New Gmail Tabs – Love ’em or Hate ’em?

If you don’t use gmail to read your email, you might be forgiven missing the latest uproar over gmail’s new tabbed inbox. One day I logged into my gmail account to find that my email was sorted into three tabs “Primary”, “Social”, and “Promotions”. We humans don’t like change and I am no different. My first reaction was: “How do I put it back the way it was?”

Gmail's New Tabs

Gmail now uses tabs to organize your inbox

Now that I’ve given it a few days, I find that I like it. Having emails from my social activity (especially now that I recently have become more active on Google+) go into a tab rather than into my primary email stream is wonderful and helps me keep on track with my goal to interact with my social networks at set periods during the day, rather than let social updates interrupt my work (which often includes email tasks).

I’m not the organized type. I use folders rarely and my inbox is a chaotic mess. So I think the idea of sorting email by type is genius as it aligns with how I might take action on the email. For example:

  • Primary Tab – these emails are, in most cases, personally directed to me. These are the ones I want to see first.
  • Social Tab – Emails here required me to interact with Google+, Twitter etc… which always takes more time that you think. So I like to look at these when I have 15 minutes between calls, or at other set periods time in the day.
  • Promotions Tab – I like to think of this tab as the “To Shop or Browse” tab. I visit it once or twice a day.

You can also set up a Forums and a Updates tab. I’m experimenting with the Updates tab, but I know from experience that too many folders (tabs) is not a good thing for me, so I am not sure that I will keep it.

You Tube video on the new gmail tabs:

So far reactions from users have been mixed. Now if you are the type who is well organized and are already using a lot of filters and labels in your gmail inbox, you might find that the new tab structure has created chaos in your carefully constructed email world. If so, getting rid of the tabs is easy, click on the “+” sign at the far right of the tabs and unselect all the tabs in the dialog that comes up.

You’ll also find that many of the emails end up in the wrong tab. Fortunately you can drag and drop the email from one tab to another and “teach” Google to sort the emails correctly in the future. It takes just a few seconds, however many may find this frustrating. For example, I’m noticing that blog broadcasts are ending up in the updates tab (the tab that is supposed to be reserved for notices, receipts etc).

Will open rates suffer for email marketers?

There has been a flurry of discussions and posts on whether this will harm marketers’ open rates on their email messages. Many email marketers have sent messages to their subscribers to “… move my messages to your Primary tab so you won’t miss them.” As if their missives were that important.

Personally I don’t think I don’t think I am opening email newsletters and promotional messages less often. In fact I might be opening them more because I am visiting that group of emails knowing exactly what to expect. However I might be in the minority, as early indications is that the new tabbed inbox has created a small but definite drop in open rates according to a MailChimp post.

So how can email marketers adjust to Gmail’s sorting of their emails? Aside from explicitly asking subscribers to move their messages to the Primary tab, here are a few thoughts:

  • Set expectations: When users opt into your list, remind them that the emails will be likely found in the Promotions tab.
  • Ditch the personal ploy: We’ve all seen them, the subject line that appears to be from a friend but really is a clever ploy by a marketer to get you to open the email. Those will be less effective now.
  • Consider sending less emails: A lot of marketers will send a barrage of emails, to keep their offer at the top of your email stream. Seeing all those emails together as a group might cause more unsubscribes. The primary reason I unsubscribe from email lists is because they send me too many emails.

Emails that fall into the promotions tab are going to be one of two types.

      A truly promotional email that is trying to sell you something right away (think Groupon).
      A newsletter or some other form of content marketing.

If your email falls in category #1, then you need to get very good at making the offer and not wasting the user’s time. Your email will be competing against all the other promotional emails and it needs to get the click “right now”.

If your email falls in category #2, then your goal is to get moved to the primary or the social tab (even better is when the user decides to move it on their own). You want to be interesting and helpful, and yes occasionally promote something, but your primary focus should be to build a relationship with your audience.

About the Author Kathy Alice

Kathy Alice Brown is a SEO expert specializing in Technical SEO and Content. In her spare time she loves to get outside.

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