Is your email going to the Gmail Promotions Tab? At first glance, it will feel like a negative outcome because in most cases messages have two places to arrive: the inbox and the spam folder. You may feel like any message that isn’t in the inbox must be in the spam folder, so going to the Promotions tab can’t be good. The truth is it doesn’t hurt your deliverability at all.
The Gmail Promotions Tab is part of the Inbox
The first thing to clarify is this: The Promotions tab is part of the Inbox. These tabs are Categories, not separate folders. When your messages are in the Promotions tab it means your message isn’t being classified as spam, it is being delivered to the Inbox, just a subset of the Inbox.
Why did it go into the Promotions tab? Because the Gmail algorithms have looked at your messages, your sending practices, and especially your subscriber’s interactions to determine that your messages are promotional in nature.
The Majority of Your Recipients Don’t Have Messages in Tabs
The easiest way to prove that the Gmail Promotions Tab is part of the Inbox is to try accessing Gmail from a desktop or mobile email client other than Gmail’s: the messages that were in the Promotions tab on the web are now in the Inbox.
Those that use the Gmail website and apps to read their gmail.com messages are in the minority. According to a study by Litmus, only 28% of opens are coming from a Gmail client, but if your lists are similar to mine, far more than 28% of the recipients have a Gmail address.
Why the discrepancy? Looking at the same study, 58% of those opens are coming from an Apple email client, and Apple Mail doesn’t sort messages using Gmail’s tabs, nor do Outlook and the other popular clients. And since those messages are still in the Inbox, they appear in the inbox when using a mail client that doesn’t support Gmail’s tabs, which the majority of recipients do.
In addition, users can (and do) turn off the tabs within Gmail. In this article by ActiveCampaign, we’re told that only 1 in 5 Gmail users have tabs enabled, so if 28% of recipients are using a Gmail client, and only 1/5 of those are using tabs, then only around 5.6% of recipients are using tabs at all.
Quality, Not Quantity
While there are reports of messages in the Promotions tab having lower open rates, we’ve already established that it’s not likely that this will impact more than around 5% of your recipients, and here’s the thing to remember: the opens you get in the Promotions tab are from recipients who specifically went to the Promotions tab to read promotional emails.
Those people are looking to shop, find deals, and otherwise engage with the businesses that email them, meaning they are far more likely to convert when they do open your messages. Not only that, but those who are more likely to negatively engage with your mail may be less likely to see it and do things like delete without reading (which the algorithms pay attention to).
Remember, opens are an unreliable metric to begin with, and are not an outcome, just a leading indicator. You’re (probably) not getting paid for opens, especially if you work in retail, instead conversions are what matters, so before you panic about being in the Promotions tab, make sure it’s actually affecting the metrics that really matter: those that represent outcomes.
The Gmail Promotions Tab Grants Your Mail Superpowers
When your messages are in the Promotions tab, you gain access to Gmail Annotations for your messages.
These annotations enhance your email when it is viewed in the Gmail interface, allowing for things like logo display, carousels, and distinct product listings. You can learn more about Gmail annotations here, here, and here.
Ok, but How Do I Get My Email Out of the Gmail Promotions Tab?
So you’ve seen that the Promotions Tab is only used by a small percentage of recipients, that is improves the quality of your engagement, and that it gives you the ability to leverage annotations to make your messages more attention-grabbing, but you still want out?
While there are a number of tips and tricks being spread around that claim to work, they will be temporary at best. If your messages are in the Promotions Tab there’s only one fix that is both permanent and widespread: make your messages less promotional. Your messages are in the Promotions Tab because the Gmail algorithms consider your messages to be promotional, and their machine learning is constantly improving, especially because it uses user interactions and feedback to improve.
If you want your messages to not be treated as promotional, you have to actually make them less promotional:
- Decrease the number of images in your messages. When you’re sending emails back and forth to friends and colleagues, you’re not packing the messages full of images (with the rare exception of a vacation report).
- Decrease the formatting of your messages. Again, personal (and even transactional) messages do not have tables and tons of formatting, they are straightforward and if they have a template at all, it’s very simple.
- Avoid promotional language. Only promotion emails have heavy use of terms like discount, sale, limited-time, etc.
- Don’t send out of platforms that are almost exclusively used for promotional email. As the saying goes: you are the company you keep. If you’re trying to get transactional mail out of the promotional tab, send it on a separate IP and subdomain from your promotional messaging, so that it’s easier for the Gmail algorithms to separate the mail streams with regards to how they get treated.
As far as a quicker, more focused solution? Ask your users to drag your message from their promotional tab back to the inbox tab. This won’t push all your messages back to the inbox, but the Gmail algorithm will learn that in the case of that one particular recipient, they your messages in their primary Inbox tab.
There’s nothing wrong with being in the Gmail Promotions Tab: it’s not universally applied, it helps recipients see your message when they are in the mood to engage, and it unlocks Gmail Annotations for your messages. If you feel you’re in the promotions tab by mistake, make sure your messages are less promotional in nature and you should end up where you belong as your signals improve.