Ask our experts: Help, my emails are landing in the promotions tab!

Deliverability Podcasts

For many senders, landing in the Promotions tab at Gmail causes panic. Usually, the first thought is, “how do I tweak things so that Gmail places my emails in the Primary tab?”

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there isn’t a surefire way to ensure your emails land in the Primary tab. To be even blunter, there’s a good chance that your emails belong in the Promotions tab, and trying to beat Gmail’s algorithms at their own game isn’t going to work.

Instead of trying to avoid the Promotions tab, embrace it! I know this is harder said than done when your open rates likely decrease when your emails land in the Promotions tab. However, this is where open rates can be a vanity metric. While more subscribers might open your emails when they land in the Primary tab, they’re likely doing so to reach inbox zero. Your messages are wedged between their important messages from their boss or their doctor. They aren’t often in the right headspace to take action and engage with your message when they’re in productivity mode.

However, if someone opens your email after it landed in their Promotions tab, that is a very positive signal and a much stronger open than one that occurs in the Primary tab. An open in the Promotions tab means that your subscriber plucked your message out of the sea of promotions and wanted to engage with it. Since they were exploring their promotional emails, they are in the headspace to engage with emails that are promotional-in-nature.

If you still aren’t convinced that the Promotions tab can be a good thing, here are a few steps to help you land in the Primary tab. But keep in mind that Gmail’s algorithms are ever-changing and that obsessing over tab placement won’t be a fruitful endeavor.

  1. Ask subscribers to drag your messages from the promotions tab to the Primary tab.
  2. Encourage subscribers to reply to your messages.
  3. Regularly clean your list of unengaged subscribers.

Last but not least, remember that the Promotions tab is still the inbox, not the spam folder! The Promotions tab not only provides a great email experience for your subscribers but it helps keep promotional senders with healthy deliverability strategies out of the spam folder.

When you create valuable content, your subscribers will read it no matter which tab it ends up in

Is the promotions tab your enemy? It’s not necessarily a bad thing if your emails end up in the promo tab. I'm subscribed to a few top food bloggers and their emails land in my promo tab sometimes. It’s hard to predict which category your messages will land in since Google uses its own algorithms to determine the placement of your emails.

If your email finds itself in the promo tab, this means that Google sees value in them, and you’ve avoided the spam folder black hole. In fact, Google's Product Manager, Jordan Grossman, said in the 2018 DDMA Email Summit Presentation that users prefer these tabs to help them organize their emails.

Of course, we can’t ignore that more people read the primary tab than the promo tab. So if most of your emails get sent to the promo tab, here’s a quick tip to ensure that they get back to the primary tab in the future: on desktop, ask your subscribers to drag and drop your promo emails into the primary tab and remind them to click “Yes” on the pop-up notification that comes up at the bottom left of their screens. Mobile users need to tap and hold the email until the ellipsis pops up on the upper right corner of their screen, then tap the menu and move the email to the Primary folder.

But what if you are launching a sale? These emails may get sent to the promo tab by default, and trying to game Gmail's filter is counterproductive. Instead, create emails that your subscribers love so that when they see your messages in their sea of promotional emails, they are sure to open them.

Don’t forget to collect subscribers’ preferences when they first sign up for your email list. With ConvertKit, you can use tags and segments to send emails to a specific list or group of subscribers. Personalized emails will increase the value your subscribers receive from your messages. It also helps to add a short blurb to your regular emails reminding these subscribers to regularly check their promo folder for exclusive launches or sales.

When the promotions tab was launched in 2013, many predicted it would be the end of email marketing. It wasn’t – in fact, more content creators and companies now use email marketing to drive conversions. These category tabs have helped content creators be better email marketers. When you create valuable content, your subscribers will read it no matter which tab it ends up in.

— Heidi de Dios, Deliverability and Compliance Product Specialist at ConvertKit

The question should not be how to avoid the Promotions tab but rather how to create content that your subscribers would love to receive

Ever since Gmail introduced the promotions tab back in 2013, creators all around the world are facing the same issue: how to land in the primary inbox and how to avoid the dreadful promotion tab. But is landing on the promotion tab a real problem for your business? Are those emails lost forever and will no one read them? The answer might be even more surprising than you may think.

Gmail’s main goal is to serve its clients and these clients also happen to be your subscribers. The promotions tab is just another way of Gmail trying to create a better user experience by sorting incoming emails. While we can’t be 100% sure how Gmail’s algorithm works, we can offer some guidelines to help.

Can the subscribers simply turn this off? While you can turn off the tab any time, it might not bring the change you are looking for. Imagine how many emails your subscribers get on a daily basis. If all the daily incoming messages start to flood in their inbox under one single tab, your email might get lost among other important messages.

So, the question should not be how to avoid the Promotions tab but rather how to create content that your subscribers would love to receive. Here are some tips to get you started:

1) Make sure your list is healthy and engaged;

2) Segment your subscribers and send personalized content. knowing your audience is key.

3) Try using catchy and captivating subject lines, but never misleading ones

4) Avoid using link shorteners

5) Make sure your emails have a good balance between images and text

If you still feel that you could do more to get into the Primary tab, you can ask your subscribers to drag and drop your emails from promotions to primary. This will also teach Gmail’s algorithm to place the emails into the primary tab.

Akos Szarka, Deliverability and Compliance Product Specialist at ConvertKitIf you’d like to dig further, ConvertKit has great resources to offer, like our Deliverability 101 guide or our Deliverability Defined podcast where our Deliverability Experts Alyssa and Melissa are talking about all things email.

— Akos Szarka, Deliverability and Compliance Product Specialist at ConvertKit

Remember: The promotions tab is still the inbox!

The promotions tab is by far one of the trickier email aspects to explain. It feels like a black hole with no rhyme or reason for why emails can sometimes end up in that folder and other times not. However, it's pretty simple when we break things down.

What is a promotion?
According to the good old dictionary it's, “the publicization of a product, organization, or venture so as to increase sales or public awareness.” Now this sounds a bit vague but essentially any email that is going to more than one or two people with a call for action could be considered “promotional”.

You don't have to sell a product for your email to be deemed promotional in nature. The promotions tab was created to separate an email from say, your grandmother, and an email from Target. Gmail wants to help it's customers organize their emails so that they may see 1:1 emails a bit more easily.

Melissa Lambert, Deliverability and Compliance Specialist at ConvertKitA big reminder: the promotions tab is still a part of the inbox. Don't get discouraged if you are landing in the promotions tab — I promise it's better than landing in the spam folder. Find ways to make your interactions with your audience feel more 1:1. Doing this will not only help you look less-promotional to Gmail, but your subscribers will likely enjoy the relationship-building email as well, potentially helping you land in the primary tab instead. Remember, email isn't perfect!

— Melissa Lambert, Deliverability and Compliance Specialist at ConvertKit

To receive email notifications when new episodes of Deliverability Defined are available, or to submit topic suggestions, sign up to our email list.

Connect with your audience

Share what you love to connect with your followers and grow your business with a free ConvertKit account.

Create a free ConvertKit account

Alyssa Dulin

Alyssa is a Deliverability Lead located in Nashville, TN. She loves helping senders reach the inbox of their subscribers. Outside of work, Alyssa enjoys traveling, indoor cycling, and spending time with family.

The future belongs to creators

ConvertKit helps creators like you take their projects from idea to reality. It's never been easier to build an audience and grow a business. And you can do it all for free.

Launch your next project