Does your business rely on email?

Are you wondering how Gmail tabs will impact your marketing?

If email is a part of your business, you’ll want to pay close attention.

In this article I’ll provide a simple 5-step plan that any marketer can use in response to Gmail tabs.

More About This Show

Social Media Marketing Podcast w/ Michael Stelzner

The Social Media Marketing podcast is a show from Social Media Examiner.

It’s designed to help busy marketers and business owners discover what works with social media marketing.

The show format is on-demand talk radio (also known as podcasting).

In this episode, you’ll learn what the new Gmail tabs mean for your business.

You’ll also pick up some tips on what you can do and I’ll talk about my concerns for the future.

Share your feedback, read the show notes and get the links mentioned in this episode below!

Listen Now

You can also subscribe via iTunes, RSS, Stitcher or Blackberry.

Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this show:

Why should marketers pay attention?

Chances are that email plays some role in your marketing. Maybe you email your subscribers when you have a new blog post or newsletter. Perhaps you have some sort of online form (for lead generation or just a simple contact form).

Email indeed plays an important role for most businesses.

Gmail is auto-filtering all emails for all users.

This means your marketing newsletters and emails will get stuck in a slightly hidden folder, no matter what you do. In that very same folder, Gmail is posting unsolicited ads that look like emails.

The bottom line with regards to these new Gmail tabs is that you will likely see a drop in your email marketing effectiveness unless you take action.

In 2012, there were 425 million Gmail users. That’s a huge number!

Social Media Examiner has 75,000+ Gmail users. Yes, 34% of our readers subscribe through a Gmail account!

There’s a pretty good likelihood you have more Gmail users than you realize.

What are Gmail tabs?

Gmail is rolling out tabs that organize your mail.

There are three default tabs: Primary, Social and Promotions (shown below).

If you haven’t already received this update on Gmail, it will likely come soon.

gmail tabs

Gmail now organizes your inbox in tabs, and places newsletters in the "Promotions" tab.

Your emails are likely going into the Promotions tab.

Tabs default “on” for all Gmail users unless your subscribers change this setting. If your subscribers don’t know how to change it, this is how they will be finding your emails.

At the time of this post, not all subscribers have tabs, but it is rolling out very quickly.

What are the marketing implications?

Gmail is becoming like Facebook.

If you use it, you use it by their rules.

I’m also concerned by the possibility that other email providers may follow Google’s lead.

This may be the beginning of the end of email as the one platform you can at least get delivery into.

With social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, you can never be sure that your messages get in front of your audience.

Email has always been the one way that you could be certain of getting in front of your audience, assuming subscribers gave you permission to send them emails.

Will this change with Gmail tabs? I think so.

The updates in the Promotions tab reset each time you visit Gmail, meaning it is very easy for a Gmail user to never realize there is mail waiting in the Promotions tab.

Other email providers may follow suit. There could come a time when marketers will have to pay to play.

Your 5-step plan for dealing with Gmail tabs

Here are tips you can move on right now to help educate your Gmail readers. These are all proactive steps we have taken at Social Media Examiner.

1. Make a video educating your Gmail users.

First, educate your subscribers by making a video like the one below I made for our audience.

In this video, you’ll learn how your readers can make sure your emails show up in their Primary box. Show people how they can drag your message in the Promotions or Social tabs into their Primary inbox.

You can copy this embed code and use this video for your customers:

<iframe src="//" frameborder="0" width="420" height="315"></iframe>

2. Promote this video on your social channels.

We did this on Facebook because we have the most fans there. Consider paying for a Sponsored Post if you have a large audience on Facebook.

Here's how we got the word out on Facebook.

3. Embed video on your email Thanks for Registering page.

The third thing you can do is to embed the video on your Thanks for Subscribing page. If you don’t have one, make one and point your successful subscriptions there.

Here's how our subscription confirmation page looks.

