Email Marketing

Warning: Google Changes May Be Killing your Email Open Rates (and what you can do about it)

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Carolyn Coates

Aug 16 2013

Surprised teacherA recent Google change may be decimating your email marketing open rates…..

If you use Gmail, you may have noticed your Gmail inbox recently made some changes. If your company sends out email marketing, you’ve probably at least heard about this. Initially released in late May, the new design has been rolling out to all users since. The new “tabbed” inbox allows Google to pre-sort your incoming emails into 5 set tabs. This new design is supposed to be more flexible and efficient for use on both desktop and mobile. Tabs offer new ways to organize incoming emails and put you “back in control” according to Google. Using special algorithms, Google automatically gives you 5 optional tabs:

  • Primary – person-to-person emails
  • Social – social networks, media-sharing, etc
  • Promotions – marketing emails
  • Updates – bills, receipts, statements
  • Forums – mailing lists, online groups

While feedback has been mixed so far, the new inbox could be helpful to the everyday user but somewhat detrimental to companies connecting with their audience through email marketing. Below is a video by Google better explaining the purpose and uses of this new inbox design.

Many users find this setup effective in that it cuts down on daily emails to their inbox and many are pleased with the emails being automatically sorted. With there only being 5 categories to filter emails into, it’s hard to tell if that will suffice for the future.

Trouble Ahead

However, this new setup is hurting email marketing for companies. According to a study by MailChimp, after the new inbox was established, open rates dropped 1% and stayed consistently lower than before the change. While this 1% may seem minor, it’s hard to tell if it will continue to change as users are more aware of the new features. Emails to your audience are more than likely getting shuffled to your promotions tab – leaving them next to all other marketing emails, including your competition. Not only are “Promotion” emails in a separate tab, they also don’t trigger a notification (i.e. the (1) next to your inbox).

What Can You Do?

This is clearly a growing issue. With this new setup increasing your chances of making it to the trash can before being opened, you need to stand out. For the time being, your goal is to engage your audience enough to be moved from the “Promotions” tab to the “Primary” tab where you will at least be seen. Here are a few tips to help your emails not end up in the dreaded promotions tab…

mail. email, e-mail, wichtig, dringend,

  1. Engage Your Audience: While I hope this isn’t a surprising tip for you, it’s important to realize how vital engagement is now more than ever. If you’re able to engage and provoke a response from your audience, the likelihood of you being moved to the primary tab increases. Keep their interest!
  2. Put Your Subject Line to Work: With Google watching subject lines to sort mail, put more effort into your subject lines making them with less-advertising and more intriguing. This might help you get past the sorting issue as well as catch some attention.
  3. Divide and Conquer: This might be a chance to step back and see how you’re segmenting your audience as far as what emails they receive. At this point, it’s better to send new, relevant emails to those who it applies to most.
  4. Be Frank with Them: The new setup isn’t a surprise to anyone using Gmail. Many companies are directly asking their audience to move them to the primary tab for future emails or explain in blogs or emails about the new setup and how they can continue to see emails from you.
  5. Be Better: Creating better content should always be a priority for email marketing so continue to evolve and improve!

It’s important to be aware of the changes that affect your marketing strategies. Over the next few months, compare your open rates of emails to see how much this is really affecting your business and consider initiating some of the tips above to improve your rates.


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