One of the most common concerns voiced to our Partner Support team relates to emails landing in Gmail’s Promotions tab. There's a great deal involved with the tabs and how they apply to emails, so it's not always an easy answer. In this article, we aim to clarify some misconceptions about Google Tabs in general.
What happened with the Promotions tab?
When Gmail’s tab system was implemented in 2013, email marketers feared the Promotions tab would be a wasteland where their emails would end up, never to be read by willing recipients. In response, marketers have tried to beat the Google algorithm and place their emails in Gmail's Social, Updates, and Primary tabs.
How do I avoid the Promotions tab as an email marketer?
In short, you can’t. Gmail parses the language and origin of all emails that come through as part of their gateway and spam filtering, and Google's algorithm looks for certain phrases and word combinations to decide which tab an email should land in. With millions upon millions of emails going through this algorithm each day, Google has become quite skilled at identifying your promotional and marketing emails.
Essentially, in order to not land in the Promotions tab, you would need to keep from sending marketing emails—or at least send an email so strange that the algorithm would not pick up on any promotional language. At that point, why even send marketing emails?
Great, so what do I do now?
Nothing—and that's okay. In 2015, Return Path released an analysis of 3 million Gmail users, including 400,000 inbox configurations and 55 million email messages to figure out how the Promotions tab is affecting engagement with marketing messages. Return Path's analysis was eye-opening. They found that only 0.3% of all commercial messages make it to the Primary tab, and that the Promotions tab receives 90% of all commercial messages.
More than that, box configuration plays a key role. Return Path found that, before inbox configuration took place, messages that are placed in the Promotions tab are read at a similar rate. However, those messages were read at a higher rate than when they were placed in the Social tab.
Okay, so what does this mean?
What this amounts to is that, with a configured inbox, 93% of marketing messages were sent to the inbox's Promotions tab. Without configuration, 77% of these message types were sent to the Primary tab. Additionally, the number of spam complaints for the messages sent to the promotional tab were less-than-half of those for those messages sent to the Primary tab.
Return Path's analysis reveals that the trade-off for messages in the Promotions tab is a significantly higher delivery rate with vastly lower spam complaint rates—all while having little effect on engagement and reading rates.
But what if I really want to hit the Primary tab?
There are three ways to have your messages delivered to the Primary tab. However, they're dependent upon your recipient.
- Your recipient adds your From address to their contact list. If the contact is in the address book, Gmail will override the promotional email configuration and drop them into the Primary tab.
- Your recipient moves the email into the Primary tab. If the contact moves the email from the Promotional tab into the Primary tab, subsequent emails will follow suit and will be inboxed there.
- Your recipient stars the email. Emails that are starred will be moved into the Primary tab. Since starring an email places it in the Starred category and deems the email as important, follow-up emails may also be placed into this tab.
The Promotions tab is far less damaging than it appears. Emails that are sent to the Promotions tab aren't just mostly harmless—they actually provide better delivery rates while receiving fewer spam complaints.