Monday 16 September, 2013
In May 2013, the emails you send your Gmail email subscribers disappeared from their inbox and into the new Promotions tab. This is a new auto-filtering feature Google has foisted on its users. Google now decides what you think is important.
What the email giant has done is to create different tabs in users’ email inboxes. Promotional emails, such as those you send your list, are automatically chucked under the Promotions tab and no longer appear in their main inbox.
This has thrown email marketers into a panic. If email marketing is your bread and butter, it makes sense that this is scary, but it’s not nearly as bad as we first thought.
The Silver Lining
Most users didn’t even realize what happened. Their list emails just disappeared. But the good news is that people are starting to figure it out. Google’s tabs are customizable. Once your readers realize your messages are getting chucked under another tab, they can assign messages to the tabs where they’d like them. This ‘trains’ Google to put messages from that sender into the tab the user has chosen.
But what if your readers don’t care enough about your messages to move them out of the Promotions tab? This isn’t Google’s fault. It’s a failure on your part to create content that’s engaging. If you’re engaging your readers and they suddenly stop getting your messages, they’ll miss those messages.
The Real Effect of Gmail Tabs
Gmail’s Promotion tab may make no difference at all in your response rate or it could have a dramatic effect. You can test this scientifically by separating your list into Gmail and non-Gmail subscribers, and then looking at your metrics since the change was made (May 29th, 2013). This will tell you whether or not the change is affecting you and then you can decide what to do about it.
If you see a drop in response among Gmail users, this may mean that your content is too promotional. Another tab created by Google is Social. Your goal should be to get your subscribers moving you to the Social tab, if not the main inbox. If they move you to the Social tab, this means they consider your messages helpful and relevant, like the activity they see in their social media news streams.
The Future Implications of the Gmail Promotions Tab
What are the future implications for all of email marketing? You can be pretty sure it won’t ‘kill’ email marketing. But it could have a measurable effect. Google is trying to become more like Facebook and Twitter, where users control what they see. Email has always been especially effective because everything goes straight to the user’s inbox (except for what is marked as spam). You can reach them directly, unfiltered.
On the other hand, Gmail’s tabs may annoy users and prove useless to them, in which case we won’t see other email service providers follow suit. As a Gmail user myself, I haven’t found it particularly useful and I was a bit miffed when all of the list messages I receive disappeared.