Gmail’s New Inbox Tabs: Marketers, You Can Relax

Gmail recently reorganized inboxes into several tabbed spaces.

Like Outlook’s Clean Sweep or Gmail’s already-existing Priority Inbox, it’s one more way to divide incoming emails into categories.

One of those tabs is “Promotions,” designated for offers and marketing newsletters. Another is “Updates,” for more transactional messages (receipts, bills and the like).

The bottom line?

Your Emails Are Tucked Behind Tabs – At First

Originally, they fall under Promotions – unless the autosorting system perceives them as Updates – instead of the Primary tab, which loads by default.

Those who buy from you and those considering purchases want what you have. They still want to see your emails.

They’ll come looking for you in the Promotions area. They may keep you there, or they may drag your email to the “Inbox” tab, where your future emails will land, right up front.

In Fact, The Promotions Tab Could Be Your Best Friend

Your emails will land among fewer contemporaries. This means less chance of mass-deletion. It also means a higher chance of grabbing attention.

Add to that the mindset of someone who clicks to the Promotions tab. I let my Promotions build up all day, since they’re not constantly peppering my inbox. When I’m in the mood to buy something frivolous, to scan travel deals or to read newsletters, I click to my Promotions.

I’ve chosen the time I “receive” the email myself. I’m in the mood to read them, and I’m in more of a mood to buy than I would have been otherwise.

I’ve chosen the time I “receive” the email myself. I’m in more of a mood to buy than I would have been otherwise.

Still, You Can Choose To Take Proactive Measures

To encourage the sorting system to get you into the main inbox, increase your readers’ engagement with your messages as much as possible.

Include links for them to click if you aren’t already. Even better, encourage people to reply to your emails by asking for their opinion on a topic or having them participate in a vote. (But be aware that even if the sorting system relocates you to the Inbox, readers can always switch you back, depending on their preferences.)

Finally, add a note to your thank-you page telling those who use Gmail that they’ll find your confirmation email in their “Updates” area.

If Sales Go Down, THEN Get Concerned

Common sense dictates that sales are the crucial stat to track. Sales are what bring in money.

Opens are great, but if they don’t lead to clicks and sales, their value is fairly low. If they DO lead to a drop in sales, let us know.

For now, we believe your opens will dip, your clicks will waver and your sales will stay steady – or, because of what we’ll call the “promotions mood factor,” perhaps even increase.

But as Silverpop’s Loren McDonald notes, “It will likely take 12 to 18 months before we can truly understand the impact.”


  1. Randall Magwood

    7/24/2013 1:00 am

    I haven’t seen a dip in my sales with the new Gmail tabs. As long as your buyers and subscribers like you and enjoy your content… the tabs won’t mean much.

  2. Daniel Hartnett

    7/24/2013 8:44 am

    Did you know that if people have the add blocker extension on they cant see the promotions tab ?

  3. Jeff Ente

    7/24/2013 10:26 am

    Many business people use Gmail AS their promotion/newsletter account, rather than using their corporate domain.

    I agree that it could be a good thing if you can just stand out a bit above the other ‘promotions’. But it might be worth an email to your Gmail subscribers asking them to keep you the priority that you deserve.

  4. Michael Stelzner

    7/24/2013 12:18 pm

    Thanks for this.

    I think another thing folks can do is create (or use) a video like this on their thanks page:

  5. Mo

    7/24/2013 2:10 pm

    I appreciate this article. I was pretty freaked out to see Gmail making these changes. Still, I can’t help but think that the article is painting too rosy a picture. Consider if your physical mail was sorted into Personal and Promotional piles. How often would you look at the Promotional? Would you likely let it pile up for days or weeks before taking a peak?

    I think the best hope is that people will opt out of this new tabbed feature and put their Gmail accounts back to the way they were. (which is easy to do)

    Would love to hear more comments…

  6. Charles Billion

    7/24/2013 2:23 pm

    My sales have been steady, but I have noticed a dip in my open rate. I believe this won’t have any negative impact as those who love your newsletter will still come looking for it.

