Gmail uses multiple inbox tabs, including primary, social and promotions, to improve email deliverability and decrease spam. Google uses evolving algorithms to determine which emails fall into which tabs. While some Gmail users like separating their advertising and social emails from priority emails, others disable the tabs to keep a more traditional inbox.
Email marketers can improve their chances of landing emails in the primary folder by writing high-quality content, being transparent, using personalization, and not focusing on images and links. Investing in the best email marketing services can also help improve your chances of staying out of the spam folder.
How to prevent emails from going to the Promotions tab
There isn’t one single answer as to how to 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 add you to the Primary tab physically is the only way you can ensure that your emails end up in their Primary inbox. Request that they click the “Labels” icon at the top of Gmail and uncheck the Promotions box to transfer the email from the Promotions folder to the Primary one.
The idea is that they uncheck every email until it’s recognized and reflected by Gmail’s algorithm. Since this is a manual process, that does mean there’s a good chance some of your subscribers can’t be bothered to do it.
You can also ask your audience to whitelist you or add you to their contacts list. Ask them to hover their cursor over the sender’s name near the top of the email. When the pop-up panel appears, select the “Add to Contacts” icon.
Remember, your subscribers will likely be bombarded with dozens of emails daily. Explain the benefit of adding you to their Primary tab or whitelisting you. 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 an automated blast. Use words 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 subscribers, their age, and so on. With this information, you can create relevant emails specific to each segment. You’ll be able to send emails 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 sent from an email service provider. It’s better to send emails to subscribers based on what they want. You might need to do some digging, but the extra work will pay off when your subscribers open your emails.
- Address your subscribers by name. Your subscribers are more likely to read an email if it’s addressed to them. It creates a sense of belonging.
Avoid adding dollar signs or anything related to selling and marketing when writing email subject lines. If every email sounds like a sales pitch inside and out, you will push people away. Instead, sprinkle valuable content emails between new product launches and sales, such as how-tos, behind-the-scenes content or community involvement pieces.
3. Tone down salesy phrases.
Almost every marketer is guilty of writing salesy words or phrases like “Get paid now,” “Free gift card,” “50 percent off,” “Free membership” and “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.
4. Use images sparingly.
Promotional emails often cram sales graphics, product pictures and other images into one email. These pictures may grab the attention of subscribers, but they may also be why your emails are sent to the Gmail Promotions tab.
Keep emails simple. It’s better to stick to one image rather than to clutter your emails with several pictures and infographics. Also, make sure you use images sized for web-use with photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop or Canva.
5. Be mindful of the number of links you use.
Promotional emails tend to contain several links that may direct consumers to your website’s homepage, landing pages, blogs and social media accounts. Limit yourself to two or three links max to prevent your email from getting flagged and diverted to Gmail’s Promotions tab. Remember that the Unsubscribe button also counts as a link.
Promotional emails 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 they might alter Google’s algorithms. “Learn more,” “What we do” or “Continue” are great CTAs that aren’t too pushy.
6. Check your reply-to email address.
Your reply-to email address should be the same as the address in your sender field. If you use different addresses, Google will assume 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, make sure 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 email@example.com instead of firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sending an automated promotional or marketing email blast may seem efficient, but it’s counterproductive. This type of impersonalized mass outreach lands your efforts in the Promotions folder, where they’re likely not to be read.
Successful email campaigns strive to build relationships with subscribers. Write how you speak — like a natural person and not 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 should see a significant increase in conversion rates.
Gmail may also flag your emails if you use your business logo as your profile picture.
Why are emails sent to the Promotions folder?
Gmail’s built-in algorithms scan every incoming email. If you send promotional emails through a third-party email marketing software like Mailchimp or GetResponse, Gmail’s algorithm can flag your emails and divert them to the Promotions folder.
For businesses, the end goal is to get your email into the recipient’s inbox. Fortunately, even if your email lands in Gmail’s Promotions tab, you are still improving your email deliverability. The email landed at the right address, so it has a chance of being read.
The best email marketing services
At business.com, we researched the best email marketing services to find options for small businesses.
To do so, we examined several important factors, such as affordability, ease of use, list-building tools and various personalization options. We selected the email marketing services as our best picks:
- Benchmark: We chose Benchmark Email Marketing as the best software because of its robust platform that offers affordable plans to small and mid-size businesses. You can easily customize templates and automate campaigns. Plus, it offers A/B testing and analytics. Learn more in our review of Benchmark.
- Monday.com Email Marketing: We picked monday.com Email Marketing for its simple interface that offers collaboration features like a requests board, updates tracker and more, all within the software. While using all of monday.com’s features may take time, the company has a customer service team available 24/7 to help you get the most out of your plan. Learn more in our review of monday.com.
- Constant Contact: We selected Constant Contact for its tried-and-true features, starting at under $10 monthly. Excellent for businesses with a limited budget, you can use staple features such as A/B testing, autoresponder, deliverability tools and a drag-and-drop interface. Learn more in our review of Constant Contact.
Here are some other popular email marketing software options:
- Freshworks Freshmarketer
Jake Eisenberg contributed to this article.