Email Marketing Tips for Promotions Tab – Pros and Cons

Brian Bojan Dordevic
About The Author

Brian Decoded

President at Alpha Efficiency

Join me at the forefront of web design and digital marketing innovation. I am obsessed with web design, business philosophy and marketing performance.
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In the year 2013, Google decided to change the way Gmail looks. A single inbox tab was split into five different tabs. Content is categorized amongst these tabs according to different purposes for the end-user:

  1. Primary (contains messages from friends, family, and work)
  2. Promotions (includes newsletters, offers and other sorts of promotional emails)
  3. Social messages (includes messages sent by social networks and websites)
  4. Updates (contains notifications, confirmations, receipts)
  5. Forums (contains messages from online groups, discussion boards, and mailing lists)

Ever since this happened, email marketers have been trying to get out of the promotion tab and into the Primary tab, since they considered it to be a place where they will get the highest click rate. Common sense tells us that read rates are indeed lower for emails in the Promotions tab compared to those in the primary tab, but only by a slight margin (around 3%). Also, 45.1% of the users who use the promotions tab check it at least once a day, and the rates of spam complaints are about double in the primary tab compared to the promotions tab. That being said, it seems that landing in the primary tab doesn’t necessarily mean your promotional email will have higher read rates.

Why Embracing the Promotions Tab is a Right Thing to Do

People opening their primary tab expect to see personal or work-related emails. If they should come across a promotional email, it is more likely to trigger an adverse reaction and report it as spam. In the business of email marketing, disappointing people is the last thing you want to do. This is the main reason why landing in the promotions tab is better. Users that visit the promotions tab are actively looking for promotional emails. They are searching for new products or simply browsing through catalogs, which means they are probably in a buying mood and are less likely to report your email as spam. The sooner the marketers accept this development, the better they can focus on improving their engagement metrics by fully utilizing the promotions tab’s features.

How to Make Your Content Stand Out in Promotions Tab

Since we have seen that Gmail’s promotions tab can be better for your promotional emails, it’s time to focus on how to make the most out of it.

In December 2018, Google released a new update that gave email marketers more ways to add details and make their emails visually stand out in the promotions tab. By adding email annotations, marketers can add visual branding elements to spruce up their content. These features make it easier for users to get hooked by promotional images and offers.

“Annotations” feature allows marketers to add relevant information to their emails, such as:

  • Image preview
  • Company logo
  • Expiration dates on sales or deals
  • Deal badges and promo codes

By utilizing these features, your email can visually stand out and attract more users.

Image preview paints a perfect picture

Images are an essential part of marketing in general, but even more so when it comes to email marketing. By utilizing image preview, you can give users a quick look at your email. This is an excellent way to showcase your product, or simply set the mood with a lively or relaxing image.

Company logo to be recognized from afar

Another convenience when using annotations is the ability to attach your logo to your emails. This makes your emails unique and recognizable and more likely to be opened. It is imperative to remember to use https when linking to your images to avoid experiencing inconvenient issues (mainly ending up in spam).

Advertise your discounts

If you are offering a deal or promoting a sale, it is possible to add a green badge with the deal written on it. The badge is a valuable signal for most buyers and one that should stand out amongst other similar offers. Also, if you want to share a coupon code, it will appear as a gray badge right next to it, further encouraging future buyers to open your email.

Create a sense of urgency

Creating a sense of urgency and invoking fear of missing out is a powerful tool in marketing today, and helps to make users buy something. This method is often used in the form of a limited sale or a limited stock. With annotations, it is possible to present the end date of the promotion to draw the buyer’s attention even more.

Combining all of the above allows you to provide higher value for your customers. The more the user is satisfied, the more likely he is to come back to your products. Implementing these tools makes for a big preview. Users can see the main aspects of an email – who is it from, what the offer is, when does the offer expires, what products are available. However, the most important thing will always be the content. If your content is not engaging, there is no image or a green badge in the world that will improve your open rate.

Ways to Land in the Primary Tab

The primary tab contains messages from friends, family, and work. To get there, you need to make your emails sound much friendlier and less promotional. Here are a few tips on how to make your email sound like it is from someone the user personally knows:

Add personalization to your email

Do this by writing short and simple notes, making it look like you are writing to a friend. The friendly voice has a better connection when used towards a general audience. If you make it look like you know your customer, you have a higher chance of getting into the Primary tab.

Use simple HTML code or plain text

Promotional emails usually contain stylized text and images with a properly designed layout. While promotional emails get coded in HTML, personal messages are generally not. If you are trying to get your email into the Primary tab, you should use simple HTML that contains mainly paragraphs, just as your friend would.

Limit the use of images

When a personal connection sends images via email, they are usually attached rather than embedded. Even if a person does embed images, it is commonly only a single image. Excluding unnecessary imagery will lead Google to believe that your message is not commercial. Since your goal is to make it through Gmail’s filters and into the primary tab, try to make your email look natural by limiting or eliminating any image use.

Don’t use links or social icons

Social icons and links commonly found in advertisements and promotional links, getting rid of them, will improve your delivery. Since this is one of their main characteristics, it is better to remove them as well. Also, having too many links can be seen by Gmail as spam or a newsletter. If you must include them, try not to send more than three. It is best to limit the number of links in your email to one or none.

email marketing tips for landing into inbox

Keep your footer simple

If you want your email to look natural, don’t use headers and footers. Most email campaigns that are sent to large lists have these. If you don’t want your email to send promotional signs, try to avoid them or use something simple instead of long footer text used in marketing emails.

Avoid promotional phrases

Pay extra attention to the language and tone of your emails. Make it look and sound like a friendly email, and not like it’s from a brand chasing a sale. Avoid putting words and phrases like SALE! or 50% OFF if you don’t want your email to be flagged as a promotional rather than personal.

Ask your subscribers to move your emails

When you develop a friendly relationship with your subscribers, feel free to ask them to add you to their contact list. You can either ask them to manually add you to their contact list, or drag your emails from promotional to the primary tab.

Use a domain that doesn’t already have a promotional reputation

To land in the primary tab, you should use a domain different than the ones you normally use for other sending activities. Like most other big companies, you should use different domains for or sub-domains for personal, marketing, and transactional emails.

Do your testing

Add your emails to sending list and test how they perform and on what tabs they land on. This will give you valuable insight on how to tweak your emails and determine those variations that will take your emails to the Primary tab. After that, you can make different variations of your emails. One can be a more stylized and promotional version, and other more personal. Send both versions to your subscribers and look for all relevant metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, spam rates, and unsubscribe rates. By analyzing these results, you can ultimately decide which tab is better for you to market in.

In the end, it is up to you to decide which tab you are targeting. If your emails land in the promotions tab despite all the tips on how to land in the primary tab, there is no need to despair. Users check the promotions tab daily and make purchases. The more you accept this tab and utilize its tolls and advantages, the more you will increase your performance in the process.


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