7 tips to get your emails into Gmail’s primary inbox


I came across a blog post by a blogger by the name of Luke Guy who did some interesting testing to determine what seems to cause an email to land in Gmail’s primary inbox vs their new promotions tab.

For those of you catching up on this, mid last year, Google’s Gmail email service updated their email service inbox to automatically sort user’s emails into either a primary tab, a social tab and a promotions tab. This has had email marketers scrambling to determine the impact, if any.

Normally, when I come across a great blog post, I would just share it across my various social channels. But, in this case, I thought further input was warranted.

Luke makes some valid points, and of course, his insights into how to better assure delivery into the primary inbox are right on. But, I disagree with his judgment of the promotions tab. He calls it the tab “where spammers belong”. For retailers and people truly selling something, email remains a strong viable marketing tactic, and Gmail’s promotion tab doesn’t really change that. Luke writes from the point of view of a content marketer. He still sells, but he does it via value-ad content, and by building long-term relationships with his audience. All marketers could learn from that.

Luke seems to indicate that he thinks most people rarely if ever check their promotions tab. I don’t think that’s true, and some of the stats and research I’ve seen supports that. People are still engaging with their favorite brands’ promotional emails. People are looking for offers and discounts, and they now know where to find it. You’ll want to look at your own email metrics before deciding your path forward.

I like the prescription from Loren McDonald, a VP at SilverPop. He calls for  a three-phase, nine-step framework: Analyze > Act > Evolve. This is probably a good place to start as you think about what actions, if any, you should take.

First, you do a deep dive (Analyze) and understand what’s really going on with your Gmail subscribers. Then, deploy various Tabs-related tactics (Act) and make fundamental long-term changes to your program (Evolve).

The best strategy is to incorporate Gmail’s special concerns into your ongoing programs, starting at opt-in, then continuing through a broader on-boarding process and into your regular email programs.

Read his entire blog post, as he provides an extensive and detailed approach to analyzing, acting, and evolving your email marketing to better engage your Gmail users.

Going back to Luke’s post, he prescribes 7 ingredients to ensure your emails end up in the primary tab. As a product or brand marketer, you’ll need to look at these 7 ingredients as “trade-offs”. Having your emails land in the inbox is not necessarily a bad thing, and you’ll have to consider the impact these 7 ingredients can have to your open rates, your click rates, and ultimately your conversation rates.

Here are Luke’s 7 secret ingredients:

  1. Have no more than 1 link in your email.
  2. Include no pictures.
  3. Mention the readers name using Merge Tag Tricks with MailChimp orAweber.
  4. Turn off the Rss Campaign. If you want a higher open count, you must type these emails out by hand.
  5. Write to the reader like he’s your friend.
  6. Don’t go spammy like this: Hey!!!WANT TO MAKE MONEY FAST??!?!?!
  7. Write in Traditional Letter Form.

It’s a big thing to ask of a digital marketer. Images have a huge impact on click-thru rates, and there are many times when more than 1 link are called for. So, these 7 prescriptions are not for every brand marketer out there. But, these are good insights into how the Gmail algorithm works to sort out user’s emails.

Regardless of what you do or do not include in your marketing emails, here is my advice:

  1. Always keep the customer in mind. Be personable, human and relational in your communications. We live in a new world, and the old traditions of in-personable, mass marketing no longer work.
  2. Provide value and make your case as to why your product is valuable. This will require copy writing skills. I like the approach Ray Edwards (http://rayedwards.com/) outlines for writing better copy: P.A.S.T.O.R.
  3. Listen to your customer and pay attention to your metrics. Make sure you have good mechanisms for your customers to provide feedback. Pay attention to your email metrics, such as opt-outs and spam complaints. These can be an indication of whether your content is relevant and providing value or not.

These 3 things won’t get your email into Gmail’s primary tab, but it will make your email marketing better. And if your emails are good, your customers will look for them–whatever tab they end up in.

Next Month:

I’ll be writing about email “pre-header” and strategies to help improve your open rates for your users reading emails on a mobile device. This is part of a 5 part email series I’m writing to kick of my “Digital Marketing Secrets Revealed” eNewsletter. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can sign up in the form below.

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