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6 Tips to Keep Your Emails Out of Gmail's Promotions Folder

Jake Eisenberg
Jake Eisenberg

While email marketing is still effective, the Gmail Promotions tab has made it more challenging for marketers to get their emails opened.

In 2013, Gmail introduced one of its biggest updates that sent a major ripple through the world of marketing: the Promotions tab. Some marketing experts were worried that it meant the end of email marketing.

While email marketing is still effective, the Gmail Promotions tab has made it more challenging for marketers to get their emails opened. Most promotional emails end up in this tab, where they're buried in a pile of other ads.

The Primary tab is where every marketer wants to be. This is where users go when they open up their Gmail. Being here results in higher open rates, an improvement in conversion rates and an increase in sales.

Why are emails sent to the Promotions folder?

Gmail has built-in algorithms that scan every incoming email. If you send promotional emails through a third-party email marketing software like Mailchimp or GetResponse, Gmail's algorithm will flag your emails and divert them to the Promotions folder. Out of the 84.5% of emails that land in Gmail's Promotions tab, only 19.2% are read.

How to prevent emails from going to the Promotions tab

There isn't one single answer as to how you can prevent emails from going to the Promotions tab, as Gmail's algorithms are continually changing. There are, however, specific steps you can take to increase the likelihood of your emails getting into the Primary tab.

1. Ask your subscribers to add you to the Primary tab or to whitelist you.

Asking your subscribers to physically add you to the Primary tab is the only way you can ensure that your emails end up in their Primary inbox. You'll need to request that they click the "Labels" icon found at the top of Gmail and uncheck the Promotions box to transfer the email from the Promotions folder to the Primary one. The idea being that they uncheck every email until its recognized and reflected by Gmail's algorithm. That said, this is a manual process, and there's a good chance some of your subscribers won't be bothered to do it.

You can also ask your audience to whitelist you or add you to their contacts list. Simply ask them to click the three dots found in the upper right  corner of the email and click on "Add [Name] to Contacts list." 

Remember, your subscribers are likely being bombarded with dozens of emails each day. Besides asking them to add you to the Primary tab or to whitelist you, explain the benefit of doing so. Are you announcing a new product launch? Excited news to share soon? Be as transparent and communicative as possible.

2. Personalize your email.

Personalizing your emails is one of the best ways to keep them out of the Promotions tab. Structure your emails as if you're writing to a friend. Be conversational and human as opposed to sounding like some automated blast. Use words that your subscribers use, share stories and make appropriate jokes that resonate well with your audience.

Personalizing marketing emails shows that you genuinely care about your subscribers, and it improves open rates and lead conversion. Doing this is more straightforward than you'd think. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Segment your subscribers. Group your subscribers based on what you know about them – their buying habits, how long they've been a subscriber, their age, etc. With this information, you can create relevant emails specific to each segment. You'll be able to send emails that your target audience wants to read, leading to higher open rates, an increase in revenue and more loyal customers.

  • Avoid blasting your emails. Sending bulk emails to your entire email list can be flagged as promotions or spam, especially if they're sent from an email service provider. It's better to send emails to subscribers based on what they want. You might need to do a little digging, but the extra work will pay off when your subscribers start opening your emails.

  • Address your subscribers by name. Your subscribers will be more likely to read an email if it's addressed to them. It creates a sense of belonging.

3. Tone down salesy phrases.

Almost every marketer is guilty of writing salesy words or phrases like "Get paid now," "Free gift card," "50% off," "Free membership," "No obligation," among other phrases that can be flagged as spam. Gmail will automatically divert emails with content that sounds like an advertisement to the Promotions tab.

Keep this tip in mind, too, especially when you're writing your subject lines. Avoid adding dollar signs or anything related to selling and marketing. If your promotional email reads too promotional, you'll push people away.

4. Use images sparingly.

Promotional emails often cram sales graphics, product pictures and other images into a single email. Perhaps these pictures may grab the attention of subscribers, but they may be a reason why your emails are sent to the Gmail Promotions tab. Keep it simple. It's better to stick to one image, rather than cluttering your emails with several pictures and infographics. Pro tip: Gmail may also flag your emails if you use your business logo as your profile picture.

5. Be mindful of the number of links you use.

Promotional emails tend to contain quite a few links, links that may direct consumers to your website's homepage, landing pages, blogs and social media accounts. This is another thing Gmail's algorithm will flag and divert to the Promotions tab. Limit yourself to two or three links max. Keep in mind that the "Unsubscribe" button counts as a link as well.

Promotional emails really only need one link: the call to action (CTA). Refrain from using salesy phrases like "Buy now," "Limited time only," or "Get your discount NOW," because it might alter Google's algorithms. "Learn more," "What we do," or "Continue" are great CTAs that aren't too pushy. 

6. Check your email address. 

Your reply-to email address should be the same as the address in your sender field. If you're using different addresses, Google will assume that you're using a business email. Casual emails between friends don't usually have different reply-to addresses or use a no-reply address. If you're using an email marketing service, check if your reply-to and sender email address match.

Gmail knows the difference between personal and business email addresses. Send your emails using a personal email address, rather than your business's email address. For example, use name@companyxyz.com instead of info@companyxyz.com.

When it comes to promotional and marketing emails, sending an automated blast may seem efficient, but it’s actually counterproductive. It's this type of impersonalized mass outreach that lands your efforts in the Promotions folder, where they're likely to not be read. Successful email campaigns strive to build relationships with subscribers. Write the way you speak and sound like a real person instead of a corporate salesperson.

Using the tips listed above, you'll have a better chance of moving your emails from the Promotions to the Primary folder and hopefully see a significant increase in conversion rates.

Jake Eisenberg
Jake Eisenberg,
business.com Writer
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A motivated, strong-minded individual with a passion for internet marketing. I developed a digital marketing agency and managed-workforce-provider for