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By Lauren H. Dowdle

Look at the top of most Gmail inboxes, and you’ll see different tabs including Primary and Promotions. The gold standard of email deliverability when it comes to those users is having your campaign land in their Primary inbox tab. However, emails with deals and offers often end up in the Promotions tab instead.

While the Promotions tab isn’t as harmful to your sender reputation as landing in the Spam folder, you should still take steps to avoid it because subscribers only see those messages if they click on the Promotions tab (instead of simply opening their inbox). Any extra step your audience has to take to view your messages will harm your email engagement metrics and ultimately sales or conversions.

It’s clear you would rather your emails go to the Primary tab, and luckily, there are things you can do to improve your chances. To avoid Google’s Promotions tab, follow these eight deliverability tips for your email marketing campaigns.

1 Be direct

The best way to ensure all of your emails show up in their Primary inbox is to ask subscribers to add your From email address to their contacts. Include steps in the double opt-in or Welcome Email for how they can do that. In Gmail, that can be done by hovering over the sender’s name/email address at the top of the email—and then clicking Add to contacts.

Make sure the sender’s email address in the welcome or opt-in message is the one that the campaigns will be coming from. Also, sending the initial email immediately after they sign up will improve the chances of them adding you as a contact, since they will remember subscribing and recognize who it’s from.

2 Clean email list

Maintaining a healthy list isn’t only an email marketing best practice: It’s also a great way to keep your campaigns in the Primary tab. By removing unengaged email addresses, hard bounces, using double opt-ins, checking lists for typos/spam addresses, and not purchasing emails, you improve the email deliverability and reputation. 

Also, follow the CAN-SPAM Act by including elements like an easy-to-find Unsubscribe button or link. That way, contacts who don’t want to receive your emails can remove themselves.

3 Test everything 

Speaking of the Unsubscribe link, one company found that changing the text from “Unsubscribe from this mailing list” to only “Unsubscribe” moved the email from the Promotions to the Primary tab. The best way to figure out things like that and the winning combination for all of your email elements is to perform A/B tests.

Compare metrics for two different versions of an email that each test the same element. For example, see which of two subject lines perform the best—or see if the number of images used in the email body affects the deliverability. The more data you can collect, the better you can tailor the email campaign to go to the Primary tab.

4 Don’t raise red flags

Avoid any elements that might cause the email to look like spam. For example, having typos, broken links, spammy subject lines, attachments, too many links, or sending from an unfamiliar name/email address are all red flags for email providers. Check emails before hitting send for obvious errors like these.

Maintaining a healthy IP reputation and following email marketing best practices are also important to the overall success of your email campaigns. Not only will sending legitimate emails keep yours out of spam, but it will also improve the chances of the messages going to their Primary inbox.

5 Content matters

An email asking subscribers for money is obviously going to perform much worse than one that shares valuable, targeted information. That’s a bit of an extreme comparison, but anything that comes off as an advertisement or heavily promotional is going to catch the attention of email services (and not in a good way). So, if it looks like a promotion, that’s the folder it will most likely go in.

Segmenting the email lists based on different criteria (ex. purchase history, online behavior, location, age, job, etc.) provides targeted content they will be interested in engaging with. That also reduces unsubscribes and spam complaints, which can harm your email deliverability.

6 Stick to a schedule

Regularly sending emails provides a range of benefits, including having your email land in subscriber’s Primary inbox. When you inconsistently email subscribers, that can damage your IP reputation and also cause them to forget they’ve subscribed to your list (or who you are). Scheduling regular campaigns will also help your audience start to anticipate when they will see the next email so they can keep an eye out for it.

7 Personalize messages

From adding their name to the subject line or the body of the email to sending targeted content, creating a personalized email will improve the chances of it being delivered to their inbox. Email services are less likely to mark these as mass promotional emails because they have been tailored for the reciepient. Also, personalized subject lines generate 50 percent higher open rates. (Just don’t be creepy with the personalization.)

8 Use one CTA

Not only can having multiple calls to action (CTAs) overwhelm the subscriber, but they can also negatively affect the email’s deliverability. Create one main CTA with short, clear text that fits the focus of the email like, “Read More,” “Learn More,” “View Your Cart,” or “Shop Now.” 

Preferably, keep this CTA button toward the top of the email so subscribers don’t need to scroll to find it, like in this email example from Drizly.

Follow the email deliverability rules

There’s no tricking Google or any other email service provider by taking shortcuts to land in the Primary tab. These companies only want reputable marketers to be given the prime real estate in subscribers’ inboxes. The only way to do that is by incorporating these email deliverability tips into your strategy and by using an established email marketing platform like Robly.

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