It’s been just a few weeks since the new Gmail inbox has been rolled out globally. And some have already declared it to be “the best thing to happen to email since the oldGmail“, and appropriately that ‘best thing’ has been spearheaded by the team at Gmail. Already in the short time it’s been live, MailChimp’s analysts have said they’ve seen a drop in open rates, however others, such as the team at Hubspot and ExactTarget have said they’ve either seen minimal or no impact at all to open rates.
Why the change and how does the new Gmail inbox work?
The Gmail team have taken Google’s 300 year plan ‘to sort the world’s information’ and applied it to what the Gmail team clearly recognised as a problem. And, what is that problem? It’s two fold.
First is that with additional storage comes additional lethargy to deleting old emails, this creates bulk and completely un-required weight to your email account.
The second problem is that relatively low value communications such as Facebook notifications of a friend tagging you in a picture of sushi and Sale reminders from that store you’ve never quite managed to get around to unsubscribing from, sit directly alongside and even get in the way of your really valuable information such as flight reminders, hotel confirmations, meeting requests and other tangibly valuable communications.
The primary change you immediately notice is that Gmail is now pre-sorted. Pre-sorting is based on a users history, frequency of contact and engagement, as well as who the sender is. Users no longer need to use the filters and folders on the left hand side which they may have been carefully crafting over the last couple of years and most importantly for the changes are likely to mean a reduction in searching through potentially thousands of old emails for that one that was saved because it was important.
Check out this explanatory video from the Gmail team for a short overview.
How many tabs can I have?
At this stage it appears users can have up to 5 tabs, and three come turned on as standard. The five tabs are:
Primary (default) – What users will see by default when logging in. Featuring comms from people you know, and starred messages.
Social (default) – All social sites are sorted in here – twitter, Facebook, G+, Instagram etc
Promotions (default) – Where most marketers emails will now go. Sales, promotions, and information from companies.
Updates – notifications and service updates (changes to twitter terms of service or Google’s Play store etc)
Forums – updates from forums and online communities.
“We do much more than promotions…I want to be in the primary tab!”
Getting into the Primary tab
Reading the list above some email marketers may have just experienced a cold sweat, exclaiming ‘Promotions! We do much more than promotions, my email is important, I want to be in the primary tab!’
The good news is this, if you’re making genuinely content rich valuable emails then chances are you’re already on your way to getting into the primary tab. There are two known ways of getting into the primary tab:
– Your email subscribers can drag your email from the Promotions tab and into the Primary tab.
– Google continues to learn and those email subscribers who have higher frequency engagement will increase the likelihood of your email being assigned to the primary tab naturally by Google.
Avoid being spammy. I haven’t been able to find anything concrete about this, but if the updates to SEO (as evidenced by Penguin) is any guide, being spammy is a big no-no and could result in being penalised at some point down the track. Requesting your users physically move your email to the primary tab is one such example. It feels cheap and it’s a fairly obvious ‘gaming the system’ mentality that I’m sure Google have already considered how to tackle. Additionally, if you’re only going to get your subscriber base to do something, it should be spent on asking them to do something much more useful like engaging with the content and products you’ve lovingly laid out in the email.
The consistent theme for Email, Social, SEO
Email marketers have been content focused for much longer than old-School SEO’s and to some degree Social media managers. Email databases live and die on the quality of content delivered. Even for those who know this fundamental truth it’s still important to step back and think more broadly about what this change means for email and Social and SEO.
These changes represent a fundamental shift in not just the role content plays, but ups the level and importance in the quality of it. Once again Google is pushing a better experience, and as marketers we can’t sit on our laurels and churn out ‘Top 10’ lists, Infographics and ‘How to’s’. This is consistent with the Penguin changes to SEO, and the basis of Social Media.
The new Gmail is better for users, sorting what Google knows is important without hiding what you’ve signed up for. The opportunity for your business to stand out is more than ever reliant on your content strategy and strong engagement. Getting content right, and integrating it into Social and SEO objectives gives you the best chance of your email thriving.
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