Ever since Google introduced the Promotions Tab in their Gmail platform, people have been searching for the Holy Grail of email engagement—getting their emails into the primary inbox, rather than the Promotions tab.
Many people believe that simply by using an email marketing or marketing automation platform to send your emails, you’re going to end up in the Promotions Tab.
It’s not as simple as that, and the good news is that you can avoid the Promotions Tab by following some simple guidelines.
Be careful. I must emphasize that, just as when I give any other marketing advice, your audience may be the exception that proves the rule. So make sure you test anything before jumping in with both feet!
First and foremost, let’s make something clear: Only Google itself knows what algorithms are used to decide what emails go into the inbox, the Promotions tab and the spam folder.
Having said that, it’s been estimated by email deliverability expert Chris Lang that Gmail has somewhere between 450 and 550 different indicators of quality that help decide the fate of each email that’s delivered to Gmail.
Second—and this is really important—you need to realize that you shouldn’t trust your own inbox because you’ll always be reading your messages and telling Google that your stuff is 100 times more important than anyone else will tell them.
Third, don’t believe tools that measure deliverability or “inbox placement” as they use seed addresses that don’t mimic real user behavior.
Another important point here: Don’t try to “game” the system. Google is smarter than most of us, and if you’re trying too hard to make a promotion look like something else, Google will catch you.
Don’t make your email look like a promotion because if it does, it’s going to end up in the Promotions tab.
That means that any of the following will make it look like a promotion:
- Lots of images in your email: It’s best to stick to emails that look like “plain text” as if you’d sent it from your own email client. Definitely no pretty masthead—stick to a “traditional” email signature if you want. Test this, but anything more than one image looks like a promotion.
- More than one or two links in your email: Ideally stick to one link in your email, as Infusionsoft already adds an Unsubscribe link in there. Opinion is divided as to whether repeating the same link more than once impacts your inbox placement. I’ve seen tests prove both ways, so test your own emails to see what the result is. A tip: If your audience is predominantly mobile, make sure that you’re using the new Infusionsoft email builder and test the placement of your call-to-action link. You can’t scatter links through the copy like you once did!
- If it’s “from” your brand, rather than you: Brands send out promotions. So make the email from you, not your brand. And make sure your personality stands out. People buy from people, so make sure that your audience knows your story and what you stand for.
- Lots of fancy HTML code in your email: Clever email templates look great and businesses love them, but businesses end up in Promotions by default.
- Links to your social media profiles in your signature (or any other links come to that): First, lots of links will put you in Promotions, as I’ve already mentioned. But, more importantly, you’ve worked hard to get someone to open and read your mail. Why would you want to distract them by sending them to Facebook or Instagram when you want them to follow the call-to-action in your email?
What else can you do to avoid the promotions tab? The most important thing, with one exception, is to encourage your audience to whitelist you. There are many “whitelisting guides” online, but the best by far is Chris Lang’s whitelisting generator, which you can use for free. This creates your own personalized instructions that you can incorporate on your own website.
If you’ve told Gmail that someone is important to you, they will keep sending things into your inbox. So whitelist, open, click, and reply to your heart’s content. Because as soon as you stop, Gmail will notice and that sender’s emails will go into promotions—or even spam. But it won’t affect what Gmail does with other people who receive the same mails. Everything is based on individual behavior. So just because one person says you’ve gone to promotions, don’t expect that to be the case for everyone, but crowd behavior will influence it.
How many times have you seen “this email is from a sender that other people have reported for spam”?
One other golden rule
Don’t change your name or address to game the system. Remember that your reputation is linked to your email address and the name text associated with it. Change it and you’re starting from scratch again.
But if you’ve already got a bad reputation, don’t try to be clever and switch to a new identity, as the chances are that you’ll be rumbled and be penalized even more, maybe to the point that you end up in the spam folder.
By applying just a few straightforward principles like these, you’ll be able to get your email into the Gmail primary inbox so as many people as possible will see it initially and open it. This is, in turn, will boost your engagement with your audience (and it’s all about engagement!) resulting in better webinar attendance and more sales.
Another thing to remember is that it’s vital to watch your open and engagement rates because Google is constantly changing its algorithms.
Always remember that as many as half of your audience are likely to be using some kind of email infrastructure provided by Google.
Adrian Savage is an Infusionsoft certified consultant and certified developer. As the founder and head of development for WeDeliver.Email, he has built an extensive knowledge of email deliverability and helps clients get more emails delivered to the inbox.