Why do my emails arrive in the promotions tab of Gmail?

In this article, we'll provide an overview of why your emails land in Gmail's "Promotions" tab, in addition to some tips on how to avoid it. 

Since 2013, Gmail has divided its "Webmail" into three categories:

  1. The primary mailbox: The "interpersonal" emails are supposed to arrive in this part of your "Webmail", as well as the messages that seem to be most important to you.
  2. Social networks: Mails from social networks.
  3. The Promotions tab: Mainly commercial messages.

The way your emails are distributed in Gmail has a strong impact on the opening rate (and therefore conversion rate) of your email campaigns. Emails that land in the main inbox are more visible than those that land in the "Promotions" tab, and therefore more likely to be opened. 

Also, it should be noted that only emails received in the main mailbox send a mobile notification to the user, highlighting the importance of differentiating between the different tabs.

How is the categorization/distribution of emails done? 

Simply put, Gmail's algorithms read your email, read your other mail, and then decide to assign it to one of the partitions in your inbox.

The purpose here is to differentiate between the emails that are actually sent to your main inbox and those in the "Promotion" tab.

Since you do not express yourself in the same way in an email to a friend, in an advertising email, or in a purchase confirmation email, Gmail will immediately know if this email is "personal" or "commercial".

This is the key to the choice of mail distribution made by the algorithm. 

Another decisive element is the identity of the sender and the sender's domain name, for example:

  • Hotmail.com? Good chance it's a friend or family, 
  • Usa.gov? Little chance we'll sell you cookies!
  • Aldi.com? Strong suspicion of commercial email.

Other elements that can be taken into account: The history of emails received from an IP or a sender, contextual elements, and the reactions of the recipients, ... a lot of elements quite close to those used for spam detection can influence the categorization made. 

How do you prevent your emails from arriving in the Promotions tab on Gmail?

Returning to the main subject, it should be noted that the operation of Gmail's algorithms is kept secret.

Therefore, expert advice should be taken with a pinch of salt. The best way to check whether it is relevant or not is to test it. 

Testing is the same principle as the A/B Tests you can do on systeme.io, the aim being to add and remove items from your mail, and check if it lands on the main inbox until you find the winning combination. 

We will give you some advice in the form of 8 points: 

1. See instructions from Google:

To optimize your messages for Gmail, the best thing to do is still to respect the rules of its creator: Google. For a reference of good practices to follow, refer to Google's "Instructions for senders of bulk messages".

2. Authenticate your domain name:

It's very important to use an email address from a personalized and authenticated domain by using the DKIM or SPF protocol. Although this is probably not the main factor taken into account by Gmail's algorithms, it is essential.

To learn how to authenticate your domain name on systeme.io, click here.

3. Imagine that you are writing to a friend:

Your email should not appear as a promotional email. If the subject of your email contains the word "Promotion" for example, your emails will always appear in the "Promotions" tab.

The main reason why emails are sent to the "Promotions" tab is that they look like promotions (commercial offers). They contain promotional phrases such as "Buy Now" or "Don't Miss This Opportunity" and this is not usually how friends talk to each other.

Avoid promotional expressions and write your emails as if you were sending them to someone you know. 

Include the recipient's name in the email - especially in the greetings (Hello Sandra, ...). This makes the email a little more "personal".

It's fair to say that more and more email marketers are using personalized fields. But the fact that an email includes the name of the recipient does not mean that it is a personal email - and Gmail knows that. Therefore, it doesn't guarantee it will land in the main tab, but it can contribute to it. 

4. Don't insert too many pictures: 

Most "normal" or "friendly" emails do not include images. If your email is full of graphics, this will send a clear warning to Gmail that this is not a standard email from a friend and your email will be more likely to be sent to "Promotions". 

Another factor to remember is the image-to-text ratio. If you are sending a long email, you can probably get away with one (1) or two (2) images, but if it is a short message, then the presence of two images will trigger an alert. 

  • Other things to avoid:

Headers or signatures that contain unusual images or fonts. Google knows that most people don't use these elements when sending an email to a friend, so it considers this message to be promotional in nature.

Do not include more than one link in the email. Personal emails usually contain very few links, very often none. The number of links is certainly a factor taken into account in Gmail's algorithms.

5. Avoid HTML formatting:

How often do you use HTML to create various formatting effects when sending an email to a friend or family member? Probably never. Your marketing emails should stay in plain text format. Don't give in to the temptation to make them look better with HTML formatting.

6. Don't send too many emails at a time:

Sending too many or emails frequently can put Gmail on "alert" and prevent you from appearing in the "Main" category.
So limit the frequency of your mailings and segment your list to send fewer messages at a time.

7. Create personalized and attractive emails:

Personalized emails, which for example contain the name of the recipient, are also more likely to land in the "Main" tab.

Also, write good email subjects that make your recipients want to open them - without falling into overly promotional formulas that will make you look like a spammer and take care of the content to improve your click-through rate.

If your messages are opened and clicked by your subscribers, this will send a positive signal to Gmail that they're ranked higher in the main tab.

8. Ask your recipients for a helping hand!

To prevent Gmail from spamming your emails and make it easier for them to appear in the 'Main' category, a good technique is to ask your subscribers to perform a little manipulation in their inbox.

Ask them (via your social networks or an ad on your blog, for example) to open one of your emails, and then they can tell Gmail where to deliver your messages. When a subscriber moves one of your campaigns from the 'Promotions' tab to the 'Main' tab, Gmail asks if they want all your campaigns delivered there afterward.

You can also suggest that your subscribers mark your messages as Important, which will improve your 'reputation' with Gmail.

  • To do the manipulation of moving an email from the "Promotional" tab to the "Primary" tab:

Select the mail > Right-click on the mouse > "Move to tab" > Choose "Primary".

What are the consequences of commercial emailing?

We have seen that most of the commercial or advertising emails are arriving in the promotion tab more often.

It seems to be very annoying that your e-mails arrive in the promotion tab, yet according to studies, this is not so catastrophic, because they conclude that users still read what is in the promotion tab.

Return-Path has published studies on this. They found that the opening rates of messages that arrive in the promotion tab are not necessarily lower than those that do not. 

The explanation is that users still consult this tab and consult it at the chosen time, i.e. when they have decided to go and see what's inside.

As a result, on quite a few activities, especially everything that is e-commerce, everything that is travel, and everything that is insurance, they realized that the average opening rates had not dropped because of the promotion tab. 

On the other hand, especially in B2B, it's still quite important to be able to get into the main box. Quite simply to stand out from the competition so that the Internet user reads your message right away. 

In conclusion, there is no foolproof method for this. Many tests have been done, and we can draw a lot of conclusions, and a lot of tricks to put in place to get as much as possible into the main box, but the best approach is to do tests in real situations. 

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