  7. Amanda Gagnon

    7/24/2013 2:54 pm

    Randall and Charles – That’s good news. Appreciate you sharing it.

    Mo – Personally, I let it pile up, but then go through it when I’m in the mood and have time. If I shop at a store, I don’t throw away their flier.

    Michael and Jeff – Great suggestions.

    Daniel – Yes, I believe they can still see the Promotions tab, since that tab should only include emails they signed up for, and the Ad Blocker only strips out unsolicited banner ads.

  8. orvel sternberg

    7/24/2013 3:28 pm

    Like any new concept or idea, it will take some time for the masses to get used to a new way of doing things. I’m still not sure why google messed with a good thing, but I can assure you they have something in mind to monetize gmail further with this new “look”. The service is fr*e, kinda hard to bitch too much.

  9. Julius Minor

    7/24/2013 6:31 pm

    If you have a good relationship with your list, your golden..

  10. paul

    7/24/2013 7:18 pm

    If you want you can also put your email account back the way YOU HAD (LIKE) IT,

    click on the + at the end of the boxes and uncheck them and then save, hey presto, your box is back to normal, not some overpaid and under-worked airhead at google’s idea of what is best for everyone, in some cases it too me a long time to get my in boxes like I wanted them

    I have enough email boxes to go through now, and DO NOT appreciate Google deciding I needed to multiply them by 3

  11. Amel Mehenaoui

    7/25/2013 12:48 am

    Hello Amanda,

    I really value your point. It’s nice to see that you are not in a worry mode yet!

    If I had a to write a title to express my dispointment on this new inbox thing… it would be: Aweber, Don’t Ask me to Relax! Google Took Over my Inbox 🙂

    In my part, and from a personal user experience point of view, I found the new Gmail inbox actually confusing and I did miss some important emails because of that.

    I do share my personal opinion about this change on my blog post and I would love to get your feedback on it when you have a chance:

    Thanks and keep us on the loop if you have some new tips to get our emails to land on the Main inbox and not the promotional one!

  12. Sarah Kent

    7/25/2013 3:41 am

    Thanks for this, there has been a lot of fear based ‘noise’ about this change and it’s good to read this calm, informative response. At the end of the day we will just have to wait and see what plays out.

  13. Bertranddo

    7/25/2013 4:23 am

    I think this is an excellent news for those of us who take great care of our subscribers.

    If you have a great relationship with your customers they will seek you out and move you to their main inbox tab, while other email marketers who may push promotions after promotions will be relegated to the Promotions tab.

    As an end user I actually really like the idea, as this is already starting to free up my inbox.

    I also agree with Amanda that the tendency now is to let things pile up then attend to it when you have some downtime. It might indeed help with sales, time will tell.

    Great article Amanda, thanks for the proactive update,


  14. Michael Haley

    7/25/2013 10:20 am

    I don’t think it will affect us much… I think most people are going to get rid of them – I did. But I’m not really sure… so I just put together a survey at – I’m curious to see what the results are going to be.

  15. jim cockrum

    7/25/2013 11:54 am

    I agree – no need to panic. I just had one of my best email promos in months…in the last 4 days. All good here!

    Cheesy inspiration from me to all of you:

    That being said there is a tiny side experiment I’m curious to see play out…it has to do with “pretty” HTML messages vs. short text messages.

    My theory (based ONLY for now on my intuition about google) is that all factors being equal, a pretty HTML messages will be more likely to head into the promo folder than an equivalent short text only message. If anyone has evidence on this matter one way or the other I’ll be all ears…in the mean time I’m sticking to my long time successful strategy of short text messages with a link until I hear otherwise…

  16. Michael S. Brown

    7/25/2013 12:25 pm

    It’s definitely a concern for many. Though I agree with others on here who have stated having a great relationship with your list will certainly help.

    I would also suggest driving email readers into as many other channels as possible such as Facebook, Facebook Fan Pages Twitter, Google+, Forums that you own or are part of etc and additional email lists that you own on th same or similar subject.

