How to Improve Delivery to Gmail Inbox

Tips for Landing in the Gmail Primary Tab

Do you know that there are over 300 million Gmail users over the world? So, if you have a kind of an opt-in list, there is a high probability that you are already mailing to Gmail recipients. But do your emails get to their Gmail Inbox?

Here is a good Gmail spam checker that you can use to test how your email is delivered to Gmail and whether it is placed to the Primary or Promotions Inbox tab or to the Spam folder.

In the past, it was too easy for a legitimate email to be filtered out as spam and that’s what email marketers worried about. After the introduction of a tabbed Inbox system, Gmail sorts incoming emails as Primary, Promotions, or Social messages.

Now landing in the Gmail Promotions tab is a little better because your message is treated as advertising, not as spam. On the other hand, if your email ends in the Promotions folder, not all subscribers will see it.

The good news is that if you follow email delivery tips outlined in this post, you can improve your email delivery to Gmail Inbox now and in the future and significantly boost response rate.


1. 5 Things You Should Know about Gmail

Here are some things that Google considers to be important when it comes to email deliverability and that you need to know before you start sending to Gmail users:

1. Gmail actively and intentionally filters inbound email messages protecting their users’ Inboxes. Google makes no excuses for being aggressive in their filtering algorithm.

2. Gmail acts as a gatekeeper with significant power to determine whether the mailbox owner sees the messages you send or not. So, if you want the recipient to see your message, first you need to pass through the Gmail gatekeeper.

3. Content plays an important role when Gmail decides where to place your email. Some niches such as weight loss, health, and beauty, real estate, grants, payday loans, dating, business opportunities are prone to spammy email practices and have a higher percentage of bad sheep.

If you are working for a legitimate company in such a niche, you may have to work more carefully on your email content to prove your messages are not spam and worthy of delivery in the eyes of Gmail.

4. Your reputation with your subscriber matters a lot for Gmail. Gmail calculates reputation based on the user’s actions on the email. Every time the email gets a certain amount of spam markings from Gmail users, the reputation of the sender goes down.

And as they get non-spam markings that is when users move emails from the Junk folder to the Inbox, the sender gets some positive reputation. The reputation then plays a significant role for how Gmail treats the email.

5. Engagement is critical for Gmail. At Gmail, engagement is seen as the sum of total user’s actions upon the email. Gmail tracks explicit user’s actions (marking email as spam, replying to the email, moving it to the Junk folder etc.), and these explicit actions have a direct relation to how Gmail classifies the email for the given user.

If your subscriber opens emails from you on a consistent basis, that shows engagement and favors Inbox placement for the current and next email campaigns.

But if the subscriber leaves your emails unread, deletes them without opening or moves them to spam, then Gmail will penalize you because your subscribers don’t appear to be engaged with your emails.

Read Also: Staying Out of Gmail Spam After the Latest Security Update

2. 9 Tips for Delivering Email to Gmail

How to Improve Delivery to Gmail Inbox

Now when you know how Gmail handles inbound emails and what factors it considers when deciding whether or not the email is worthy to be delivered, it’s time to put things into practice to maximize your Inbox placements now and in the future.

Below are nine tips you need to follow to stay on the Gmail’s good side and land in the Gmail Primary Inbox tab:

1Make sure that your list is opt-in. It is even better to have a confirmed opt-in list. Avoid sending emails to Gmail users who did not give you an explicit permission to email them, for example, people who gave you their business card at trade shows, exhibitions, etc. but who have never directly subscribed to your list.

2Have a clear and simple unsubscribe process. Be sure to add recipients who have unsubscribed to the “do not email” or suppression list so that you don’t accidentally email them in the future.

3Wake up inactive subscribers. Measure inactivity based on the volume of emails sent, not on the time frame. Thus, instead of asking “Did they open an email within the last 6 months?” ask “Did they open any of the last 10 emails I sent them?”

Try to wake inactive users with incentivized reactivation emails to determine whether or not they are still interested.

If they do not respond, as part of good email list hygiene stop sending to those people but NEVER DELETE SUBSCRIBERS from your base. You can always use those emails for retargeting people via Facebook or Google Adwords.

