Savvy Marketer’s Guide to Increasing Gmail Open Rates

Savvy Marketer’s Guide to Increasing Gmail Open Rates

Now you might think that this is going to be about list segregation, or body copy or another Top 100 subject lines swipe file.

Nope, this is about the Gmail Promotions Tab, because:

“In 3 tests to 3 separate lists and 3 separate niches, getting your email to the Primary Tab in Gmail raised open rates on average over the course of 30 days of email sent, by 8% to 10%; when, each time any email went to the Primary tab rather than the Gmail Promotions tab!”

And Gmail themselves have said:

“Don’t game the Promotions tab, if you are there, you belong there…”

But that does not mean you have to do things that businesses that belong in the Gmail Promotions tab do- Do you?


So two email experts, Derek Gehl and Chris Lang sat down and analyzed 10 things that send your list to the Promotions tab in Gmail.

Over the course of an hour podcast, here is what they got for you…

#10 – You Don’t Believe “They Are Just Not That Into You!”

This is the biggest mistake you can make, being unwilling to make changes.

I had a guy tell me that “I will never chop up my beautiful emails to jump through Google’s [gmail’s] hoops…”

Now I love “The Profit” and Marcus Lemonis. And the biggest common mistake I see business owners making when Marcus tries to help them is- Being so in love with their creations (and their creatives) that you can actually see them turn their heads and pout when Marcus tells them there is a better way.

So as you read this, you may find some -if not many- of my suggestions to a better open rate at Gmail, differs highly with what you are doing.

And that 8% to 10% open rate? That was not just for Gmail, that was the overall list open rate; affected by Gmail opens with Gmail at an average of 43% of the overall list.

So is that not worth jumping through a few hoops for Gmail?

#9 – Only Mail Your List When You Are Promoting Something

If that is what your readers have come to expect? Well that can impact open rates. Why does that matter?

Because at its core, Gmail’s most important algorithms actually predict if your subscribers will open the email. Then Gmail goes on to predict how soon after it arrives, they are historically apt to open it.

Attention is king at Gmail, and getting opens and engagement is a big thing that Gmail loves.

Mystery copy subject lines and a mix of content and pitch emails is the solution here. Promoting something or not, you have got to get that email opened.

#8 – Mobilegeddon And Your Email Delivery

Just because you have a really big phone does not mean your readers do, and judging your email mobile quality on your large new device is a big mistake.

“We believe that mobile engagement is a big factor at Gmail. If the person opens your email and the text is too small, or you have lots of images that eat data costs up, or it just does not display well? How likely is he or she going to be to open your next email on their phone?”

So there goes your mobile engagement rate and that impacts your overall Gmail engagement rate too!

And this matters because the iPhone 5, a very small screen, can be depending on the niche, 60% of your mobile device readers.

Find out for yourself, go to: Google Analytics >>> Audience >>> Mobile >>> Devices… In the left-hand navigation menu.

#7 – You Use Your Business Name As Your From Address Text

This one is up in the air, but in testing:

“I sent one email from a business name address -it was one of my client’s blog names- and it went to promotions. Thirty minutes later, we sent the exact same email, same subject line and body copy -but from his personal name- and it went straight to primary.”

This is not an absolute, it could just be that we changed the from address text. We will explore that more in a bit.

#6 – You Are Using Images To Poor Affect, Use Less

Using too many images is a sure fire way to Gmail Promotions. Cut back on those images: Try constructing your emails with one image, and see what happens.

Anything in your email is meant to get the reader to do what you want them to do. Ask yourself, if you only had one image to use in an email, would a branding header image be the best use of such?

Use your one image to your best affect, and make each one unique and see what happens!

#5 – Your HTML Code Outnumbers Your Text

The email digest type newsletter layout has been popular and effective as a marketing tool for a long time now; It looks impressive, publishers love them, and so do businesses.

And that is the problem.

Businesses love them, and businesses belong in the Promotions tab.

#4 – You Use A Sig File And Link To All Your Social Profiles In Every Email?

You already have your subscriber’s attention, why would you want to let them scurry away to Facebook, Twitter and other attention zappers at the bottom of your email?

This is bad marketing. Keep your emails focused and give the reader one way out.

And here is the major reason to avoid large sig files and multiple footer links…

#3 – One Link Please, And One Link Only!

Before you freak out and think that unsubscribe links factor into this advice, they do not at Gmail. And many deliverability experts agree and disagree on the number of links in an email. But we all do agree on three links maximum, two is better. I myself recommend one link.

But here is the big secret…

If you are using three links that are all the same? Say after two paragraphs of copy, then a link, with the same link below say three sets of copy points? That currently seems to be counted as one link!

So don’t be misled by the “one link only” advice. Because right now, if the links match, they really count as one.

And then add to this, that using two links, but from different Domains can send an email to Gmail Promotions. Again, no absolutes, but this is the current landscape of Gmail.

#2 – You Don’t Offer Whitelisting Instructions

Source: Social Raves

“Gmail has changed the address book addition link many times in the last few years, and just adding a sender to the address book does not whitelist delivery anymore at AOL, Outlook, and others anymore.”

More than a few Email Whitelist Generators exist, use one and host explicit mobile-friendly pages on your site. And offer those instructions via a link on first contact.

Here’s what I mean: Whitelist Generator

#1 – Use One From Address – One From Name Text – A Real One And Stick To It

Yahoo, Google and Gmail especially hate it when you change your from address and from name. In fact, this is the largest spammer footprint there is.

And those address books are not just built on the from email address, they are also built on the from name text too, especially Gmail contacts!

And here is the 800 lb gorilla in all that: When you launch a new segment to your list? Well using the same from address as is already in your subscriber’s address books and whitelists is email delivery gold.

Using the same from address for all your new lists and segments means you are going to get it to the inbox right away. Not start all over again with another from address and from text name.

“The address book is any email client’s front line to their defense against spam. Give them what they want, a stable from name in text and a stable, real, from address that you will actually reply at.

Every email ESP will love you for that one!”

In Conclusion

No one but Gmail knows the actual algorithms and the weight of somewhere around 450 different indicators of quality that make the final decisions at Gmail. But currently as of today, this advice is rock solid…

To find out more, you can listen in here on Derek Gehl’s and Chris Lang’s conversation here.

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    1. Ability, our Community Support team is really helpful and solving problems of this sort. Please contact the at