With over 300 million active users worldwide, Gmail is the most popular email client. So, it’s safe to say that a large portion of your subscribers is Gmail users. This is why as an email marketer, you have to make every effort to optimize your Gmail delivery rates.
Following its layout redesign, Gmail now has a tabbed interface so people can see what’s new at a glance. There are 5 main tabs: primary, promotions, social, forums, and updates. The first 3 are enabled by default. Users can choose which ones to keep, as well as disable them all.
Why is this important?
Before, there were two places your emails could end up – inbox or junk. Now, they are further sub-classified into the above tabs.
Where your emails land (primary or promotional tab) affects your engagement rate. Of course, ending up in the promotional tab is not as bad as the junk folder. But it reduces the chances of people seeing your emails.
This is because the user has to consciously open the promotions tab to view your email. If it manages to stand out from the myriad of other promotional emails, that is.
When it comes to email classification, Gmail relies heavily on user feedback. For instance, when people mark or unmark your emails as spam or move them between tabs. Gmail learns from this behavior and uses it to better match user preferences in the future.
User engagement and deliverability
In the past, email content was the primary determinant of inbox placement. Spam filters were set to search for specific words (free, winner, guarantee, etc). The more such elements an email had, the higher the spam score and the lower the chances of delivery.
As hackers got more creative, ISPs responded with more complex criteria for inbox placement. User engagement elements have become a key factor in deliverability. Here are the main parameters Gmail uses to measure user engagement and inbox worthiness.
- Open rates, replies, and forwards. These are all indicators that people like your emails and engage with them. So, Gmail is less likely to consider them junk, increasing their chances of delivery.
- Clicks on the “not junk” button – suggesting your emails are relevant and desired.
- People organizing your emails into folders. This action shows Gmail people value your content and want to keep receiving it.
- As positive signals go, the best one is when people add your address to their list of contacts.
- On the other hand, people can also label your emails as spam or delete them without opening. This sends a strong negative signal that your content is not wanted.
User engagement and your reputation as a sender
Your reputation reflects your legitimacy as a sender according to Gmail standards. Keep in mind that Gmail uses past subscriber engagement to determine your inbox worthiness. So, you have to follow the best sending practices for all of your marketing campaigns.
Individual user engagement is important. People that always engage with your content send a signal to Gmail that your content is welcome.
Group user engagement also matters. It determines how Gmail sees you as a sender. If the majority of recipients fail to engage or label you as spam, it will affect your reputation. If your reputation is too low, even the subscribers that love your content may not be able to see it.
What are the main factors influencing the inbox placement in Gmail?
Gmail implements unique tools and a complex algorithm to determine email placement. As a result, it can be a bit difficult to figure out how to get your newsletters into the primary tab.
There are multiple factors to consider. This includes content, sender address, replies, whitelisting, spam complaints, hard bounces, open rates, etc. The good news is, most of them are under your control.
When it comes to inbox placement, remember that you and Gmail are on the same team. Gmail’s intention is not to send your email to the spam folder. It’s to make sure only legitimate emails get through. This way, you and other marketers will have less “spammy competition” to worry about.
Here’s what you can do to ensure your emails get delivered to Gmail:
Don’t send your campaigns from a no-reply address. This raises a major red flag with Gmail.
It’s also impersonal, unwelcoming, and a fast way to earn unsubscribes and spam complaints. Use a real address, such as [email protected], [email protected], or a recognizable name that encourages a response. It’s important for people to be able to reply to the address you’re sending your campaigns from. It opens up a line of two-way communication. It also shows that you welcome their questions and feedback.
To protect users from spam, Gmail uses open and reply rates to determine inbox placement. User replies are a positive signal to Gmail. It shows your emails are important and helps improve your sender reputation.
Another rule of thumb is to match you’re from address to the address on your website that you collected the subscriber info from. This is a huge point here folks. I see this quite often. Having the same from address as the address on the website helps with inboxing. Why? Well when you decide to use another domain for sending emails to Gmail accounts, Gmail sees this as an unknown. That means there is no history tied to that subscriber from that domain. This gives you a leg down on delivery. Do yourself a favor and use the domain you used for collecting the email address. For those of you renting lists or purchasing lists, this will be a deal-breaker for you. Google is very smart if you didn’t know it by now. What worked before will not work anymore. Collect your own data and mail to it from your own domain.
Grow a healthy mailing list
Your collection practices affect your inbox placement and reputation. We’ve said it often enough – steer clear of purchased or rented lists. They often contain abandoned addresses that ISPs use as spam traps to catch spammers. And we all know how irritating it can be to receive unsolicited emails. Emailing random people that have no interest in your product will probably get you marked as spam.
You can use the single or the double opt-in approach to grow your lists. With the single opt-in, people are required to fill out a signup form and submit it. This adds their address to your mailing list and they start receiving content right away.
The double opt-in process includes an additional confirmation step. Following the signup, new subscribers receive an email containing a confirmation link. Clicking on this link reconfirms they own the address and really want to receive content from you.