Why Do We Need To Avoid The Gmail Promotions Tab?

Google wants people to go into their Promotions Tab, it’s definitely not just another ‘Junk’ or ‘Spam’ folder. With that said it can hurt your important message if it appears between ASDA’s weekly deals and a MoonPig reminder that you only have 3 days before Mothers Day. Hopefully the email content you’re sending to your customers isn’t just a list of deals, if it is then the Promotions Tab is where it should be! If it’s anything more though, if it’s genuine communication or conversation then you want it to land in your customers normal inbox and be given the attention it deserves. 

What is the Gmail Promotions Tab?

If you’re not sure what the Promotions Tab is you’re not alone. It’s automatically enabled for personal Gmail accounts that are created now and has been for some time but if you’ve had Gmail for a good few years then you might never have seen it at all.

The Promotions Tab is Google trying to make the experience of it’s users better and we can’t fault that. Google want you to check your Promotions Tab, it’s simply their way of adding an automated level of priority assignment. The idea is that your promotional material will no longer be overlooked or deleted out of hand when a customer is busy going through important work or personal emails. Instead it will be ready and waiting when they have the time to go through their Promotions Tab, ready for them to find when they are in the mindset for shopping or engaging with Marketing messages.

With that in mind there’s a lot of messages you might be sending out that are time sensitive or simply not promotional material. This kind of content may find it’s effectiveness impacted by being presented alongside traditional promotional material. Newsletters for instance, we’ve found these are sometimes wrongly filtered into the Promotions Tab, for customers expecting the Newsletter having it in the wrong area negatively impacted their experience of the brand.

Despite Google wanting people to use their Tabs it does seem that a lot of people only check their Promotions Tab every now and again. With this in mind there’s good reason for wanting to ensure certain messages avoid the Promotions Tab altogether.

What triggers Google to put emails in the Promotions Tab?

That’s the million dollar question. As always with Google the answer is ‘an algorithm’ and that’s where the simplicity ends! A multitude of factors are tested and used to determine whether Google thinks your email should end up in the Promotions Tab. After going through pages and pages of advice and findings of other people as well as going on our own experience here’s what we can tell you. If it looks like Marketing, feels like Marketing or contains promotional buzzwords then it’s probably going to end up in the Promotions Tab. The slicker, sexier and more optimised for conversions your email is…the more likely it is to be thrown into the Promotions Tab.

That’s a real kick in the teeth for everyone who has put time and effort into perfecting their Email Marketing. The upshot of this is there are 3 things you can do and I’d suggest most businesses should be doing a mix of the three.

  1. Try to avoid the Promotions Tab via content changes. This is certainly possible and we’ll tell you how. It’s not ideal though as you have to sacrifice all the great unique layouts, content and calls-to-action you’ve perfected. Use this when you need to but it’s not a ‘solution.’
  2. Accept a place in the Promotions Tab and make the best of it. If you want to follow Email Marketing best practice then you will end up in the Promotion Tab, this can’t really be helped. Knowing where your content is being seen allows you to tailor it, once you embrace the Promotions Tab you can go all out to make the perfect conversion creating content.
  3. Make your Email Marketing Earned Media. If you can have your fans tell Gmail they want you in the Primary Tab every time then you need never worry about the Promotions Tab again. Realistically only a small portion of your database are likely to undertake this action though. Keep a record of those that have and reward them!

How to avoid the Promotions Tab

Get ready to go back on every bit of Email Marketing advice you’ve ever had. Alright, not all of it, but a whole lot of it!

  • Get rid of those eye-catching images. People don’t embed images when they email each other. We just don’t do it. Google knows that so an embedded image is a dead giveaway that you’re email is Marketing material.
  • One link. Anymore than one link set’s Google’s alarms off. See this as an opportunity to refine and hone the message of each email you send.
  • Avoid Promotional terms. Try to avoid them throughout your email but especially in the Subject Line. That means we don’t want to see any ‘Free’ ‘Offer’ or ‘Limited Availability’ talk, be more inventive!
  • Single Column. When is the last time you wrote an email to someone you know in any format other than single column? Exactly. Google knows!
  • Keep it short. It seems shorter messages do better at avoiding the filter. This makes sense, emails between people rarely exceed 500 words or so in the normal course of communication.
  • Write as if you’re actually writing to your partner or boss. Fancy formatting, lots of headers and other oddities that we rarely use in normal emails all catch Google’s attention. Try to write your message as if you were writing it as a normal inter-personal email.
  • Get Personal. Personalisation Tokens and Merge Fields are great, use them when you can. Get the recipients’ name in that email!
  • Unsubscribe placement. A ‘normal’ email would have no need for an unsubscribe function but we can’t simply leave it out. Make sure it comes at the bottom of your email rather than at the top so Google gives it less weight.
  • Protect your Open Rate. Google bases part of it’s decision on the sender of the email, keep your open and click-through rates in the acceptable ranges otherwise it’ll be an uphill battle to get out of the Promotions Tab.

Accepting Your Fate

There are times when following the advice in the section above will render your Email Marketing impotent. You could hit all of these key points and still end up in the Promotions Tab. Alongside all the slick promotional material your newly formatted email is not likely to do well. Whilst there may be times trying to slip through the filter is appropriate and worth the effort, the majority of the time it might not be worth the gamble for your business. What do you do then?

Double down on everything you know about Email Marketing. If you accept that some of your emails are going to be opened in the context of the Promotions Tab then now you can work with that knowledge. Personally my Promotions Tab is full of retail communication, anything that looks different catches my eye. I’m sure this is the case for quite a large portion of Gmail users.

how to avoid gmail promotions tab

If you’re doing Content Marketing right then you should have something your customers want to see. The Promotions Tab is a pain, but it shouldn’t stop you in your tracks. Remember that the benefit of the Promotions Tab is that your customer will be seeing your message when they have time to dedicate to it. Make sure your content is engaging and you might see better engagement than when you sneak into the Primary Tab!

Provide value and earn Primary Tab status

If your customers truly value your content then there’s a good chance some of them will drop you into their Primary Tab if you ask them and make the process as simple as possible.

Gmail promotions primary tab

The final thought I’ll leave you with is this. Only you can decide how much being in the Promotions Tab may be affecting your Email Marketing. Test, Measure and most of all deliver Quality Content every single time you communicate with your customers. If you can do these three things then you’ll soon know what is working and what isn’t and you can take appropriate action. Quality Content remains Quality wherever your customer finds it so don’t spend any sleepless nights worrying about the Promotions Tab.

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