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Gmail Trying to ‘Fix’ Our Inbox and What it Means for You.

If capturing and sending email is a part of your blog – it might be your newsletter, affiliate programs, sales email or even just reader comment notifications – there are some changes (that have been looming for some time) that will impact the way you create and send emails …

Email services providers are taking matters into their own hands to “fix” our inbox’s.  

… and when Google start leading the charge with this, we all better pay attention.

The reality is that our own inbox is a never ending stream of important stuff mixed with the boring but essential stuff, mixed with the junk mail and spam. Sorting and organising it all takes time and if your not on top of it, important emails get lost in the noise.

It’s a problem we’ve been trying to solve since the dawn of email:

  • We were given functionality to use such as folders, and auto-filter rules
  • We were given blocking tools such as spam filters and junk folders
  • We were given techniques to try such as inbox zero

All of these things were created for users to help themselves — if they wanted to.

I realised this was all about to change when providers started to play with the idea of proactively helping us manage legitimate emails by trying to figure out the important emails over the less important ones. Google’s priority inbox is a great example of this.

However, now Google have taken another step and are organising our emails into groups — based on their own rules.

If you’re a Gmail user (not everyone seems to have this yet) at some point you’ll see the primary inbox, social inbox, and promotions inbox magically appear.

Google will, using it’s own wisdom, sort all your email into these groups.

You will be able to ‘train’ google by dragging emails from one inbox to another and hidden nicely away in the settings you can turn it off. But if history is anything to go by only a small percentage will actually do either of those actions.

So what will this mean for sending emails right now?

Time will only tell what the open and click-through rate implications will be as more users realise there are now three inboxes instead of one.  But I’m fairly confident in saying that we’ll all be aiming for the priority inbox.

Mailchimp have already release some preliminary findings, with a noticeable impact.

Now, not only will you have to be thinking about spam filters, trash folders and how your email looks on mobile, you’ll also need to be mindful of how Google will categorise your email.

Oh, and that’s of course after you come up with some great copy!

You can go on the front foot and ask your reader to tell Google to shift you to the priority inbox, but that’s difficult right now as not all Gmail users have the service.

Your best action, right now, is to track your open rates and click-through rates closely and start testing different approaches. Just like SEO and spam, Google won’t share it’s rules for classification, so we’re going to have to figure them out on our own. You might want to play with text emails, you might want to play with different from addresses and service providers.

It’s time to re-test some of the assumptions we’ve made when it comes to email.

What have we seen with our own emails

We’ve noticed on dPS that both our launch emails from new product (this week) as well as our weekly newsletter were put in the ‘promotional’ tab. What was probably more concerning what that the confirmation (opt-in) email from our newsletter also ended up in promotions tab.

Open rates were slightly down for both. So we’re keeping an eye on things – but it’s still too early to tell. I have received direct emails from a few people I subscribe requesting to be moved across to the priority inbox, but without knowing exactly who has the change it feels too early to ask that.

But that’s just the beginning

When spam filters first arrived there was period where they needed to earn our trust.  We needed to believe that they would do a good job of keeping out only spam and not the stuff we wanted to receive.  Over time they succeeded and the performance of spam filters are hardly given a second thought.  Once that same trust is given to the automatic organisation of our legitimate emails the complexities of this will skyrocket.   More venders will get involved, more rules will be put into play.

What I Like about this

For those creating quality email content that people want to read, these sorts of systems are designed to work for you. If your emails are a priority for your recipients you should benefit from this. There will be some slight adjustments to make, I’m sure. The people trying to push their way into peoples inbox’s will feel the impact more than those who’ve earned it.

What worries me about this change

Even as a bit of a nerd, I struggled to ‘train’ my inbox. It was even harder do it via my phone. So that has really drawn me to the conclusion that our challenge is not going to be in educating our subscribers, the challenge will be working within the rules that Google won’t share with us. We can’t forget that Google have a commercial interest in this, and the idea of paying for the priory inbox isn’t without question. Nor is the idea of 3rd party messages appearing in the promotions tab either.

Fun times ahead.

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Comments

  1. Bryan says:

    I freaked out a bit when my gmail inbox changed and I saw my subscriptions in the Promotions tab. I knew I’d probably lose a few eyeballs as well. It’ll be interesting to see how it shakes out.

  2. Osman Hameed says:

    Hi Shayne

    Thanks for the analysis, this is something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. It’s going to be even harder to develop a strong fan base through email marketing because I think most users will eventually just start ignoring the promotion and social tab and every now and then bulk delete.

    Just like you said “fun times ahead”

  3. Great clarification Shayne, I’m one of the people you mentioned who have yet to be changed over in any of my Gmail accounts.

    Having a read of the MailChimp article now, I’ve not received any info from Aweber on this yet, sure they will have something to say about it.

  4. jijon says:

    just awesome. Nothing else.

  5. Alex says:

    I like the new GMail design, it’s fun and surprisingly accurate. This will make for better conversion rates for professionals and honest sales persons.

    • Shayne says:

      Accuracy isn’t quite yet there IMO. For example, alerts to comments on this post appeared in my promotions tab. But Google have some pretty smart engineers and I’m sure they will improve it.

  6. John Gibb says:

    hey Darren,

    I’ve read the news multiple times on other blogs already , and my subscribers are alerted and given instructions on the thank-you page , once they subscribe – but need to confirm…

    Do you have any ideas if this affects Gmail users who are integrating their email with clients such as Outlook Express for example?

    Best!

    • Shayne says:

      I use Apple mail and it hasn’t filtered through. But monkey see monkey do, so I expect in time some of them will adopt it.

  7. We’ve been getting this “separated email” in our Google Apps account for quite a few months. While it took a few days to adjust, it seems that all of my recieved newsletter emails are still quite visible. However, I did need to learn to scroll down a bit to see what’s new.

    I suspect that GMail will be similar, and folks will simply learn to look for us “down below”. Hope so, anyway. :)

    • Shayne says:

      Yep — I don’t personally mind it. But we can’t assume our readers are going to like it (or even know it exists!)

  8. grammer annoyances says:

    The plural of “inbox” is “inboxes”, not “inbox’s”.

  9. Geoffrey says:

    I’m not exactly thrilled about the new gmail either. I’m already seeing that, for some reason, some emails aren’t coming through (even to spam/junk). I forward one gmail account to my outlook, but I have another (more professional) that isn’t forwarded and therefore is victim to whatever scheme Google creates. Makes me want to change to another provider – luckily I have that ability right now.

    • Michelle says:

      In think a lot of people are in the same boat over the new iteration of Gmail. It poses quite a risk to affiliate and Internet marketers, as most of our emails will wind up in the promotions folder.

      Michelle

  10. sameer says:

    Am feeling well with new look of Gmail inbox,and as usual Google always trying to implement new thing or they do improvement in old things.Now they shout down Google readers and now they are going to replace keyword tool with Keyword Planner.

  11. I just wanted to point out that inbox’s (in one of the subheadings) should be changed to inboxes, and your to you’re. Free editing from Lorraine!

    The latter change should be made to this sentence: Sorting and organising it all takes time and if your not on top of it, important emails get lost in the noise.

  12. I’m still wondering what will really happen in the future. After the death of RSS, now comes Gmail changes. Soon, everything will change to suit Google. We rely too much on them. Any competitors???