Troubleshooting email deliverability in Gmail’s promotion tab

Modified on Fri, 09 Feb 2024 at 02:13 AM

The Gmail Promotions Tab can be a challenge for businesses relying on email marketing to promote their products and services. Understanding why emails end up in this marketing email purgatory and implementing strategies to avoid it is crucial for ensuring optimal email deliverability. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the reasons behind emails landing in the Gmail Promotions Tab, provide actionable tips on how to prevent this, and conclude with key takeaways for marketers.

Why emails end up in the Gmail's promotions tab

When businesses send email broadcasts, Google employs a sophisticated scanning system to categorize emails into the Primary Inbox, Social Tab, or the Promotions Tab. The primary goal is to keep the Primary Inbox uncluttered for users, facilitating easy access to the emails that matter most to them. 

  • Algorithmic complexity: Cracking Google's algorithm, which determines inbox placement, is a formidable task. Email deliverability experts estimate that Gmail relies on 450 to 550 indicators of quality to decide the fate of each email.
  • Individual behavior influence: A user’s behavior plays a crucial role, making it ineffective to test email deliverability by "spamming yourself." Google prioritizes emails opened by individual users, making personal behavior a key factor in email categorization.
  • Reputation management: The reputation of your email address and associated name text plays a crucial role. Attempting to evade the system by altering your name or address can negatively impact your email reputation. A damaged reputation requires significant effort to repair, and adopting a new identity may lead to further penalties and potential placement in the spam folder.

What impact does ending up in the promotions tab have on your outreach performance?

The impact on your outreach performance becomes apparent when your emails find their place in the Gmail Promotions tab. Here's how it can influence your outreach:

  • Diminished visibility: The Promotions tab is a separate tab that segregates promotional emails from the primary inbox. This results in reduced visibility of emails. Emails that directly land in the primary tab tend to gain more attention which increases the possibility of recipients noticing and opening them.
  • Lower open rates: The likelihood of a lower open rate arises when your emails find their place in the Gmail promotions tab, as recipients may easily overlook or neglect to check them. This may lead to a potential impact on your open rates compared to emails landing directly in the primary inbox.
  • Decreased engagement: The Promotions tab setting often makes recipients less inclined to engage with the content, leading to reduced overall click-through rates. The perceived promotional nature of the tab diminishes the likelihood of recipients clicking on links or taking desired actions.
  • Email deliverability challenges: Gmail's algorithms continuously evaluate user behavior, considering actions such as opening, deleting, or moving emails to different tabs. Where a majority of recipients consistently move your emails from the Promotions tab to the primary tab, Gmail will track this behavior and deliver your further emails directly into the primary tab. This will surely create a positive influence on future email deliverability. On the other hand, if emails persistently remain in the Promotions tab, it may negatively impact the deliverability of subsequent emails.

In light of these considerations, ensuring that your emails land in the Primary tab of Gmail is critical for boosting open rates and enhancing the overall performance of your outreach campaigns.

Strategies to prevent emails from landing in Gmail's promotions tab

To enhance the chances of emails reaching the Primary Inbox instead of the Promotions Tab, implement the following strategies:

1. Optimize email design

  • Image moderation: Steer clear of an excess of images in your emails, as this can trigger the promotions label. Opt for a plain text format to present a more personalized and non-promotional appearance.
  • Simplify HTML code: Avoid overly intricate HTML code in email templates and keep a sophisticated design. In case you are not an expert at HTML, prefer sticking to our drag and drop tool for creating a template.
  • Maintain text to HTML ratio: To increase the likelihood of your emails reaching the primary folder in Gmail, it's crucial to maintain a balance between text and HTML. Gmail's algorithm is adept at distinguishing automated emails, and heavy HTML with images may hinder user experience. Aim for a human-like, one-to-one conversation feel in your emails, as plain text with minimal links and images has a better chance of landing in the primary folder. To enhance a campaign, it is necessary to strive for a 60:40 text-to-HTML ratio in your outreach campaign.

2. Segment your subscribers

When you send out emails to all of your user base, Gmail might see them as promotional, and that could keep your emails out of the main inbox. A great way to make your email campaigns more personalized is to effectively segment your mailing list. Organize your subscribers into groups by considering factors like their buying patterns, subscription duration, age, and other relevant details. Utilizing this data allows you to craft emails that cater specifically to each segment. Sending targeted emails enhances the likelihood of your audience engaging with the content, resulting in improved open rates, increased revenue, and the cultivation of a more loyal customer base. To know more, please refer to the following article  “How to create a segment”.

3. Warm up your email account

When you get a new IP address or change your Email Service Provider (ESP), take a moment to warm up your email list before going full-scale with your emails. Warming up involves starting with a few emails to show email providers that you're a legitimate sender, not someone trying to spam users with a new IP. This practice helps build trust, establishes credibility, and prevents your emails from being marked as unwanted. By gradually introducing your emails, you ensure a positive sender reputation, leading to better long-term email delivery results. To know more, please refer to our article “Mastering email domain reputation: A guide to warm-up and ramp-up process”.