4. Alter your subscription follow-up email.

Let your Gmail subscribers know what this tab does to your emails. I simply added “Use Gmail? Watch this quick video to make sure you get our updates.”

Here's how we mentioned it in our email follow-up.

5. Segment your Gmail users and send them the video.

You should be able to search your email list and look for emails that end with

I sent out this message to our Gmail subscribers:

gmail tabs

Here's the dedicated blast we did to our 75,000+ Gmail subscribers.

These are all things I’ve done for Social Media Examiner and I think you should do something similar if your emails are important to your business.

Key takeaways mentioned in this episode:

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  • Michael,

    Great article and very timely. Although Gmail has
    not given me the ‘Tabs’ yet I have had numerous emails
    that would normally go into my inbox are now going
    straight to my “Trash” Folder (not Spam Folder). No
    explanation from Gmail why just started happening?

    Have you seen or heard anybody else discuss?


  • Hey Abi – Hmm. Not heard of that one

  • Yeah, pretty much if Google inserts their own ads into a Promotions “stream” I’ll end up killing the entire thing. I subscribe to a couple hundred newsletters, and while I don’t read many of them, speed-reading subject lines is a fantastic way to keep a virtual finger on the virtual pulse.

    I’d pay Google to provide simple, accurate spam filtering and stable NON-CHANGING gmail interface. If only I could.

    With RSS drying up, I’m back to storing bookmarks in my browser, and copying and pasting links I want to save into a document I control. Feels like 1996, but not in a good way.

  • Saumitra M Ghotikar

    great article. I was happy actualy to get my emails auto arranged by gmail, but realized from your article how serious it is as a marketeer, as 70 % of my 2000 subscribers are gmailers.

    Sure , I’m going to take these steps now, but what do you think michael, will aweber take some action in this ?

  • I think this is a great idea. I will definitely have to do my own video or as you say, embed the one you have here. Once more my expectations when visiting here have been surpassed. Thanks for the great tip and please do keep em coming!

  • AmandahBlackwell

    Thanks for the post!

    I’ve received numerous emails from the company’s I subscribed to about Gmail tabs. Luckily, I figured out how to disable them.

    I’m not a big fan of the new Gmail tabs. I have enough to do and have no desire to click on three tabs when I can go directly to my inbox and view my emails. However, I understand that others may find the Gmail tabs useful.

  • Mauricio Escobar Mármol

    Michael. Great video. Thank you!

    Two key insights from this:

    – Email personalization and relevance will become a “must” to get users to move commercial messages to users Gmail “Primary” tab. No longer random messages, un-targeted messages.

    – How quickly Google will offer access to the “Primary” tab to advertisers? and how that might influence users loyalty towards Gmail?

  • Dotty Scott

    I think your gmail percentage is alot higher than you think. I have an email that is associated with my website (most businesses do) that I check with gmail. I know several other business owners that use gmail in the same way.

  • Hey Dotty – You are likely right. I have done some tests and these tabs don’t seem to impact email forwarding.

  • Interestingly enough Google is already pushing ads into the promotional tab that look like emails.

  • I hear you for sure.

  • Glad you found value here Maurice 😉

  • Yep that could turn out to be a real problem for you if folks ignore the tab. I have been in communication with key folks over at Aweber about this, making suggestions

  • Hey Dave – Google IS inserting their own ads into the Promotions tab already and they look like emails.

  • Saumitra M Ghotikar

    As far as the “marketing” aspect is concerned, they are not that useful, rather destroying. But considering a routine user’s persepective, damn helpful. One can mass-delete unnecessary promotional mails

  • Saumitra M Ghotikar

    There is also one more way to include important mails in promotions tab in BULK —-> just open any message—>”More” —->”Filter messages like this”—->”create filter with this search”—->”apply to matching conversations”—>select box “star it” –> Create filter.

    And as michael has already suggested :- Please check the box called ” include starred in the primary” under the settings—>inbox .

    This will not only move all your future messages to the “primary” but also the past messages.

