How to get through the Promotions tab in Gmail

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Hello guys! In the next few words, I am going to share some advice that has helped me a great deal with deliverability issues in my email campaigns. The focus, however, is specifically going to be on circumventing the Promotions tab in Gmail. Since most of us have a huge number of Gmail addresses in our list. I have noticed my open rates spiking up by as much as 150–200% when I have found my way into the Primary tab of Gmail. So, without further ado, let’s get straight to the point.

Please note though that the Gmail filter algorithm changes frequently and testing is always going to be the key when it comes to deliverability. Another important point worth mentioning is that this article is written primarily for opted-in lists, although the points below are not entirely irrelevant for cold emails.

What’s your domain like?

I am assuming that you have a dedicated domain set up for sending your emails. If you’re using a shared domain from your email service provider to send your emails, it is definitely not recommended after a point. In simpler words, if your sender ID is def@abc.com, your dedicated sending domain should be xyz.abc.com. If your domain is abc.com, your sender ID is xyz@gmail.com and your sending domain is xyz.mailchimp.com, your sender reputation will never be completely under your control. If you’re looking how to fix this, just Google how to update the DNS records of your domain provider.

Once this is done, the next step is to warm up your domain. While there are different ways to do this, we recommend sending your first few campaigns to your engaged list. I personally send it to the engaged users in the past month only if it is a new domain, before sending to two month engaged users, then three months and so on. You can check your domain reputation by clicking on this link. Also consider checking if your domain is blacklisted by any chance using this free tool.

How clean is your list?

It’s no rocket science that a high bounce rate is going to affect your sender reputation. Then what’s the best way to ensure that your list is clean? The answer is double opt-in. Interestingly though, I never recommend double opt-in to my clients. If you’re running a newsletter and looking to create a loyal readership, double opt-in is highly recommended, but for direct-to-consumer brands (which is my niche), you can miss out on sales if you do that. Almost all email marketing services clean the hard bounces from your list. But if you are importing email IDs from somewhere, it is recommended to clean them before doing so. A killer free tool that helps you do this is this one.

Consider sending in batches

One of my go-to methods to ensure high open rates is throttling. Let me explain what throttling does. Instead of sending the email to all the emails in your list in one go, throttling sends them in batches. What this does is create a good impression on your ISP which doesn’t take you for a bulk sender. Why? Because you’re regulating the volume of mails sent at one point in time. Email marketing services like Klaviyo help you throttle your campaigns in a single click. If, at any point in time, you are experiencing a dip in your open rates, consider throttling and sending to your engaged list(s) only (explained above).

Don’t copy your copy

How important is copywriting in email marketing? Extremely important. The Gmail algorithm is very smart and you have to be at your conversational/personalized best to not make your email sound promotional or salesy. You will also need to avoid words like sale, OFF and discount from the subject and potentially even the mail body to circumvent the Promotion tab in Gmail. Another thing that is important in this regard is using less imagery and HTML in your emails and more text. I completely understand if this sounds impractical for consumer brands but you can always personalize a post purchase founder note or a sales announcement mail from the brand manager. Get the drift?

Pro tip: I once found my way into the Primary tab by writing ‘sexuality’ in my subject line as S-E-X-uality. It was for my personal newsletter.

If you don’t get it, you ask for it

It’s simple, right. Let’s assume you have tried every trick in the book but still can’t find a way to get through the dreaded Promotions tab. You simply send a mail to your engaged list to do one or all of the following:

  1. Save your ID as a contact
  2. Mark your mail as important
  3. Drag your mail from Promotions to Primary tab
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Note how I have a postscript at the end of my newsletter prompting the users to do the aforementioned.

Testing is key

As I had mentioned in the beginning, testing is arguably the most important part of the entire process. Even if you’re doing everything right, you won’t get to know that if you are not testing frequently. And simply sending test mails before every campaign isn’t going to be enough for you. Documenting the deliverability of your campaigns and taking a note of the variables/experiments in the corresponding emails is what will solve the problem for you in the longer run. I highly recommend testing the deliverability of all your campaigns using this wonderful tool by GMass.

If you liked what you read, let’s connect on Linkedin where I post a lot of stuff about DTC marketing. Alternatively, you can write to me at shivam@theteasercompany.com if you want my team to take up the email marketing mandate of your brand.

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