What the new Gmail tabs mean to email marketing

Our email marketing customers have been enquiring about the new Gmail tabs, and what impact it will have on their results. I recently sat down with Ian Kenefick, Delivery Analyst at Newsweaver to take a look at this new Google innovation.

You can read my overview of our points:

  1. We’re taking a view that this is a positive step for Gmail users. It’s clear that Google is aiming to help Gmail users have a better experience managing their emails. This gives you a better chance of being seen, rather than a delete-a-batch approach that many take in dealing with their inbox.
  2. Incoming emails are sorted by Google into the Gmail tabs.  There are five tab buckets: Primary, Social, Promotional, Updates and Forums. By default the tabs are in place – users can remove some or all the tabs if they want. If there are no tabs, all the emails appear in a single inbox.
  3. Email marketing newsletters and other emails that users have signed up to will appear in the Promotions tab, unless the subscriber has removed tabs, or they’ve placed the newsletter into the Primary tab. Your email now has less competition when it appears within the specific tab. When new email has arrived in a tab, an alert appears with the senders noted.
  4. The impact on opens? These tabs do not present a delivery issue but what we see are longer tails on opens as subscribers make a decision to go into their Promotions tab when they have time.

What to do now?

First, remember that it’s still about standing out in the inbox – whether that is the entire inbox, or a tab.

  • Track and benchmark metric activity by domain. This way you’ll be able to access the impact on your engagement levels with your gmail subscribers.
  • Check your sender field. Have you selected a ‘from’ (individual, company, brand) that is meaningful to your subscriber – instantly recognisable? That’s what gets opens.
  • Test and use your subject line to best effect. Find out what will get that open.
  • Do a personalization audit – Could you make better use of the data you have to personalize, target and send relevant information? Personally engaging emails are the proven way to get opens and clicks.
  • If a goal is to appear in the Primary tab, segment out your gmail subscribers and include text in the pre-header or body of the email to encourage them to either star your email – or drop-and-drag the email over to their Primary tab.


We’ll revisit this topic to see what type of impact it is having on email marketing messages.

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