of the domain in the personalized URL.

Do not personalize links directly in the Compose window

The reason we advocate placing the full personalized URL as a column in your spreadsheet is because the Gmail Compose window is prone to altering a personalized link and rendering it a broken link. This is due to how Gmail encodes a message behind the scenes.

In this example:

Do NOT personalize URLs as shown above.

The user has attempted to personalize a URL directly inside the Gmail Compose window, by inserting the mail merge personalization variables as part of the URL. In theory this should accomplish the same objective as placing the full personalized link in the spreadsheet cell, but this actually does not work because Gmail encodes the curly brackets into their HTML-encoded form, replacing the left curly bracket with %7B and the right curly bracket with %7D. This encoding would break the GMass personalization process, causing these merge tags to not be replaced with their appropriate values.

Summary

If you need to send personalized URLs as part of a Gmail-based email marketing campaign, include the full personalized URLs, one for each recipient, in your Google Docs spreadsheet rather than including the mail merge personalization variables as part of the link in the Compose window.

2 Replies to “How to include a personalized link in a Gmail email marketing campaign”

  1. Marshall Æon

    It’s pretty critical to track the users on my website by including their email in the URL. However, then I have to give up Gmass click tracking.

    Maybe you can apply click tracking AFTER personalization instead?

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