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Hal Licino

Gmail's New Priority Inbox: It's Not the End of Email Marketing

Sep 08 2010, 12:47 AM by

As email marketers, you already have had a tough enough slog getting your messages into your prospects' Gmail inboxes. You may not be thrilled to learn that Google has thrown another monkey wrench in the works. Google's new Priority Inbox has essentially quadrupled the number of Gmail inboxes and proportionately increased the difficulty of getting your opt-in email into the right one! However, there are some ways that will enable you to successfully run the Google Gmail gauntlet.

Priority Inbox Has 3 Sections: You Don't Want to Be in the Bottom One

Google Gmail's new Priority Inbox was recently released, albeit only in Beta mode. In the side nav bar of the Gmail window, it shows as an additional entry above the conventional inbox. All of the incoming mail that makes it through the existing filters still ends up in the basic inbox, but the Priority Inbox takes all that mail and prioritizes it according to its own filter options: These filter options allow Gmail users to split up their Priority Inbox into three departments:

Important & unread
Starred
Everything else


When an email arrives into a Gmail holder's account, the Google system flags up any messages that its algorithms conclude to be important. Some of the factors the system uses include the keywords in the message, the types of messages that the user habitually opens, and addresses that the user sends to on a regular basis. The users have input into the system as well, as they are able to mark conversations as Not important or Important. These selections are applied by the Google algorithm in its determination of flagging up or flagging down the specific message.

Is Everything Else Just a Secondary Spam Destination?

Google has gotten a lot of mileage out of their "do no evil" stand, but the questions remain as to whether the Gmail Priority Inbox algorithm is as equably Apollonian as the search juggernaut would like it to be perceived. Is the Everything else section truly a "review it later folder" or is it a secondary spam destination?

Is Google Truly Doing No Evil with this Innovation?

It seems that Priority Inbox is riding the fence between email and Facebook by isolating the recipient from messages from outside their "closed social clique": Messages from your boss, your spouse, and your auntie get the greenlight express into the Important department, but everyone/thing else is left standing on the platform. An equally worrisome development might be the determination of the algorithm itself. Would messages sent by Google Apps users, for example, be prioritized over an identical message from a non-Google customer?

How to Win the New Star Wars

The million-dollar question email marketers have to answer now is how to get their campaign messages into the right inbox. These tips should help:

Add a "Star Me" phrase to preheaders or subject lines destined for Gmail users.
Structure your emails to solicit replies (surveys, feedback, etc.) because the Google algorithm favors bilateral communications.
Set up your signups to generate a "make sure you star us" box when your recipients enter a Gmail address.
Micro-segregate your list for ultimate relevance, engagement and applicability.
Provide incentives, incentives, incentives, and when you're done, provide more incentives (no, it's not cheating).
Place this paraphrased Clinton campaign poster over your desk: "It's the relationship, stupid!"
Go the extra mile to "awesome-ize" your emails... make your user want to star it.


If Gmail's Priority Inbox "personal SERP" system is going to receive a thumbs-up from its users, you can bet that most other major email systems will be introducing their own versions. Thus it is highly advisable that email marketers begin getting ready now for this "next wave" of inbox challenges.

Related Reading : 

How Google May Affect Email Marketing

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