Don’t panic!

We have to hand it to Gmail – it gave users a helping hand back in 2013 when it reshuffled inboxes to categorise emails by Tabs.

One of said Tabs was the Promotions tab. It sent a wave of panic among marketers who feared their content would never be seen. Gmail offers three basic Tabs:

  • Primary – for messages from key contacts, and Google, of course
  • Promotions – for marketing emails
  • Social – for social networking and forums e.g. Quora.

When tabs were first introduced, many marketers’ main goal was to get into their readers’ Primary tabs to ensure maximum engagement. But it turns out that this categorisation isn’t a death knell for marketers – rather, it’s an opportunity. Here’s why.

Clicking on the Promotions tab means higher conversions.

Gmail users very much appreciate the new categorisation. They like to know that marketing emails aren’t being filtered incorrectly into their key contacts. As such, if they’re consciously opening this tab, they are ready to engage with promotional emails. You should expect higher open and click-through rates as users know what they should expect.

Tabs do not signal deliverability issues.

A common misconception among marketers is that Tabs are a fancy word for junk boxes. Hint – they’re not! All Tabs are part of the larger inbox, so you won’t have your deliverability stats skewed by emails landing in junk boxes. This means that, for the smaller proportion that do, you can use this intel to analyse any potential issues, for example too many images or spammy language.

Google offers an added bonus for marketers.

Perhaps in an effort to appease panicking marketers, Google now offers the chance to “annotate” emails. What exactly does this mean? Think of it like schema tagging your website for SEO – it’s a way of marking up your content to show Google exactly what you’re offering.

So, in the case of email marketing, the standard preview text (which is either the first few lines or something you’ve customised, for example in Mailchimp) is replaced with an “annotation”. Here you can use this succinct piece of real estate to highlight a promotion – perhaps by putting a voucher code in there, a deal badge or even an image preview. This invites users to take action straight away – great for when they’re engaging more with the Promotions tab.

GMAIL DOESN’T CREATE VALUE IN THE PROMOTIONS TAB. IT’S THE BEST EMAILS THAT CREATE VALUE. THE NEW PROMOTIONS TAB REWARDS BRANDS WHO SEND TRULY VALUABLE EMAIL BY MAKING THEM EASIER TO FIND WITH A RICHER MEANS OF DELIVERING THAT VALUE.

JORDAN GROSSMAN
PRODUCT MANAGER, GMAIL

Jordan shared an overview of Gmail’s Promotions tab at the DDMA Email Marketing Summit. Check out his keynote:

There’s no point trying to outsmart Google!

Again, we have the SEO analogy here. Just as the search engine doesn’t appreciate “black hat” SEO practices like keyword stuffing, it also has no time for marketers trying to nudge their way into the Primary tab.

Don’t try to dress your promotional email up as something it’s not. It’s simple marketing – nothing to be ashamed of. In a worst-case scenario, Google could update its algorithms and penalise your email address if it feels you’re trying to fool it. That would affect deliverability.

In sum, if your subscriber list has lots of Gmail users, don’t panic. It’s better to market to a few converting users than canvas a whole load of unengaged readers.