  • steve

    Thanks Michael for the great timely article.

    Its even a lot worse than that .

    If you deliver digital products automatically – or even if your eCommerce confirms a purchase by email, Gmail users won’t see the email that confirms your purchase.

    It will land in the “promotions” tab.

    Hence tabs does not only affects email marketing. It does affect the whole digital value chain we did know so far.

    And asking some people about the “Promotions” tab, they say it looks like a new SPAM folder to them. Their habit will be to go in the “Promotions” tab and to click “delete all” periodically.

    Greetings from Switzerland.

  • I think you are spooking uneccessarily. I got the update last week an I find it incredibly useful to have my mail segregated. How hard is it to go to the promotions or social tabs to check what is there?
    I use email for marketing but I am also on the receiving end of marketing emails. Life does not just run around business. Maybe it will impact the number of emails being opened in the short term but I am sure most people will figure out and remember that they now have 3 tabs on Gmail. Wow, big deal! Frankly, I think the idea of trying to persuade people to turn off this useful feature before they have even tried it is jumping the gun at best and unethical at worst.

  • I did indeed Michael. Finding helpful information like this for my blog readers just makes my day. I’ve embeded your video to my blog, Ibotoolbox, Pinterest, shared to LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and my Google +. Hopefully those who see it will also pass it on.

    Thanks again! 🙂

  • Tessa

    I managed to configure my gmail settings by going to settings button and scroll down to configure inbox and you can change it to come all in the same box but if one wants to one can have them going into the different sections. I prefer to see all of them at once still.

  • Amy Nowacoski

    There’s a bit of an inaccuracy here – ” meaning it is very easy for a Gmail user to never realize there is mail waiting in the Promotions tab.” It’s VERY clear to me when I have email in one of the tab inboxes. This statement assumes that your users are unsophisticated and that they will regard all “promotions” email as junk. I have actually read more “newsletters” and “ezines” since tabs have rolled out because I’m not annoyed they are cluttering my inbox. People will quickly catch on to where their receipts and confirmation emails are going. Gmail is not the first email provider to give users a way to manage their inboxes. Outlook has splashy commercials all over the place touting how easy it is to get rid of all that junk in your inbox. The REAL point here is that if you’re going to survive selling products or services online, you need to innovate and reach your customers in a different way that works for THEM not just tossing out an easy email deal that works for YOU.

  • Saumitra M Ghotikar

    I liked this, but surely we as marketeers should see that our readers do not miss what we send them !

  • Gaah.

    I’m not seeing the Promotions tab yet. Not looking forward to it.

  • This video and article is extremely busy. I also created a blog article and shared with my list, but I’m glad I read this article because it is beneficial to alert new subscribers as well. Thank you for providing us with a video!

  • Thanks for adding that tip

  • Hey Steve,

    I think that is a legitimate concern for sure

  • Guest

    I noticed these changes in Gmail also. From an email marketing perspective, I actually don’t think it is a bad thing.

    The way I see it – people subscribe to my newsletters because they (at least, at that point in time) are interested in receiving what they know full and well to be marketing material. This new tabbing system sorts email, it doesn’t move it into spam, and it does leave the message ‘unopened’ and sitting in an area where people can view the promotional email at their leisure. I actually think asking people to move our ‘Promotional Emails’ into their primary tab could cause a backlash of ‘unsubscribes’. Why would I invite myself into your personal space?

    This is just even more reason for us to make quality emails, build relationships with customers so they WANT to open emails. The old mantra rolls on.

  • frank demming

    Thanks for the awesome content. This helped me tremendously.

  • Tuan

    Actually it won’t land in Promotions tab. I purchased many digital products and they always appear in primary box.
    Btw, you can turn it off anytime.

  • Glad to help Frank

  • Hey Eb,

    I would say that may be the case for you. But most people don’t subscribe to newsletters to receive marketing messages but rather “news” or new valuable content. And the idea that this will get packed into a promotions tab just doesn’t seem right. It really won’t matter how good of quality your emails are, if they are overlooked.

