What does the Gmail Priority Inbox mean for email marketers?

With Google’s new Priority Inbox Gmail feature being released to users over the next week or so, the landscape for email marketers just changed.

The cute video Google has put together (see it here), nicely shows the different levels of emails users can receive – spam, marketing emails and emails from friends and family (at around the 50 second point in the video).

The way the algorithms work is based on:

1. How often you read the email

2. How often you reply to the email

3. Manual adjustments using the increase or decrease importance buttons

I am sure there are other factors not disclosed – potentially this might include whether your email address is in the contact list.

This all means that if you want your emails to appear high up in the priority list, you are going to need to deliver content that are consistently worth opening.

This makes the mantra of providing content that is in someway valuable to the recipient more important than before. Sending an email with a bunch of products in it that bears no relevance to what the user wants is likely to result in obscurity.

A couple of  keywords to think about to ensure your  emails are engaging or worth reading:

1. Valuable – the recipient should feel like it is in his or her interests to open the email – an offer, unique content etc

2. Interesting – if you are delivering content, make sure it is relevant to the recipient. Interesting content that makes the recipient look good if they forward it on is a definite bonus! The recent music video that went viral is illustrative of this – it allows you to place your home street into the music video itself.

One potential side benefit is that we might see a potential decrease in unsubscribes as more emails are just demoted rather than unsubscribed or worse from a deliverability perspective – marked as spam.

Sidenote: Microsoft also released a feature in its Hotmail platform which allows you to see only those emails from people in your address book. This means it is even more important to encourage your recipients to add your email address to their address book.

[update] An interesting conversation on Twitter with @iamelliot led to another point around unsubscribes decreasing – there is a potential negative. Being lost in this new in between world of being de-prioritised and being unsubscribed could lead to a scenario where your email is no longer seen at all and with no way for the sender to know that this is happening.

@riazkanani

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Riaz Kanani

About Riaz Kanani

Riaz is the founder at Connected Paths as well as serving on the Email Marketing Council at the DMA where he manages the Council's social media communications (including this blog) and a guest speaker at the Institute of Digital and Direct Marketing.


Previously, Riaz founded Digital Oxygen, the digital marketing services agency that translated sophisticated offline direct marketing techniques to email. Digital Oxygen was later acquired by Silverpop where Riaz built out the international Services, Marketing and Alliances teams.


Prior to this, Riaz founded First Media, the pioneer of online video advertising. He managed the technology and services groups delivering integrated enterprise marketing solutions and global video marketing campaigns. Throughout Riaz has also consulted on cutting edge digital projects for clients internationally.


Riaz also writes on his marketing blog and you can follow his tweets here and his presentations here.

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  • http://www.dbg.co.uk Guy Hanson

    Google’s new “priority inbox” follows some recent changes by Hotmail with their “sweep” functionality and I am sure Yahoo will be quick to follow suit. These changes indicate that inbox placement will become all about positive and intelligent marketing based on user behaviour. I welcome these changes, as they will force email marketers away from the “scatter gun” approach to mass broadcast and encourage them to use best practice. Sending email based on data insight such as previous purchase behaviour or customer profile will increase their relevance and mean organisations are providing email communications that people want to interact with. The reward for this will be better inbox positioning with less competition. The alternative will be to throw money down the drain and not reach the inbox. A simple choice.

    • http://www.riazkanani.com Riaz Kanani

      could not agree more – this makes it very tough to continue with just a batch and blast approach. Unless of course, everyone on your list loves the same content!

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