The New Gmail Inbox: Keep Calm and Email On

gmail, inbox, newsletter

Have you ever seen the video that asks you to count the number of times people pass a basketball back and forth? Created to test the concept of selective attention, it’s an eye-opening demonstration of how easy it is to miss something even when it’s right in front of your face.

It was also the first thing that came to mind when I opened my Gmail account recently and noticed two things: All of the newsletters and marketing emails I usually get were missing and a trio of new tabs ran across the top of the page. Apparently, I was on the receiving end of Google’s latest update and hadn’t even noticed.

What’s that got to do with promoting your practice? Well, if you send out an email newsletter to people who use Gmail, they may not be seeing them either — unless they know where to look.

In a nutshell, the new layout automatically directs incoming emails into one of three tabbed inboxes (and provides the option to add other categories):

  • Primary: Messages from friends, family and other people you probably already know, as well as any other messages that don’t appear in other tabs
  • Promotions: Deals, offers, newsletters and other promotional emails
  • Social: Updates from social sites

The bad news is that your email newsletters are almost certainly headed for the Promotions inbox, which means savvy users have to take another step to find them while inattentive users may not see them at all. The good news is that early reports suggest that the change hasn’t led to any major declines in open rates, which means those who want to hear what you have to say are still listening.

Still, if you’re worried or, worse, have seen a decline in open rates, there are steps you can take to boost the odds that your emails will still get seen:

Ask subscribers to opt in: When a new subscriber signs up for your email, let them know you’ll be sending them a follow-up email, asking them to confirm their interest. The back-and-forth is a sign of engagement, one of the factors Gmail uses to segment incoming messages.

Offer a work-around: While the default mode pushes all marketing messages to the Promotions folder, users can get them back into their Primary inbox by clicking and dragging any message to the Primary tab, which tells Google’s servers to send subsequent ones from the same source there as well. Your email service provider should be able to craft a message showing subscribers how to do it.

Be more interesting: Even with the most recent changes to Gmail, the real key to successful email marketing remains unchanged and it’s true whether your subscribers are using Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo! Good information, entertaining writing and an understanding of your readers’ needs will boost engagement more than mass-blast messages and hard-sell sales pitches. Give them something to look forward to and they’ll continue to seek it out, extra clicks or not.

It’s really pretty simple, says Jay Baer, president of Convince & Convert: “Send people email they want… Relevancy trumps delivery mechanism – always.”

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including, and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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