Keeping Tabs on Gmail


Gmail Tabs CultivateIf you’re an email marketer or you use Gmail (Google’s web-based email product), by now you’ve surely seen the next “email-marketing killer” — dun, dun, DUNGmail tabs. {If only there were an emoticon to better express my sarcasm here.}

The internet is ripe with speculation about how businesses using email in their digital mix will no longer be able to get their messages in front of their subscribers’ eyes because their emails will now be routed under Gmail inbox tabs. Before you panic, let’s take a look at some of the facts and myths out there so you know what, if any, course of action you need to take.

Google recently made the tabs feature the default setting for all web mail users in an effort to “put [users] back in control” of their inboxes. Users can easily customize these tabs and drag-and-drop messages between them; however, the three default tab titles are:

  • Primary (1-to-1 personal correspondence)
  • Social (social media updates/notifications)
  • Promotions (promotional/marketing messages)

Gmail Tabs

This change does not appear to affect those of you using Google Apps for Business running your email through Google’s servers (or sending to businesses that do) — just to regular consumers using Google’s free web mail product (i.e., Gmail).

The rumor mill has businesses clamoring for solutions to the “tabs dilemma.” Many commercial email marketers are worried about an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality that they fear list members will adopt when their marketing email messages — once nicely mixed amid everything else in customers’ inboxes — now get separated and segregated under a Promotions tab, flagging them as such. Others worry about claims that Google uses the Promotions tab to serve up ads disguised as email will diminish the value readers place on messages found under the Promotions tab of their inbox.

Google offers up these tips for Inbox categorizing in their updated Bulk Sender Guidelines:

  1. Use a consistent and recognizable Reply To address in your From field.
  2. Don’t try to blend commercial marketing messages with transactional-type emails.

Many businesses have tried to get ahead of this Gmail inbox change by sending a clear call to action that walks Gmail users through the relatively simple process of permanently moving emails received from them out of the Promotions tab and over to the Primary tab, where they believe users are less likely to dismiss them.

In God we trust; all others must bring data. — W. Edwards Deming, Statistician & ProfessorDespite some preliminary reports indicating that tabs decrease open rates, a recent study by email intelligence experts ReturnPath shows that tabs don’t have much impact at all. In fact, their results seem to dovetail with what we already knew about email marketers who follow best practices: Gmail users who were already highly engaged actually saw a 2% increase in readership after tabs were rolled out, while the bulk of moderately engaged users saw only a slight drop.

In God we trust; all others must bring data.
— W. Edwards Deming, Statistician & Professor
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Those who didn’t engage with your messages at all (learn how to address that problem on the front end by outwitting the 5-Second Rule of Email Marketing) predictably fell off almost completely, and are probably glad your marketing messages are now filtered out of their primary inbox.

Gmail Tabs Data – 1st Week:

Gmail Tabs Chart

Source: ReturnPath Gmail Tabs Analysis

So what can we take away from all of this?

The Gmail tabs dilemma is a bit of a moot point for B2B email marketers. For reals. Their lists are primarily made up of other business-type email addresses, like, not So rest easy.

But if you do have a concern, I'd suggest doing a domain analysis of your email list to determine how many members are using Gmail accounts. Segment them out and consider sending them an instructional email like this. Otherwise, continue to focus on:

If you are a B2C email marketer, check to see if your open rates have taken a nose dive since the July 22nd rollout of Gmail tabs. If you see a noticeable drop, determine how many Gmail users you have on your list and segment them out. Craft an email with a strong call to action (and helpful visual aids or a video) that walks users through the simple process of permanently directing your email messages to their Primary (instead of Promotions) tab.

If email is not your cup of tea and you don’t want to deal with any of this Gmail tabs hullabaloo, call on the friendly and knowledgeable people at Cultivate Communications for an assessment. It’s what we do.

Happy to help,
Mike Signature