Gmail's Tabbed Inbox

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Gmail's Tabbed Inbox

Google has a built-in system that scans incoming emails and automatically sorts them. While this sorting process is powered by complex algorithms that are not made public, as an email marketer you may be concerned about how Gmail's approach to inbox management might impact your marketing strategy. In particular, there are two key things to consider:

  • Inbox Placement
    The successful placement of your email in a recipient's inbox
  • Spam Filtering
    The placement of your email in a recipient's Spam folder

Inbox Placement

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The Inbox Placement Rate (IPR) is typically a benchmark for the percentage of sent emails that get successfully delivered to a recipient's inbox, in contrast to those that bounce, or get blocked. Inbox placement can also refer to where an email lands in an inbox after it gets successfully delivered. With Gmail's Tabbed Inbox, this could be any number of places: Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, or Forums

Gmail's algorithms are designed to make it easier for users to sort through an otherwise crowded inbox so important emails have high visibility. For email marketers, this can seem problematic if Gmail starts sorting your emails into a tab where they may get ignored.

Four months after the widespread rollout of tabs left marketing messages a click removed from personal email, consumers continue to read them at roughly the same levels as before.  - Return Path, The Tabbed Inbox

Studies done on the topic show that open rates for marketing emails landing in the Promotions tab did not experience a rapid decline and the observable change was slight. In fact, marketers might even be better off overall - emails that now find a safe place in the Promotions tab may have otherwise been blocked or filtered to Spam prior to Gmail's creation of the tabbed inbox.

Don’t Panic About the Promotions Tab

While evidence suggests there is no reason to panic over landing in Promotions, what if you still really want to end up in that Primary tab?

Gmail users themselves can alter the default sort system by moving an email from one tab to another and electing to have Google always put messages from that sender in the new tab of choice. Making an appeal to your audience, asking them to drag your newsletters on over to the Primary inbox so they don't get missed, is one option. Senders, however, cannot pre-determine which tab their messages will fall into and Klaviyo has no control over inbox placement after an email get successfully delivered.

Typically, if email messages are personalized, they will automatically get sorted in the Primary inbox. Less personalized emails tend to end up in the Promotions tab. Gmail's Promotions tab is truly designed to catch marketing emails, so consider the following:

  • Watch your text to image ratio. Taking an image-heavy approach to email design can impact inbox placement, and spam filters are also suspicious of emails comprised mostly of images.
  • Avoid RSS feeds if you're concerned about landing in the Primary tab, as some sources show emails with RSS feeds land in Promotions.
  • Avoid overuse of links, and when you do hyperlink text, make sure no links are broken.
  • Personalize, personalize, personalize - Klaviyo makes it easy to insert a first name into an email, for example, with a fallback if you don't have a name on file.

If you are already using Klaviyo to optimize your content for strong engagement - by only sending personalized and highly targeted emails - you shouldn't live in fear of the Promotions tab. You might still be curious, however, where your emails are ending up for the majority of your Gmail-using recipients. While there is no way to see which tab your emails are going to (as this is dependent on the personal inboxes of your recipients), tools like Litmus can help!

 

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