Resources Hub » Blog » Landing in the Inbox vs. Falling in Gmail’s Promotions Tab

It’s time to rethink the way you view the Gmail Promotions tab. When Gmail first rolled out this feature in 2013, many marketers thought it would be the end of email marketing. Fast forward a few years and email is as strong as ever and remains one of the best marketing tools for generating a phenomenal ROI.

Rather than destroying email marketing, the Gmail Promotions tab simply trained customers to look in a different place for your messages. According to a study by ReturnPath, 90% of all email messages end up here. As a comparison, only .3% of emails make it to the primary tab. Read rates do have a slight drop off when moving from the inbox to the Promotions tab, but there are about half the spam complaints in the Promotions tabs than in the primary tab.

While you might not have received as many opens, the people who did open your emails were likely to be more engaged because they already knew where to look for your message.

Even with this shift in engaged opens, most marketers will still do everything they can to get their emails out of the Promotions tab and into the primary inbox. However, a recent major change by Google may make you rethink the power of the Gmail Promotions tab.

This article will explain what’s changing and how you can benefit from the update. And if the Promotions tab still isn’t for you, we’ll also give you a few best practices to get your email to appear back in the primary inbox.

The Gmail Promotions tab is getting a facelift

Gmail established the Promotions tab as a way to help clean up and organize its users’ inboxes. Just like the primary inbox, messages appear by default in the order that they’re received with the most recent emails at the top. Originally, brands could jump to the top of the list by paying for ads, similar to an SEM strategy on search engine results pages.

Gmail established the Promotions tab as a way to help clean up and organize its users' inboxes.

Image Source: Google

If you use the Gmail mobile app, you’ve probably noticed your Promotions tab looks a little different. Web users will see the update soon. The provider now features specific promotional emails as Top Deals – including information never seen before in Gmail preview displays.


Think of it as a featured snippet in your inbox, with custom prompts and new triggers to encourage your customers to convert. Google makes it clear that the featured emails are not ads. They will appear there based on a number of factors to determine which emails the algorithm thinks will most interest readers.

5 Annotations to make you stand out in the Gmail Promotions tab

If you use an ESP, then you probably already send HTML emails. Even if you build simple templates, your provider likely converts your images and text into HTML code on the back end.

In order to add these properties so they appear in your customers’ inboxes, you’ll need to create annotations in JSON-LD to be placed in the head of the HTML in your email. Even if you don’t have any experience with this specific type of coding, it’s actually not as difficult as it seems.

Google even provides a template code that you can experiment with and preview the results.

The new Gmail Promotions tab allows you to create five new properties in your emails, which you need to use if you want your email to be featured.

1. Image preview

Perhaps the biggest difference in the updated Gmail Promotions tab, at least at first glance, is the image that accompanies the featured emails. If you run social media or lead generation campaigns for your company, you already know the power of using images or graphics to improve conversions. One survey even found that almost 70% of customers believe photos are more important than reviews when determining which product to buy.

The images used in the Gmail Promotions tab appear underneath the subject line and preview text. This field should be used to give your customers a sneak peek at the product or service you’re offering.

After all, a picture’s worth a thousand words.

2. Discount code

If your email promotes a discount code for a specific sale, you can now showcase the discount code in the preview area for featured emails. This gray bar includes the same information that you would normally have in the body or graphic in your email. But now it’s easier for your subscribers to read.

Don’t have a discount code? No worries. This field is optional and excluding it won’t impact your odds of showing up as a featured email.

3. Logo

This new bundle of properties in Gmail’s Promotions tab also allows you to add a logo to be displayed next to your email in your subscriber’s inbox. Think of a circular picture like a LinkedIn or Twitter profile picture.

If this sounds familiar, you’re right. G Suite users have been able to do this for a while when sending to other Gmail accounts. However, you can now customize this area to show your company logo, so your email is easily recognizable to your customers.

4. Deal badges

The deal badge will add a green bar directly underneath your preview text with more information about the specific promotion you’re running. Deal badges basically give you a place to tell your customer why they should care about your offer. For instance, this area could say something like “50% Off,” “Buy One, Get One Free,” or “Free Shipping.”

Deal badges can also be used to add a level of exclusivity, which tends to work well in marketing campaigns. If you add “VIP Only” as your deal badge, your customers might be more likely to engage because they feel special.

5. Expiration date

Besides your photo, the expiration date might be one of the most important new properties you can add to your email marketing messages. Email marketers are no strangers to using FOMO as an effective tactic to encourage people to engage since studies have shown this psychological condition might be more prevalent than you think.

Adding an expiration date to your email has another benefit that can’t be overlooked. This property could give your email two chances to show up as a featured message: once when you send it and then a second time when your deal is about to expire.

That’s twice the exposure without appearing intrusive to your customers’ inboxes.

How to get your emails in your subscriber’s primary inbox

Even with the changes and benefits that come along with the Gmail Promotions tab, you might still want your emails to appear in the primary inbox. For instance, G Suite users won’t see the new Promotions tab so you should still aim for your B2B emails to appear in the primary inbox.

But unfortunately, where your messages land might not be up to you.

The easiest way to end up in the primary inbox is for your customer to physically move your email from the Promotions tab into the primary inbox or add you as a contact. Customers will need to click on the three vertical dots in the upper right corner of their email and then select the option to add to their contact list.

The easiest way to end up in the primary inbox is for your customer to physically move your email from the Promotions tab into the primary inbox or add you as a contact.

Image Source: Google

But in order for them to do that, you need to send emails that they’ll want to read. There are a number of important email best practices that you should follow to create unforgettable emails. Here are a few of the big ones to consider:

  • Personalize emails: Gmail will put emails in the primary inbox that they think users want to see. The more customers open your emails, the better chance you’ll have to appear in the primary inbox. You can easily increase your open rate up to 26% by adding personalization into your subject lines.
  • Segmentation and automation: It’s important to make sure you send the right message to the right people at the right time. Email list segmentation can help put your contacts into different groups so you do just that. Drip campaigns will automatically send emails to different segments based on predetermined times in their customer journeys and if you do this correctly, you’ll have solid metrics, which will show Gmail you are a reputable sender and worthy of the primary inbox.
  • Optimize for mobile: These days, more emails are opened on mobile devices than on desktop. Make sure your email is formatted with a responsive design or with a mobile-first mentality. If your email has design flaws, it could fail Gmail’s spam filters and might not even make it into the Promotions tab.

Wrap up

The new changes to the Gmail Promotions tab might have you rethinking certain aspects of your email strategy. While the end goal for some marketers might still be to get their emails in the primary inbox, don’t underestimate the power of the new annotation properties in the Promotions tab to encourage your subscribers to engage.

Remember, to stand out in the Promotions tab you should include:

  • An image preview
  • A discount code
  • Your logo
  • Deal badges
  • An expiration date

While landing in the Promotions tab might mean that not everyone on your subscriber list sees your email marketing message, those who do open your email should be more engaged and possibly even more willing to make a purchase.

And ultimately, this is a great thing for digital marketers.


Are you doing all you can with your HTML emails? Check out our CSS Guide to learn everything you need to know about coding emails that look great on any device and with any provider.

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This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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