We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Tom Simonite

A View from Tom Simonite

Gmail’s Inbox Filters Dent Marketing Email Exposure

Google’s filters, which automatically hide promotional messages, are hurting email marketers.

  • July 23, 2013

When Google introduced a new filtering system for its email service Gmail last month, I suggested that it might cut people’s exposure to promotional emails (see “Marketers Must Hate Google’s New People-Focused Inbox”). Figures released today by email marketing company MailChimp today show that is already happening, depsite the feature likely being used by only a fraction of Gmail users (here’s how to activate it).

Google’s new system automatically filters incoming emails into several different “tabs” of a person’s inbox. Anything that looks like a marketing email to Google’s algorithms ends up in the “Promotions” tab (where Google has also started to display a new form of ad).

Matthew Grove of MailChimp writes in his post that the rate at which Gmail users opened marketing emails sent via his company’s service was 13 percent or higher for a typical weekday before the new feature was introduced. A week after the feature debuted, open rates were under 12.5 percent.

Grove, who is writing for an audience of email marketers, concludes that Gmail’s new design is making marketing emails less effective but that the shift isn’t yet “dramatic.”

I’d add to that that there’s a good chance that shift will become more pronounced, since it is unlikely that every Gmail user has switched on the new filtering feature.

Emails filtered by the promotions tab targets are legitimate. People have done something to start receiving them, and are provided with ways to opt out. However, the challenges of dealing with the flood of such messages will likely drive Google’s new solution to be increasingly popular.

Meanwhile, Grove’s post signals that the marketing community is set to enter something of an arms race with Google, similar to that between the creators of spam email and the designers of spam filters:

“I’ve heard a lot of people asking how they can get out of the Promotions tab and into the Primary tab. There aren’t any good answers here, because Gmail is really good at what they do… we’re definitely testing the new inbox and trying to figure out how it works.”

Cut off? Read unlimited articles today.

Become an Insider
Already an Insider? Log in.
Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Basic.
  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Print Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.