    The more contact they can have with you, the better.

    I still think email is the best way to communicate with you potential buyers, but, the other channels certainly cannot hurt.

  17. Geert

    7/25/2013 1:54 pm

    Well, I have some test Gmail addresses I use and for one reason or another, my Aweber test-messages go straight to the correct primary inbox (not promotions). Test E-mails sent through a competitor of Aweber go to promotions (same subject line, same content). Weird…but interesting. Still not sure why this happens. The test E-mails are coming from my autoresponder, not broadcasts, so we’re talking about E-mails with a proven track record (open rates, complaints,…).

  18. Nicky Jameson

    7/25/2013 2:35 pm

    While you as a user can turn it back to what it was, many of your email recipients might just like it and stay with it. I asked a couple of users what they thought and they said they quite liked the new design as it makes it easier to sort/see things if they can’t get to them. Personally, I switched back to my default inbox style after a couple of days with the new Gmail inbox. Guess what? To my surprise I found I missed the sorting of the tabs. I’ve now switched back to tabs to see if I really do like it because it frees up their inbox. They can take their time looking at promo emails. I suspect the general user might just stay with the tabbed inbox. I especially like it for Social. The main point that it will be an extra few clicks to get to see a newsletter. Gmail seems to want to ensure that anything marketing-like goes to that Promotions tab. I send out a weekly email newsletter with open rates around 19-21% depending on what announcements I make. I can see marketers will need to encourage existing subscribers to look out for their newsletter now.

  19. Nicky Jameson

    7/26/2013 12:24 pm

    I don’t think many users are going to get rid of the tabs, quite the reverse. They like them. As a user I put mine back. And apparently email marketers are already “freaking out” by emailing their subscribers and telling them to drag this here and that there. Not good at all. Here’s an indication of how some users feel about the new Gmail inbox tabs. Marketers really need to be thinking about their users benefits or they will lose the respect of their readers.

  20. cool

    7/27/2013 8:07 am

    I can see marketers will need to encourage existing subscribers to look out for their newsletter now.

  21. Dave

    7/27/2013 11:00 am

    Google needs to be dismantled.

    Why do you people continue to use a company that determines what is relevant?
    Google has effectively destroyed what the Web was meant to be.

  22. Linda Sattgast

    7/27/2013 11:58 pm

    I don’t see how people opening fewer emails and clicking on fewer links can bring “more sales.”

    Whatever Google is up to, you can bet it’s for its own profit.

  23. Nick Daws

    7/28/2013 11:48 am

    Here’s how the new Gmail tabs have affected me. I was freaked out by the number of messages I saw I was getting under ‘Promotions’. Typically I’d log in and discover the number of new messages in this category was ‘Over 50’. So I decided I had to cull my subscriptions, and I assessed all the mailings I was getting to see if I really wanted to go on reading them or not.

    Bottom line is, I unsubscribed to several dozen that didn’t seem to have any unique value to me. The ones I kept were those I actually enjoyed reading (because the writer came across as a genuine and interesting person rather than another me-too marketer) and/or they didn’t seem as if they were trying to sell me stuff all the time. It’s staggering how many marketing emails are really no more than avaricious hype.

    So I think marketers will have to raise their game, and remember that it isn’t only about selling, but also providing value to your subscribers and building relationships with them.

  24. Matt

    7/30/2013 4:30 pm

    @Daniel Hartnett Don’t worry, the Adblocker extension does not block the Promotions tab. I use a couple of different adblockers but my Promotions tab is always visible to me. As a long time user of gmail (I signed up when it was in Beta and you had to have an invite), the tabs showed up in my account about a month ago. At first, I was a little upset but I’ve grown accustomed to it now and actually enjoy it. If your Newsletter is worth reading (i.e you have good content and not JUST promotions) people will still read it and it will be easier for them to find.