4. Improve your sender reputation

Enhancing your sender's reputation is crucial for ensuring your emails land in your recipients' primary inbox. Similar to warming up your email account, there are various strategies to boost your sender reputation. Verify Your Email List:

  • Verify your email list: Maintaining a verified email list is a fundamental practice to foster a positive sender reputation. Regularly reviewing and cleansing your email list is crucial, as it involves the systematic removal of inactive or unengaged users. When emails are sent to unverified or inactive accounts, it often results in high bounce rates. These high bounce rates not only impact your deliverability but also contribute to a diminishing sender reputation. By upkeeping a verified email list, you establish a foundation for improved sender credibility, ensuring a more favorable response from email providers.
  • Promote user engagement: Prioritizing user engagement is a pivotal aspect of enhancing your email account's sender reputation. It extends beyond mere content relevance, encompassing the delivery of valuable content that genuinely resonates with your recipients. The primary objective is to go beyond mere opens and encourage recipients to actively interact with your emails – clicking on links and responding. This heightened level of engagement serves as a positive signal to email providers, such as Gmail, indicating that your emails are not only desired but also considered important by your audience. Consequently, this positive feedback loop contributes significantly to a healthier sender's reputation.
  • Implement email authentication protocols: Ensuring the security and authenticity of your email account is paramount in the journey to improve sender reputation. This involves the implementation of robust email authentication protocols like Sender Policy Framework (SPF), DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), and Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC). These protocols collectively act as a shield, verifying the legitimacy of your emails and aiding Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in distinguishing legitimate senders from potential threats. By setting up and maintaining these authentication protocols, you not only enhance your email deliverability but also fortify your sender reputation, significantly increasing the likelihood of your emails landing in the Primary inbox. To know more please refer to the article “Sender domain DNS verification”.
  • Monitor & boost your sender score: The sender score, serving as a key metric for your sender’s reputation, demands continuous attention and improvement efforts. Regular monitoring of your sender score using dedicated email deliverability tools provides invaluable insights into the health of your email sending practices. By consistently working on refining your sender score, you not only reinforce a positive reputation but also maximize the chances of your emails consistently reaching your recipients' primary inbox.

To know more about improving sender reputation, please refer to our article “Restoring your sender reputation”.

5. A/B test in emails

Experimentation is key in refining your email strategy. Implement A/B testing to analyze various elements such as subject lines, content, and calls-to-action. By understanding what resonates best with your audience, you can optimize your emails for higher engagement and reduce the likelihood of being marked as promotional content by Gmail's algorithms. To know more, please refer to the article “Optimize email campaign with A/B testing and split delivery.

6. Sender information personalization 

Humanize your sender information to enhance the authenticity of your emails. Personalized sender information, including organization names and clear identification, builds trust with recipients. This trust factor is crucial in signaling to Gmail that your emails are legitimate, relevant, and deserving of placement in the primary inbox.

7. Link management

Exercise caution in managing the number and types of links within your emails. An excess of links or suspicious URLs can trigger spam filters. Ensure that your links are secure, relevant to your content, and add genuine value to the reader's experience. Responsible link management helps in maintaining a positive sender reputation.

8. Social media links in moderation

While integrating social media links into your emails is essential for cross-platform engagement, it's crucial to maintain moderation. Including too many social media links may raise concerns and be perceived as spammy behavior. Focus on the platforms most relevant to your audience and business goals to strike a balance that aligns with Gmail's filtering criteria.

9. Whitelisting strategies

Encourage subscribers to whitelist your email address or add you to their contact list. This action signals to Gmail that your emails are desired by the recipients. By actively seeking whitelisting, you decrease the probability of your emails being categorized as promotional and increase the chances of consistent delivery to the primary inbox.

10. Add unsubscribe link

Incorporating an option for recipients to unsubscribe in your emails is considered both a best practice and a legal requirement in many jurisdictions. Regulations, such as the CAN-SPAM Act in the United States and the GDPR in the European Union, dictate that commercial emails must provide a clear and easily accessible means for recipients to opt out of future communications. Beyond meeting legal obligations, including an unsubscribe link not only signifies your dedication to respecting recipients' preferences but also aids in steering clear of the Gmail promotions tab. This practice ultimately contributes to an enhanced user experience for your audience.

11. Send short emails

Long, overly detailed emails can overwhelm recipients and trigger spam filters. Keep your emails concise, direct, and to the point. Clearly communicate your message without unnecessary details that may lead Gmail to categorize your email as promotional content. Conciseness not only respects the recipient's time but also aligns with Gmail's preference for clear and focused communication.

12 Optimize your email timing

Strategic timing is a crucial element in email marketing success. Consider the habits and preferences of your target audience when scheduling email campaigns. Sending emails at peak engagement times when your audience is most likely to check their inboxes improves the chances of your emails being seen and engaged with. Timely communication contributes to a positive sender reputation and enhances the likelihood of primary inbox placement.


Ensuring your email lands in Gmail's Primary tab is vital for optimizing your marketing campaign's effectiveness. The Google algorithm undergoes constant changes, prompting marketers to stay well-informed and employ new strategies to avoid their efforts going in vain. These above mentioned strategies are tailored to the intricacies of Gmail's algorithms, and will significantly enhance your email's chances of landing in the Primary Inbox rather than the Promotions Tab. By proactively addressing key factors influencing Gmail's categorization, you can fortify your email deliverability and optimize the impact of your marketing campaigns.

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