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New Gmail Tabs Could Hinder Efforts to Reach Your Customers

Not too long ago, Gmail started rolling out a new layout which features different tabs to group your emails. By default, Gmail users see three tabs: Primary, Social and Promotions. Users can now find their emails on one of these tabs, based on Gmail’s settings. This change doesn’t just affect Gmail through your browser, but also through the Gmail app on your smartphone. (If you access your Gmail through IMAP or Exchange settings on your smartphone, you will still see all emails in one inbox.) Google says it made this change to give users more control of their inbox.

This new tabbed layout has caused a headache for some, as their emails are being routed to the Promotions tab. The concern is that Gmail users will not know to check the Promotions tab or will knowingly ignore it. The result could be reduced open rates, which means your newsletter or promotional offering isn’t reaching your intended audience. Similarly, the AICPA’s e-newsletters are being routed to the Promotions tab, including CPA Letter Daily, AICPA News Update and the Insiders, among others.

A great debate has ensued about whether the new tabs are creating a negative impact or not; my opinion is that it is too early to tell. Google only just started rolling out the new tabbed layout on May 29. Nevertheless, there just isn’t enough data to universally state it is the end of email as we know it. However, you should be aware that it is possible that your customers, vendors, clients and others aren’t getting certain emails from you the way they had been in the past.

How do I know if my emails are routed to the Promotions tab?

In some cases, your emails may get delivered to the Primary tab by default. For example, the email that AICPA Insights readers receive does not get routed to the Promotions tab by default. To verify what tab your emails are getting routed to, check Gmail. If you don’t have a Gmail account, you can sign up for one (it’s free) or find a co-worker or friend who has Gmail (most everyone does). Ask them if you can sign them up for your marketing or subscriber list to determine whether your emails are routed to the Promotions tab.

If your marketing emails aren’t being routed to the Promotions tab, then you’re in luck and you don’t need to worry. However, if they are, your next step should be to determine if the Promotions tab is negatively affecting your open rates:

  1. Identify what percentage of your mailing list goes to users with a Gmail address. Look at the domain names (gmail.com) to easily determine the Gmail accounts. Some users on your list may not have a Gmail domain in their email, but may be using Gmail. (Users can forward or import email to Gmail automatically or their business/educational institution may use Gmail by default. These users are harder to identify and you will need to consult your email service provider to determine if you can identify these users.)
  2. Now look at the open rate for the Gmail users you identified. Pick a six-month period prior to the launch of the Gmail tabbed layout and analyze the open rate. Then look at the open rate for the same group of users since Gmail’s tabs launched (May 29). Compare the two. Are they remarkably different? Which is better? Be sure to take into account other factors that may impact open rates, such as holidays, summer vacations and so forth.

Disclaimer: I recommend doing ongoing analysis, but not drawing any solid conclusions until you have six months of open rates under Gmail’s tabbed layout.

What can I do to prevent Gmail from routing emails to the Promotions tab?

Nothing. When I stated earlier that Google’s strategy for making this change was to give the user back control of their inbox, I wasn’t kidding. Yes, some rumors indicate that manipulating headers or content will get your email in the Primary tab. However, these techniques are unproven and could result in your email getting blacklisted entirely.

Your users can, however, do something. Users have total control over how their email is treated. One option is for them to change their Gmail layout back to classic view. This will eliminate the tabs and all email will default to the user’s non-tab settings. Users can also turn off just the Promotions tab.

Alternatively, if a user likes the tab layout, they can drag an email from the Promotions tab to the Primary tab and set a rule that all future emails from that email address be sent directly to the Primary tab. The video below covers how a user can make these changes. You can follow these procedures for the AICPA’s e-newsletters and emails you receive. 

You may also wish to send an email to your customers letting them know there are ways to get your e-newsletter back in the Primary tab. The AICPA has developed a web page with directions you may want to relay to your clients or customers. You may also wish to create your own video or blog post to convey the information.

Has Gmail’s new tabbed layout affected your marketing efforts?

, AICPA Staff.

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