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The Fight For Email Delivery: Gmail Tabs & What To Do About It

If you’re been building an email list for longer than a few months, I’m sure you’ve noticed something recently.

You’ve noticed a sudden drop in open rates.

At first I thought it was just a bad period, a week of low open rates happens from time to time.

Now fast forward another week or two, and I realize that Gmail has changed. Google thought it would be a good idea to segment your emails for you. Now, all emails are automatically placed into one of 3 categories.

The first is primary, this is the main email folder where all important and personal emails should fall.

Next is the social folder, this is where mostly notifications from social media sites fall. The last folder is where it gets ugly.


As you can imagine, people tend to pay less attention to what falls into the ‘Promotions’ category and more attention to their primary inbox.

If you’re subscribed to a lot of email lists, you’ll have something like several hundred emails per month fall into the promotions inbox, and maybe a few dozen in the primary folder.

For some consumers this is great, it saves them from having to unsubscribe from email lists they don’t want to be subscribed to any more. For marketers however, it’s bad news.

The good news is that it’s kind of simple to land in the primary folder. Right now this whole segmentation thing is causing problems. However, if you think about it; this could be the start of something great.

An email delivery algorithm driven by engagement.

While this is just a theory, it makes a lot of sense and is sounding like somewhat of a reality with what some marketers are saying. First, here’s how you can land in your subscriber’s primary folder:

1. Get Higher Open Rates

When you have high open rates, it only makes sense that Google delivers your emails to the primary folder. After all people want to read them, so they must be important. Getting high open rates comes down to intriguing subject lines that spike your subscriber’s curiosity. Start playing around with subject lines, get creative and work towards getting high open rates. As you gain momentum your emails will land in the primary folder more, and so the open rates will sky rocket.

2. Encourage Interaction

This algorithm idea is all about interaction. Clicks will boost your “primary rank” and so will getting replies to your emails. These interactions show Google your emails are popular. Popularity means importance, and importance means high primary deliverance.

3. Have Your Subscribers Move Your Emails To The Primary Folder

Lastly, you can actually ask your subscribers to move your emails from the promotions folder into their primary folder. It’s as simple as dragging and dropping your email from the promotions folder to the primary.

When you do this, Google asks if you’d like to do this for all future emails. If you click yes, all future emails from this sender will arrive in the primary folder. The more emails landing in the primary folder, the better your score and of course the more people who’ll actually open your emails.

So how do you do this?

Paul Fredrick actually created this image that he sent out to his subscribers in an email (you can do the exact same or simply email written instructions):

That’s all there is to it.

If your open rates have taken a sudden dive, make sure you send out an email with an image like the one before immediately. Personally I think it’s not a bad idea to send out an email like this every couple of months or so depending on your results.

You could also add the image/instructions on the thank you/success page subscribers land on after they join your list.

Ultimately these steps don’t take a lot of effort and they’re very effective. Nobody likes change, especially when Google messes with your marketing; but it’s an on-going process. Just keep adapting.

In Prosperity,

David Wood

P.S. Leave me your thoughts, comments and questions below. Also opt-in to the email list on the right for more email marketing tips, tricks and secrets.

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Solid content Dave. The funny thing is a lot of marketers are sending out emails to their list asking their subscribers to put their emails in the "primary tab". The question is are they even seeing these emails if they're already going to their "promotions tab". 

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