The Google Promotions Tab, aka marketing email purgatory, has been the thorn underfoot of those businesses and rely on email as a way to promote their goods and services. The sting these email marketers are experiencing is real.
Why do emails end up in the Gmail Promotions Tab?
When a business sends an email blast, Google scans the incoming mail, and depending on the kind of information received, assigns the email to the Primary Inbox, to the Social Tab, or the Promotions Tab. The idea is to ensure that the Primary Inbox remains uncluttered, making it easier for users to find the emails that matter to them the most.
Oftentimes when email marketing software or a marketing automation platform sends emails, these messages contain identifiable information that betrays their usually generic nature and sends them to the Gmail Promotions Tab.
Cracking the algorithmic code Google uses to determine which email gets into the recipient’s inbox vs. the no-mans-land that is the Promotions Tab, is not going to be an effective use of your time. Email deliverability expert Chris Lang estimates that Gmail has between 450 and 550 different indicators of quality that will decide the fate of each email that’s sent via Gmail.
Another thing to keep in mind is to not use your own Gmail inbox to test whether or not your emails are getting to your targeted audience. “Spamming yourself” will not work because you’re reading your messages. Everything is based on individual behavior. So just because one person says they’ve gone to promotions, don’t expect that to be the case for everyone. Your email box, and your neighbors, and your colleagues, all tell Google that the stuff being opened by you is important. Only to you.
One more don’t do
Don’t try to game the system by changing your name or address. Remember that your reputation is linked to your email address and the name text associated with it. Plus, by changing it and you’re starting from scratch. All that effort you put into building up recognition, be it name or brand recognition, dies the instant you make this change.
If you’ve already got a bad reputation, you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you to repair the damage you’ve done. A shortcut is not to be clever and switch to a new identity, as the chances are that you’ll be dinged and be penalized again—to the point that you end up in the spam folder.
The point of mentioning this is that you’re never going to outwit Google. If you’re trying to make a promotion look like something other than it is, Google will figure it out.
How to prevent emails from going to promotions in Gmail
There are things you can do to improve the chances of your email arriving somewhere other than the Promotions tab. One way how to get emails out of promotions is to avoid practices that make your messages look like a promotion.
Lots of images in your email: Anything with more than one image looks like a promotion. Stick to emails that look like plain text, as if you sent it from an email software platform. Definitely avoid a masthead and stick to a common, even ordinary email signature.
More than one or two links in your email: One link per email. (Not including an Unsubscribe link.) Opinion is divided whether repeating the same link more than once impacts your inbox placement. Tests prove both, so test your own emails to see what the result is. (Tip: If your audience is predominantly mobile, make sure that you’re using the new Keap email builder and test the placement of your call-to-action link. You can’t scatter links to the copy like you once did.)
If it’s “from” your brand, rather than you: Always make the email from you, not your brand. And, let your personality stand out. People buy from people, not machines. Be sure your audience knows your story and what you stand for.
Lots of fancy HTML code in your email: Clever email templates look great and businesses love them, but fancy HTML coded templates often end up languishing in Promotions.
Links to your social media profiles in your signature (or any other links for that matter): As mentioned, too many links will land you in Promotions, but, more importantly, you’ve worked hard to get someone to open and read your mail. Why send them to Facebook or Instagram when you want them to follow the call-to-action in your email?
One more way avoid the promotions tab
One method that is absolutely foolproof, and algorithm-proof, is asking your audience to whitelist you. There are many “whitelisting guides” online, but the best is Chris Lang’s whitelisting generator, which you can use for free. This creates your own personalized instructions that you can incorporate into your own website.
Once your email recipients have told Gmail that your emails are important to them, they will keep sending things into that inbox. So whitelist, open, click, and reply to your heart’s content.
Check out Keap's Lifecycle Marketing Assessment to determine where your business stands among the industry's top performers.
By applying the straightforward principles, you’ll be able to get your email into the Gmail primary inbox so as many people as possible will see it and open it. This will boost your audience engagement resulting in better webinar attendance and more sales.
Remember that as many as half of your audience is likely to be using some kind of email infrastructure provided by Google.
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Adrian Savage contributed to this article.