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Yahoo Mail and Gmail Web Based Email Services are Recoloring Parts of Emails
This is causing tremendous Problems for Email Designers and Email Recipients because certain text may be changed to another color that may be the same color as the background, thus making it invisible to the email recipient or at the very least frustrating for the email designer

Yahoo Mail Re-colors Links and Keywords in HTML Based Emails To Sell Advertising
Gmail Recolors Telephone Numbers in Emails to Blue to pitch their Google Voice service
Recent changes at Yahoo Mail and gmail creates email design problems by recoloring links and prime keywords in users' emails, causing problems for email designers

Overview Of The Recoloring Text Problem

Yahoo and other web-based email companies often change the default colors of text that they decide are links or keywords in recipients' HTML email, overriding the color settings that the email designer has prescribed. Yahoo has done this to sell some inbox advertising to email recipients that was not intended by the originator or designer of the email. Google has made the gmail color change when it spots a phone number in the email and tries to sell it IP telephony service by coloring the phone number blue, regardless of whether the background is blue too - efectively making the phone number disappear. This change can cause many other types of logistical issues with sending an email.

Although it's easy to figure out what links are affected and plan accordingly, it's much harder to figure out the keywords that Yahoo will be re-coloring. This is because the keywords come from an internal ad list at Yahoo, and they change every day according to what advertisers are willing to buy. At this time, Yahoo is only 15% of the web-based email market, so up until now, most marketers and email designers have ignored the problem - but as other email companies are threatening to do the same thing in order to create ad revenue, it's time to get in front of the problem in a pro-active stance.


Carol Bartz Discusses Yahoo Mail Link Color OverrideCarol Bartz, CEO Yahoo Inc. Responds To Questions About the Yahoo Text Color Override

At a recent conference, Yahoo's chief executive, Carol Bartz, was asked about the dreaded link and text keyword color override problem and responded:

Yahoo will continue to explore any areas that can provide our advertisers opportunities to insert their brand into a social conversation, email being the very original social network that is still alive and kicking." ... "The text color override and subsequent ad placement is one of those areas that provides us with an excellent return on investment, even though some people may find it a little obtrusive, they will happily suffer with it to allow the Yahoo email service to remain free". She added, "Google has been busy putting up side-ads based on the email content; we have taken it one step further, albeit an aggressive one at that, but a move that shows our passion for our clients and our shareholders.

The Specifics: What text in an email does Yahoo actually change?

Data Item
Items That Yahoo Mail Overrides With Its Own Colors
Telephone Number Yahoo changes the color of the text to #336699 blue and brings up the Yahoo shortcuts bubble so the user can add this contact to their calendar.
Address Yahoo changes the color of the text to #336699 blue and brings up the Yahoo shortcuts bubble so the user can see it on a map
Date Yahoo changes the color of the text to #336699 blue and brings up the Yahoo shortcuts bubble so the user can add the date to their Yahoo calendar
Link Yahoo Mail recolors the link, and if you hover over the link will bring up a list of advertisers not actually associated with the word
Keyword Any text-based word in the email can be picked up and treated as a keyword; Yahoo changes the color of the word to a mid-blue, and if you hover over the word it will open up a pop up with a list of advertisers who paid for their advertisement to be associated with the word

Example 1 : Mary Poppins Ticket Offer Email
On this example you can see the color changes that Yahoo makes to key parts of text data on the email. When the user hovers on these areas a Yahoo shortcut box appears prompting them to perform other actions, like buy tickets from a ticket broker, which is clearly against the spirit of this email.
NORMAL EMAIL APPEARANCE
YAHOO MAIL
Mary poppins email before
Mary poppins email after yahoo default link color changes


Example 2 : Cirque du Soleil: Wintuk Ticket Offer Email
On this example you can see the color changes that Yahoo has made to the key parts of text data on the email. The color that Yahoo Mail changes the links to is the same color (#336699 blue) as the background, so they effectively blanked out the data. When the user hovers on these 'now' blank areas a Yahoo shortcut box appears prompting them to perform other actions, like "buy tickets from a ticket broker" or another advertising prompt, which is clearly against the spirit of this email.

NORMAL EMAIL APPEARANCE
YAHOO MAIL
Wintuk email before
Wintuk email after yahoo email default link color changes

The Gmail Problem
Gmail has begun changing the colors on all phone numbers that are received in gmail email accounts to the color blue known as #0000CC. The telephone number will now be clickable and will link to the Gmail phone system - See example below:

Possible Solutions:
Generally avoid the use of blue backgrounds that may contain keywords like telephone number, address, dates etc.

Link Solution
For every link use the class “yshortcuts” within an inline div tag like so:
<a href=“#“ style=“color:#456456; text-decoration:none;“><span style=“color:#456456;“>Link</span></a>
This is a little repetitive, but it’s a sure-fire way of preventing your links from turning up #336699 blue in Yahoo.

Keyword Solution

We don't have a working solution other than to take this problem into consideration when designing an email, i.e. don't use a mid blue or a mid gray color anywhere in the email and absolutely don't use the color #336699 blue anywhere is the email, because it's identical to the color Yahoo will turn the text to, making words invisible.

Testing
This is another quirk to add to the HTML email testing checklist, but when other web-based email services start overiding the color on the links, keywords and any other items in the email, we will start to find that no consistent email design can be achieved across the various email environments, rendering the medium of email quirky and unreliable to marketers.

 
 


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