11 Tested Ways to Avoid Gmail’s Promotions Tab in 2019

11 Tested Ways to Avoid Gmail’s Promotions Tab in 2019

Jackie Goldstein
Jackie Goldstein

If you use Gmail, you’ll already know about Gmail’s different tabs for your email inbox. The most important emails which Google thinks you want to see are sent to your ‘Primary’ tab. Anything it considers to be mass emails or promotional go to the ‘Promotions’ tab. The trouble is that emails in the Promotions tab are not very visible. The account holder doesn’t receive a notification about new mail and has to choose to check out that tab in order to discover the emails.

Why it Matters to Keep Your Email Out of There

When sending marketing emails – the obvious desired result is for the recipient to open the email and click through to your website. That’s why you put so much effort into crafting an engaging subject line to entice them to open it, and writing interesting email content so that they enjoy reading it. But if your email is buried in the Promotions tab with several other marketing emails, the chances the recipient will even notice it, let alone read it, are slim. Since the majority of your address list is comprised of Gmail users, that’s a significant slice of your contacts list.

The One Guaranteed Way to Keep Out of the Promotions Tab

There is only one action that ensures that your emails always land in the Primary tab, but you aren’t able to take it. The only person who can make sure that your email doesn’t end up in the Promotions tab is the recipient. If he or she wants to be part of your email list, enjoys reading your emails, and frequently replies or clicks on your links, then your emails will reliably end up in their Primary tab.

Although you can’t take this step, you should ask your recipients to do it for you. Email your list to ask them to add you to their contacts list. It’s a good idea to include these step by step instructions in an email to help your subscribers out:

  1. Find an email from our company. If you’re on the WSP email list, search for an email from WSP. You might have to check your Promotions or Spam tab.
  2. Hover over the sender’s name until you see an option Add to Contacts appear. Click this option to have the sender included on your trusted contacts list and their emails appear in your Primary inbox. You can do this from the email or from the list view in the folder.
  3. Rescue the email you found in the Promotions or Spam folder by clicking on it and then dragging it across to your Primary inbox.
  4. A dialog box will open to ask if you want this action performed for every message from this sender. Click Yes.

And that’s that. If only you could rely on every contact taking the time to whitelist your email address! Since you can’t guarantee that all your subscribers will do this, follow these 11 steps to increase your chances of staying out the Promotion tab.

How to Make Sure Your Email Doesn’t End Up in Gmail’s Promotions Tab

It’s very difficult to second-guess what makes Google choose which emails to send to Promotions and which make the cut to the Primary tab. Only Google knows its own algorithm, and it uses several hundred factors to make this decision. Don’t try to trick the system, because you’re bound to get caught, and that will impact your email delivery rates even further.

Many people think that if you use an email marketing service, you’ll automatically avoid the Promotions tab. Although you should be using an email service provider (ESP) for your email marketing needs, it’s not a magic bullet. Nothing is guaranteed, but here are 11 steps you can take to increase your email’s chances of landing in the Primary tab.

  1. Imagine you’re emailing a friend. The main reason why emails are sent to the Promotions tab is because they read like a promotion. They include promotional language like ‘Buy now’ or ‘Don’t miss out,’ which isn’t the way friends typically address one another. Avoid promotional language and write your emails as though you’re sending them to someone you know. One clever marketing tip that goes beyond avoiding the Promotions tab is to create an imaginary client. Your imaginary client has a name, a personality, and a behavior pattern. When you write your emails, you’re not creating a marketing email; you’re letting Jon or Katie know about something that they’re interested in.
  2. Go easy on the images. Most ‘regular’ emails don’t have images in them. If your email is loaded with graphics, it’s a clear sign to Gmail that it’s not a standard email from a friend and makes it more likely to be sent to Promotions. Another factor to bear in mind is the image-to-text ratio. If you are sending a long email, you can probably get away with 1-2 images, but if it’s a short note, then two images will raise red flags. Pretty mastheads or signatures which include images or clever fonts are another no-no. Google knows that most people don’t use these elements when emailing a friend, so they recognize it as a sign of promotional content.
  3. Avoid HTML formatting. How often do you use HTML to create various formatting effects when you send a friend or family member an email? Probably never. Keep your marketing emails to plain text and avoid the temptation to dress it up with HTML formatting. This might mean changing your email template if the one that you use relies on a lot of HTML coding.
  4. Check your headers and footers. Unfortunately, the automatically-generated headers and footers added by an email marketing service provider can condemn your email to the Promotions tab. These contain markup code that Google picks up on and identifies as promotional. Some ESPs make it possible to remove the X-mailer header, X-campaign header, and coded footer, which improves your chances. However, removing the coded footer might also remove the Unsubscribe code. On the one hand, an Unsubscribe link is another giveaway that this is promotional material. On the other hand, you are legally required to include a way for your recipients to unsubscribe, according to the 2003 CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing) law. You have no choice but to include an Unsubscribe link somewhere in your email, even if that means that it goes to the Promotions tab.
  5. Link carefully. An email that’s full of links is doomed to the Promotions tab, and with good reason. It’s not the way friends normally email each other. It’s best to keep your email down to just one or two links, and keep in mind that your Unsubscribe button is one of them. One link is all you really need though – more than that is distracting for your recipients and confuses your CTA (call to action).
  6. Make it personal. There’s actually a difference of opinion among email marketers about whether or not personalized emails are more likely to end up in the Primary tab. Some argue that it makes no difference – Google can tell if you’ve used promotional language even if your email begins with the recipient’s first name. Others say that using someone’s first name makes it look more like a regular email to a friend. You can try it both ways via A/B testing, but addressing your customers by name is good practice even if it doesn’t keep your email out of the Promotions tab.
  7. Keep it short – perhaps. Email marketers also disagree about whether short emails are better than long ones. There’s no need to rely on their opinion though – use split testing to send emails of different lengths and discover for yourself if the length of your email is really a make or break issue.
  8. Check out your reply field. Having a reply-to address which is different from the address that you’ve used to send the email is a clue to Google that this email was sent by a company, not by a person. Individuals don’t usually use a different reply-to address in their emails. Check the settings on your email service provider and adjust it so that recipients reply to the email address that’s in the Sender field.
  9. Move your promotional content elsewhere. What can you do if you really do need to send a promotional email that tells your contacts about a great sales opportunity or short-term discounts? You can move it to your website. Instead of sending an email that’s full of images, price tags, and promotional trigger words like ‘discount’ and ‘price,’ create a landing page on your website that has all of the information. Then, you can ask your contacts to visit that link to get all of the information with all the formatting, images, and price tags you desire.
  10. Testing, testing, testing. Like we said above, there is no hard and fast rule for avoiding the Promotions tab. A/B testing and split testing let you send emails with different lengths, trigger words, formatting, etc., and see which ones have the highest open rates or get the most people to click through on included links. What works for other companies might not be what works for you, so be creative and test different possibilities.
  11. Authenticate. Your emails look more genuine if they’re sent from an authenticated domain. Your email service provider should include SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) authentication to prevent email spoofing and increase your integrity. Sending emails from an authenticated domain increases your sender reputation and stops your emails from looking like spam.

For more email marketing tips and reviews, visit our Email Marketing Services section.

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