Email marketing: 9 quick ways to beat the Gmail Promotions tab (Updated 2021)

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There’s nowt worse than spending hours on an email only for it to land in your customer’s gmail promotions tab. 

Yes, it could be worse (spam) but the promotions tab is a nightmare.

First, we’ll look at why you need to avoid it. Then I’ll show you some ways to beat it. 

Sounds good? Let’s sta –

-actually, before we start, it’s worth noting this:

There isn’t a one-rule-fits-all for beating Gmail’s promotions tab. Whether your email ends up in your customer’s Primary, Promotions or Junk folder depends on loads of stuff, but what I’m about to show you has worked for me.

If that’s sound, let’s crack on.

Why is the Gmail Promotions tab so bad?


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Three main reasons:

A – Emails that go here don’t trigger a push notification from Gmail (meaning you can’t grab someone’s attention as easy as usual with email).

B – Customers have to actively go into their promotions tab (meaning they’re thinking ‘what are these people trying to sell me?’ as they scroll).

C – It aligns your email with everything else in their promotions tab (meaning your sales email might be sitting in between discounts on Viagra and special deals on washing machines).

If you’re doing email marketing properly, your sales emails shouldn’t feel like sales emails – so if your emails are sitting with emails that look exactly like sales emails, you’re in bother.

Now let’s get into the juicy stuff: how to avoid all of this ^

How to beat Gmail’s Promotions tab


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1. AVOID LOTS OF CAPITAL LETTERS IN YOUR SUBJECT LINE

Scroll through your spam and junk folders now. I bet you’ve got loads of emails in there with subject lines full of capital letters.

It looks spammy. It feels spammy. It is spammy. 

Don’t do it.

2. Avoid links directly through to app stores 

This is a new one that I’ve found through trial and error while helping a client launch her new app using email marketing. 

Not ideal, is it? Appstore links triggering the promotions folder? Not ideal at all when that’s what you’re selling.

So how did we beat this? We made a quick landing page with links through to the Apple and Google app stores on there.

Yes, it’s an extra tap for the customer but that’s worth getting the email into Primary/main instead of promotions & junk. 

3. Avoid spam trigger words

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If you’re writing your emails properly anyways, you shouldn’t be using spammy words.

But seemingly innocent words can trigger the promotions curse, too. 

Words like:

  • Download 
  • Buy 
  • Click below 
  • Click here
  • Form
  • Visit our website

For a list of all spam words to avoid so long it’ll make you think ‘what words are left!?’, Hubspot have you covered.

Not all spam words trigger spam all of the time. Email AI is getting better and can get the gist of what you’re trying to say so sometimes they don’t trigger promotions and other times they do. 

4. Use the ‘send test email’ function

But before you send a test email and start celebrating that you’ve beat Google’s algorithm, make sure the test email address you’re using isn’t the same as what you’re logged into your email marketing software with. 

Why? They’ll all go to your Primary because Google knows you have an account with them (and so deem it relevant to you).

So when sending test emails, you need to use an unlinked email address so get an accurate read as to where your email will end up.

5. Use a legit-looking ‘send from’ email address


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If your ‘send from’ email address is no-reply@mybusiness.com – what do you think that looks like to Gmail?

It looks like sh*t, that’s what.

It looks like you’re spamming the hell out of people and can’t be arsed to give anyone the chance to complain. 

Even if you don’t want people to be able to reply to you, use something that at least looks legit.

6. Avoid too many links

Filling your email with loads of links will send it straight to the promotions tab. 

Why? It’s obvious you’re trying to sell something if you’re giving the reader loads of options.

I hate this style of email anyway and avoid it at all costs. Ecommerce email marketing makes me sick in general, but that’s a conversation for another day.

7. Avoid too many photos 

Every image in your email should be hyperlinked somewhere, so the more images you have the more links you need.

And we’ve just established that’s bad. 

Moving on.

8. Make it personal

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Not between you and the Gmail Promotions tab. I’m not going to be responsible for you raiding the Google offices or something.

Make it personal between you and your customer. Use the {first name} functiony thingy on your mail provider. But don’t overdo it. Or your customer will think you’re creepy.

9. Put your links in the right place 

I’ve found putting either a button, image or hyperlinked text as the last thing on an email will trigger the Promotions folder.

To beat this, add a P.S (which you should be doing anyway).

Right, then…

That’s your wack for today. 

If you’ve got any questions about any of the above, email me now at alex@actcopywriting.co.uk

I bid you good luck and good fortune in your battle against Gmail promotions.

Strength and honour. 

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