    As for how Google will monetize this…

    Well that’s simple. Remember, if you stay logged into Gmail or G+ everything you do online is being tracked by Google. One day, I was looking for a domain and was checking different Registrars to find the best deal on a new .com, I wasn’t satisfied with the prices I was seeing so I refrained from purchasing. The next day I found a promotion in the Promotions tab from for a .com domain for less than a dollar!

    Talk about targeted marketing! I bought one straight away. It was a win-win-win situation for google, myself and namecheap. So don’t be too worried about this new tab interface, some of us actually enjoy it!

  25. Scott

    7/31/2013 3:49 pm

    For current subscribers, I agree that we should relax until we see how more about this falls out.

    But I disagree about relaxing about it regarding obtaining new, double-opt in subs, as those confirmation messages to gmail users are now being dropped into the “promotions” tab. There’s not amount of education I can provide my new subs to help them hunt for their confirmation email. Google’s gmail is making it harder for quality content providers like myself (following best practices) to reach users of their system. They are wanting, though, to push their new “email ads” in the promotion label to be seen, which trashes out the “inbox neighborhood” for the rest of us that are doing all the right things.

    I’ve seen a notable drop in confirmations from gmail newsletter subs since this new “tab” feature has been rolling out.

    I also believe is google is getting a bit to big for its britches. The graveyard and dustbin of formerly large, innovative market-leading companies is full (IBM, Motorola, AT&T to name a few)… when they start creating strange elements to their services to squeeze more profits. Google seems to be on their way to that fate, also.

    Yeah, they are “smart” at google. IBM thought they were smart, too, when they believed that all businesses would continue to use mainframe computers — when the market was going to PCs….and IBM never recovered from that mistake. Likewise, Motorola, the former king of paging and cell phones, went wrong and became arrogant, and lot its shirt, too.

  26. ST

    7/31/2013 4:30 pm

    All ESPs — like Aweber — are telling people to relax, because there’s nothing they can do to help us.

    The problem is that Google (not just in Gmail, but also Adsense, organic search, and other things) has reached a plateau in its massive, profitable revenue streams. Now they are becoming like other corporate giants in history, who fix things that don’t need fixing — to squeeze more profits from the rock– and as a result, alienating the principles of “do no harm”.

    The tab roll-out by Gmail was only done so Google could start pushing “email-like” ads in Gmail users inboxes (rather than just having ads on the perimeters). It was done not for the benefit of gmail users, but only to squeeze profits. It has made the gmail inbox “ghetto” for content providers.

    They did a similar thing on Adsense… putting ugly arrows on ads (even though their terms of service stated you could never use those tools to attract attention to google ads). That didn’t last long… 6 months later, google allowed publishers to opt out from the ugly arrows… because they weren’t working…. but they did it quietly, because google can NEVER admit they made a mistake.

    Google is no longer user-friendly for anyone who provides quality content.

    All of these sweeping changes will bite them in the backside… eventually.

    Quality content providers, EPS’s etc. will suffer in the mean time… but they should quit kissing google’s behind… because google is not their friend.

    Google is all about google…. and is now an out of control monolith which has lost its original premise.

  27. Paula W

    8/1/2013 10:26 am

    I don’t think it’s going to be a problem. I redirect all my emails anyway, for my subscriptions, to the folders I want. And I am sure I am not the only one@!

  28. David

    8/2/2013 4:41 am

    I don’t really like to click the promotion tab. Is like knowing a salesman is waiting outside the door. I know many people out there also may think the same. So, it will affect the open rate compared to when people not having this kind of thought. However, it’s too early to judge. Need some facts and figures after a few months.

  29. Spook SEO

    8/13/2013 4:06 am

    Having the promotions tab is really an asset. Other marketers find it disturbing that gmail added the tabs but the fact is, it adds to the users experience. Once they feel like shopping, they can then go to the promotions tab (which they subscribed to) and start buying.

    Now if that tab wasn’t there, chances are the subscribers just might get annoyed because of the newsletters getting in the way of their personal email.

    What an awesome upgrade indeed! Kudos to the gmail team!

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