Gmail Introduces The Priority Inbox

On this blog and others, traditional “batch-and-blast” (PS don’t ever use that word unless you’re mocking it) email marketers have been hearing for a while now that relevance plays an important role in your email deliverability.

As far back as 2007, we noted that “spam” was about email subscribers don’t want or value. Not just email that they didn’t request (although that’s still spam, too).

As I noted in that post, “If you’re not providing value to subscribers, their actions with your messages will reflect that. ISPs track what’s done with your messages, and can choose to filter you out if they find you’re not ‘what the consumer wants.'”

This week, Gmail announced a new feature that makes this a reality.

Introducing The Priority Inbox

To manage our overflowing inboxes, a lot of people already sort email into groups of emails to read and respond to now, later or never. (Your own groups’ names may vary, or you may not even have a specific system like that… but I’d bet you read emails from certain people more often and/or more quickly.)

Gmail’s Priority Inbox attempts to simplify and automate this process for email users by figuring out which senders’ emails are important, based on how (or whether) you interact with those emails and senders.

Here’s how they explain it:

Priority Inbox is a beta feature that will be rolling out to users soon (I haven’t gotten it yet, but am eager to get my hands on it and see it in action).

What Are People Saying About It?

Here are a few of the articles I’ve read about it:

I especially recommend you read the last one of those.

“So Do My Marketing Emails All Go Into The “Everything Else” Pile Now?”

Not necessarily, but consider the examples in the Gmail video… note whose email is getting prioritized (email from contacts, friends, people you email back and forth with regularly) and whose is not (the “Special Offer” email).

It’s early to make predictions about what all of this means – or if it will even stick around as a feature. You never know, Gmail users might end up not liking it (although I tend to doubt that’ll be the case).

That said, it’s clear that whatever the future of the Priority Inbox holds, ISPs are continuing to move toward creating systems that reward email that people want at the expense of email people don’t want. (Gmail isn’t the first to try this – the same sort of thing is happening at Yahoo! and Windows Live Hotmail.)

What this should tell you is that you need to take a long, hard look at whether your emails are something your subscribers really want. Because if they aren’t, you’re going to find it harder over time to continue getting them opened and clicked.

It’s Not All Gloom And Doom

In fact, this is excellent news if you’re creating and delivering email marketing campaigns that people want.

So the question is, how do you create emails people actually want?

Engage your subscribers in conversation via your emails. Invite feedback. Ask them questions. Increase the value that you deliver in your emails.

Start identifying groups of subscribers within your list who have similar interests. Start segmenting your list and creating more relevant emails.

Here’s a list of posts we’ve written on email segmentation. (If it seems like we talk a lot about segmentation on this blog, well… this is why.)