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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, [email protected], will get a message that looks like this:

The link appears just as it did in the row for [email protected] 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.

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11 Comments
  1. 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?

  2. What will it really cost gmass to apply mail merge personalizations first before applying click tracking to links? Else there might be a function problem, it sounds “as easy as” bringing process 2 in front of 1. In addition, theoretically, what each user may need to track could be different from what gmass tracks. Moreover, how do users pass the tracking data you handle for them directly into their web form? Is giving users more control over email sending not the essence of GMASS? Ajay has always solved most problems, please solve this longed for one. Thank you

  3. You sit up every day lien for what I told you what you have to do I don’t talk to nobody who?? Sad theirs 25 hours in your day for this just take this shit these people don’t what hell I been through

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  5. +1 to all the other commenters who mention wanting to track clicks on personalized links. We use a lot of personalized links in our emails and building separate infrastructure outside of GMass to track clicks on these URLs is beyond our team’s capacity right now.

    Additionally we use personalized links that go to servers we do not own (for example, we send Typeform surveys in our emails that have custom URL parameters, such as — typeform.com/survey-id?name={firstName}). We merge firstName in using GMass, but I don’t think we have any way to then know who is clicking this link, since we don’t control the Typeform server.

    Being able to track personalized links would be huge for us; we are considering moving a lot of our email sending elsewhere because of this issue.

  6. Hi, We are wanting to create personalized URLs based on the fields in our spreadsheet. The way we set it up was working at first, but now it is not. I found this post and tried the solutions above but it didn’t work. Could you please take a look and see if you have a suggestion?

    Here’s what we first tried- in the email template we typed “please click here” and then highlighted that text and using Gmail inserted a link with the merge field “https://{MERGE FIELD}”. We are wanting to personalize the URL with 6 different options, so we are using a formula to do so. We have two columns on the spreadsheet- one is a formula (column K in this example) to concatenate the URL along with the URL variables so the formula in column K is =concatenate(“url?urlvariable1=”,B2,”&urlvariable2=”C2 [so on and so forth]). Column L is the MERGE FIELD column and is simply “=K2″ to pull the link all together with the personalized url variables. This was working for the first 20 or so emails, but stopped. I tried the solutions above- first with anchor text, but the the h ref conflicted with the formula. Then I tried inserting just the merge field, but when I received the GMass email, the link was broken because the spaces in the name fields that are part of the url variable. So then I tried using a hyperlink formula to create a friendly URL (=hyperlink[K2,”Please Click Here”]) which created a nice link in the Google Sheet, but only appeared as text Please Click Here in the email once merged.

    Any advice? Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Jess,

      Could you please contact our support team (gmass.co/g/support) and provide us with the campaign ID of the campaign and/or a screenshot of your Google Sheet so we can assist you directly?

  7. This looks useful if we wanted to send merge data as a payload say, into a calendar form for example. What use did you imagine it for when you designed this Ajay?

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