Seven Smart Strategies to Maximize Your Gmail Inbox Placement

Gmail is one of the largest email service providers in the market today. In fact, the goliath surpassed over 1 billion active users in February of 2016. With this enormous active user base, it’s highly likely that you’re already mailing to Gmail recipients. Because the industry market leader has such massive reach, we as email marketers must keep a diligent eye on their practices and find the best ways to get Gmail inbox placement.

In addition to deliverability and engagement rates, inbox placement is a crucial metric to keep in mind when analyzing your email marketing needs. In permission-based email marketing the inbox placement rate (IPR) is a benchmark for deliverability used to determine what percentage of sent emails reach the intended subscriber’s inbox. This rate is crucial, and you may want to become more aware of your inbox placement with your recipients — especially Gmail recipients. Why Gmail? Gmail has a reputation for being extremely tough on senders. You must remember they have their users’ interest in mind, not your interests as the sender.

How to Monitor Gmail Inbox Placement

I’d bet that a majority of you email marketers out there have test email accounts that you send to —which is a good for occasional checkups. Using a third-party provider such as 250ok or Email on Acid is another option. 250ok provides you with a seed list that tracks most of the major ISPs and hosts providers’ inbox placement rate. This is a great tool and supports Gmail inbox placement testing well. Email on Acid is a similar service, but it has more focus on content and a less extensive seed list.

Inbox Placement Basics

Recently Act-On has covered inbox placement in a few blog posts such as this one, so we won’t go into too much detail as far as the basics. But just to recap briefly, authentication such as DKIM and SPF should be set up. Content is lower on the priority list and carries less weight when it comes to inbox placement rate; it can, however, be very important when you’re trying to increase engagement with your recipients. Try to avoid spam trigger words and spammy content and subject lines.

Gmail-Specific Inbox Placement

The guideline you must keep in mind when you’re aiming for Gmail-specific inbox placement is their “rule” on inboxing: Do their users want your mail? Gmail cares more than any other provider about this specific rule. Keeping this in mind, we can narrow down some key strategies that can help you land in Gmail inboxes.

1. Target the right list.

If possible, make sure you’re sending to an opt-in list. Try to avoid sending to Gmail recipients who have not given you explicit permission to email them.

2. Let people leave.

Make sure you unsubscribe process is easy and prominent. One of the more effective unsubscribe strategies I’ve seen is placing an unsubscribe link in the header of your email, making it clear and simple for recipients to opt-out of your emails. Opt-outs are always better then spam complaints.

3. Give up on the unengaged.

Engagement is key to inbox placement success with Gmail. Stop sending to unengaged recipients, as they are not helping your engagement statistics with Gmail. The almost guaranteed way of not getting into Gmail inboxes is sending to a predominantly unengaged list. When should you remove these unengaged recipients from your sends? The industry rule of thumb is generally after 180 days or 6 months of no activity such as opening or clicking on your emails. Personally, I like to think of it in terms of cadence or volume. Ask yourself if this recipient opened your last 10 emails. If “no” is the answer, then it’s probably time to stop sending to them.

4. Consider your timing.

If you’re starting to notice inbox placement issue with Gmail, try slowing down your cadence. I think we can all agree that when it comes to marketing/promotional emails, sending one email for five consecutive days to a unique recipient is excessive. If you begin to see inbox placement issues with Gmail, reduce your cadence by half. For example, if you’re sending two emails to a unique recipient per week and seeing inboxing issues, reduce that to once a week. If the cadence is once a week, reduce that to once every other week.

5. Clean up your list.

List maintenance should always be a priority. Have a regular list cleanse and validation done to your lists to avoid mailing to expired, bad, or malicious addresses.

6. Court clicks.

Have your emails encourage interaction. Gmail experts recommend five different clickable links or images within an email.

7. Make it personal.

Last but not least, try sending personalized emails targeting Gmail users. In the subject line and content, personalize and specifically aim for your intended audience. For example, this would be a targeted Gmail subject line: “Gmail Users Receive an eBook When Subscribing to Our Newsletter.”

In summary, Gmail inboxing is user-centric. Along with following the steps above, design and target your emails to Gmail’s users and you’ll be well on your way to finding success in the inbox.