Gmail's new Promotions tab

Gmail folders. Why all the hype?

By now, you’ve probably heard about the new 'folders' that Google rolled out in Gmail to help email recipients manage the vast quantities of messages that flood their inboxes on a daily basis. There is a debate going on right now as to whether these changes are affecting open rates or not. Some people even say that it’s improved their open rates.

First, why did Google make this change?

Think about the number of emails you get every day and all the different places and people that send them. Without an organized system of filters and inboxes, it’s very easy to lose track of the important emails that demand your attention. So Google created a basic version of that system for you that automatically sorts your emails into one of three folders: Primary, Social, and Promotions.

Sounds helpful... Why all the fuss?

Many email marketers are concerned that if their emails end up in the Promotions folder, they’ll be less likely to get opened since that folder is less urgent to most people. But as the article I linked to above states, even across a sample size of over 1 billion emails, there was only a 0.5% drop in open rates in the weeks immediately after the change.

Now, that’s not to say that you don’t want to be in the Primary folders of your Gmail readers, but it does raise the question of how to get there.

Email is about relationships, especially the Primary folder.

If you’re concerned about whether your emails are getting overlooked in the Promotions folder, sending an email to ask isn’t the best way to find out. Instead, I’ll proceed with the assumption that you’ve built your list based on relationships with your customers, contacts, and associates.

If you had something urgent to tell a friend, how would you do it? Would you send them a text? Would you call them? Perhaps send a card? Well, why not choose one or more of those options to ask your contacts to move you from the Promotions folder to the Primary folder? After all, this is pretty important stuff. You’re trying to make sure that the people who want to read your email are actually getting them. 

So what do you do?

1. Find out how many gmail users you have on your list. If someone’s email address doesn’t end with, this issue may not affect them. They could be forwarding their email into a Gmail inbox, but if their address is,, or, for example, they will not be affected. ExactTarget estimates that less than 4% of inboxes will be affected by this change.

2. Send a text. What you’re asking people to do is fairly simple and you could do it with a simple text. Just tap out this message:

“Hi! Some of my emails are ending up in some gmail users’ Promotions folders so you may be missing them. If you’re finding this to be the case, would you please move one of my emails to the Primary folder to make sure you get them from now on? Thank you!”

3. Call or meet in person. You’re already meeting with your customers and the rest of your network on a regular basis. Why not use this as a conversation starter? Ask the gmail users you meet if they’re still getting your emails, and then ask them to move one from the Promotions folder to the Primary folder. Heck, offer to show them how to do it if you’re face-to-face. Conversations are always valuable, and this is an especially valuable one to have.

4. Send a printed card. If you’ve got some people you haven’t spoken to in a while or live outside of your area, you can always send a customized printed card through your account. For $1.74 per card (plus postage), you can reach this portion of your list very easily.

There’s a lot of information out there about Gmail folders, and some of it can be pretty alarming. But there’s no need to panic along with everyone else when there are simple, cost-effective, relationship-based solutions at your disposal.