  • Glad you found it useful

  • Hey Amy,

    Perhaps it could be said another way, like it’s very easy to realize there are emails that are indeed not promotional waiting in the Promotions tab. For me a ton of mail has gone in there that is not in any way promotional. Thus it is easy for people to just skip over that tab assuming what is in there is not of value to them.

  • Thanks for your comments Nick. I’d say unethical is a rather big stretch don’t you think?

  • Amy Nowacoski

    That might be a wrong assumption. People are pretty savvy these days.

  • Bill Dyment

    Thanks much, Michael. I immediately gulped when the new gmail changes hit my own inbox last week. It was obvious that these tabs could spell bad news for our email marketing. I always appreciate your timely tips. I will definitely be implementing several of your ideas. Blessings and congrats on your new family project. I will spread the word, Bill Dyment

  • Eric Leszkowicz

    Thank you for the timely response. I could not help but notice the spring wasn’t in the step of your voice and that it was somewhat gloomy on this new policy.

    I have to agree it is a challenge and the stats may be worse than it seems since I use google for business and my domain is not gmail, but it is gmail.

    Although I think this can be tackled and your points above are spot on, it may come back to better and better content to get in front of users.

  • Hey Eric – You heard me right. I am not real optimistic but fully remain open to changing my thoughts if it turns out to be a good thing for marketing types. After all I am a marketer and I for one rely heavily on email communications as a key part of our business.

  • Thanks Bill very much 🙂

  • Guest

    Hi Michael,

    Interesting response.

    ‘But most people don’t subscribe to newsletters to receive marketing messages but rather “news” or new valuable content’… What an ignorant comment, people are well aware of what they are opting-in for, I for one am sick of the trickery associated with email marketing. Sure we send down ‘news’ and ‘tips’ but they are ALWAYS associated with business objectives – making them a ‘marketing message’.

    I’d have to add then, Michael, if your subscribers are so interested in your ‘news or valuable information’ then they will make it their mission to find it, no?

    Something else to consider is the cut-through the ‘Social’ tab is providing. Personally I find this tab to be packed with more useless spam than the promotions tab and thanks to this tab I can isolate opt-in messages and personal emails from FB, Twitter, G+, LinkedIn inbox cluttering junk.

    The tabs are a fine feature for Gmail to implement to help users sort mail.

    Storm in a teacup, mate.

  • helentonetti

    Thanks, I have embedded and shared the video.

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  • Eb – Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Not all emails are from snake oil Internet marketers. At least not in the world I am in. Expand your horizons brother, we’re not all out to get you.

  • Glad you found it useful Helen

  • Eric Leszkowicz

    I was distraugh, because while I had not made email a big part of my marketing….you had inspired me to do so.

    So I am working hard on your recommendations right now. I think the biggest trick that you pointed out was getting those who subscribe to find the double opt in link.

  • As a personal Gmail user, I really like this update (even though it hasn’t rolled out to my inbox yet!)

    As a Marketer, we’ll just need to get more creative and send more useful emails if it does affect overall open performance 🙂 This is the life we lead- to adapt continuously!

  • Fully agree. And that is why I took the steps outlined in this post, to adapt.

  • I did say at worst it is unethical. You have great influence and you are offering a video, which can be embedded in any marketers website, whose prime purpose is to persuade people who receive marketing emails to move them into into their primary tab. You begin by suggesting that emails may be “lost” in the Promotions tab.
    You then suggest that email recipients can avoid this in two ways: by turning off the promotions tab and/or ticking the “Include starred in Primary”.

    What you are really saying is that your marketing email is more important than any other email that the recipient might be receiving from family, friends or their own business.I would consider that a bit rude to be quite honest. I would have thought that is not the best way to continue/establish a relationship with a past/potential customer either.

