Gmail Tabs: Email Marketing Friend or Foe?

You know why I love Google? You might think it’s because they help me find stuff. Or because of that fun little doodle they occasionally amuse us with. But you would be wrong.

It’s because they keep me from ever suffering a moment of boredom. Just when I think I have life all figured out – BAM! – a new update from Google. Who doesn’t love that?

This time, the latest change from Google isn’t even SEO-related. While I’m sure they’ve tweaked a search algorithm at least twice since I’ve been typing this, they’ve decided to expand from wreaking havoc on SERPs to dabbling in your inbox as well.

If you use Gmail, you might have noticed that your messages are being sorted for you, which sounds super-helpful, unless you’re an email marketer, in which case, you probably panicked. However, it might not be as bad as we initially thought. Let’s consider the pros and cons of Gmail tabs:


  • Customers who actually want to receive promotions will know exactly where to look for them, resulting in more qualified leads.
  • Open rates could actually increase over time, since users will be able to find and read promotional email at their leisure, rather than setting them aside for later and losing them in the shuffle.
  • Marketers will be inspired to step up our game, writing better subject lines and content, to work our way out of the Promotions tab into the Primary inbox. When Google sees more engagement between sender and receiver, messages increase in priority.
  • There actually IS a work-around for customers to have messages sent to their Primary folders. Users can assign importance to messages and manually move them to different tabs if they feel they are categorized incorrectly.

Google changes to Gmail inbox for email marketing











  • Marketing messages are automatically identified as Promotions, allowing those who don’t want promotions to simply delete them all.
  • Your marketing message is directly competing with all other promotions – which might sound bad, but at least you’re no longer vying for attention with emails from the customer’s mother or boss or anyone else with whom you obviously can’t compete.
  • Customers might not immediately understand how to navigate the new inbox. Marketers can turn this into a “pro” by taking a minute to help customers figure it out.

There are conflicting reports about the early effects of the changes. HubSpot reports 63% more email opens since tabs debuted while Lyris and MailChimp reported small decreases, but nothing dramatic or directly attributable to Gmail features.

Ideally, our email subscribers want to see our amazing, valuable content and will jump through any hoop to make it happen. We’re up for the challenge. Are you?