    I see the tabs as a very useful addition to Gmail which far from losing important emails, will actually help users keep track of them. Like most Gmail users, I love the tag system which works so much better than folders because you can have multi tags but only one folder. Even so, it is far easier to have an Inbox divided into tabs, especially when I am not ready to archive the email, so that I can find any email more easily because it has been segregated.

    I think this system will actually prevent emails getting lost. I also think that any recipient who goes to the Promotion tab knows full well that these emails are promotional in nature i.e. they are entirely discretionary. That user is therefore a much more willing reader than the one who is trying to wade through endless emails in the one Inbox and if in a hurry is far more likely to delete without reading.

  • Hey Nick – I see what I am suggesting as no different than suggesting folks put our email address on a white list list so we don’t end up in a spam folder. We have a very loyal following of 220,000 people who get our daily newsletters and frankly see nothing wrong with offering this suggestion. Some will take it, others won’t. I am no worse off by offering it and they are no worse off by taking it. They signed up because they care about what we have to offer. If they decide to keep tabs enabled and keep us in there, fine. But at least we provided an option.

  • And for the record if you watch the last 30 seconds of the 2 minute video I provide a third option that is the suggested option.

  • Fair enough, Michael. I am not going to argue with you. You run a great site and I am one of your many happy followers.

  • Thanks for the dialog

  • Robi

    I find the control is rather insulting. It would be an unfair move to require us to pay for customer’s we worked hard to gain trust to sign up on our lists.

    Perhaps Google is realizing marketeers are using other Social Media to gain customers rather than relying on their search and advertising (Advertising on FB gets quick targeted results). They could have given us the tabs and let us decide. People should complain and ask for that option. I use AOL for my forwarded emails, Been using them a long time so more comfortable with AOL.

    But I DO appreciate you allowing us to use the video above. THank you very much!

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  • blakemiller

    Part of this comment came from my comment in the SME LinkedIn Group.

    Are users really NOT checking the emails that end up in other Tabs? Maybe I’m different, but I don’t know what all the fuss is about??

    I still check and read every single email I get, regardless of what Tab it’s in. It just may be read later in the day or at a certain time. Tabs allow me to not only categorize the emails, but also categorize my time by keeping focus on what’s important. Then, say during a break or lunch, I’ll go through my Social Tab. Or afternoon break, I’ll hit the Promotions Tab. But I’ve never gone more than 12-24 hours without at least getting through all tabs to see every single email that hits my inbox.

    As email marketers, can’t we actually MEASURE the results instead of assuming that all of a sudden our emails are getting canned? What are the Open and Click rates on all of our email campaigns saying?

    Michael – would you mind sharing your rates? Or at least changes in Rates by percentage? Based on all the fuss, I’d except to see them go down? Or better, for your gmail users specifically since you can filter those down? Did your rates then improve after you sent this actual post/instruction?

    I can easily be persuaded but I’m still waiting for real data. In the meantime, I’m not sure what all the fuss is about??

  • blakemiller

    What are your email marketing stats telling you? Have your Open/Click rates dropped since the change?

  • Smart idea to make a video. I am starting to get used to (and enjoy) the gmail tabs. I’ve been dragging and dropping lately, so hopefully my inbox will be more personalized rather than sending my favorite newsletters to the promotion tab.

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  • Thanks for the Post!! Its really amazing.. Google tabs is really a useful feature it helped me a lot in managing my e-mails. Now i can easily manage my social messages, personal mails and promotional mails separately. Its really a very good feature to manage all the emails in one go. Now i can easily switch to particular section easily.

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  • socialforsmallbiz

    I’ve actually been sitting on this article for a while because since Google released the tabbed inbox, our open rate has actually increased by about 7%. Sure, I know the tabbed inbox isn’t increasing our open rate, but thought I’d wait a bit and see what happened before sending anything to our customers.

    Then last week, a regular customer told me she keeps forgetting to check the promotions tab and has missed out on some of our weekly specials. So, NOW I’m going to go ahead and start telling our customers how to fix this if they like.

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