4Be careful if you are promoting affiliate products. Affiliate marketing is widely used in online business, but the general public is less aware of it and Gmail, in particular, has a vague notion of this kind of marketing.

5Do not use shortened links. Unfortunately, link shortening services like have been abused by spammers to hide affiliate links. Gmail reports that email messages with shortened URLs have the highest spam rates.

6Know the real reputation of your email service provider (ESP). Never use an ESP that has uncertain terms of service and allows anyone to upload lists without any quality control or verification because such an ESP will attract spammers and other malicious senders. You could be penalized by Gmail and other ISPs simply because you are sending from a “bad neighborhood.”

7Watch your sender reputation if you are operating a self-hosted email system and dedicated SMTP server. Check your sender score in the GlockApps delivery report to determine the trustworthiness of your sending IP address in the eyes of ISPs. If your sender score is low, email providers are more likely to apply filtering criteria to your entire IP address as well as each email campaign.

8Check your sending IP against blacklists. You can use GlockApps IP Reputation Monitor. Monitoring your sending IP address status is essential if you are managing an in-house email system like EasyMail7 and sending from your IP address.

IP reputation monitoring from GlockApps
IP reputation monitor report

It also may be useful when you are with a 3rd party email service provider. If your ESP is blacklisted, your email to some Gmail subscribers will bounce back because Gmail will reject them. After some bounces, your ESP will automatically delete these addresses as undeliverable, even though the bounce happened as a result of the ESP’s blacklisting issues.

Here is a good guide you’ll want to check to learn how to find out if your sending IP is blacklisted by Gmail and how to request the removal: How to Remove Your IP Address from Gmail’s Blacklist

9Follow best Gmail email practices. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll make your email stand out among all the junk mail, be considered as high quality and landed in the Gmail Inbox.

10Sign up for a Gmail postmaster account and see how they rate you. It’s actually pretty simple. You need to add and verify your authenticated domain. You will then need to prove you own the domain by entering the DNS TXT or the DNS CNAME. Once it’s verified and you are sending data, you will get access to several dashboards:

Spam Rate Dashboard (only for emails authenticated by DKIM): shows the volume of user-report spam emails vs. emails sent to the Inbox.

Domain and IP Reputation Dashboard: gives a sense of whether the Gmail spam filter might mark emails from that Domain or IP as spam or not.

Feedback Loop Dashboard (only for senders who’ve implemented the Gmail Spam Feedback Loop): shows the identifiers flagged by FBL and their corresponding spam rates.

Authentication Dashboard: shows traffic that passed SPF, DKIM, and DMARC, over all received traffic that attempted authentication.

Encryption Dashboard: shows TLS encrypted traffic vs. all mail received from that domain, and consists of two distinct graphs within the same dashboard.

Delivery Errors Dashboard: shows rejected/temp-failed traffic vs all authenticated traffic coming from that domain, within a single graph. You are also able to see the reason behind why the traffic was rejected or temp-failed.

After implementing these tips, your email marketing efforts can pay off in the form of higher deliverability among your Gmail subscribers.

As a central postulate, remember that Gmail focuses on protecting their users’ Inboxes from unwanted emails and relies on the user’s behavior to improve their experience with Gmail. Thus, email marketers who know how to keep their subscribers engaged will win.

Other email providers are following the Gmail’s way so the time you spend complying with Gmail delivery practices should pay off down the road, too.

3. Real Solutions for Landing under the Gmail’s Primary Tab

A few years ago, Google introduced tabs to the Gmail interface, which separate incoming emails into specific categories: Primary, Social, and Promotions. When you send emails to your Gmail recipients, you may not even know that your emails are filtering into your readers’ Promotions tab, which in most cases never get checked. A lot of marketers observe a significant decrease in email open rate, which is directly related to this change in Google.

Therefore, your goal is to not only get your email delivered to the Gmail user but also land in their Primary tab where it has more chances to be seen and read.

Below I collected the tips how to get out of the Gmail’s Promotions tab and get into the Primary tab. They worked for other marketers and can work for you, too.

So, if one day you observe a decrease in email open rate among your Gmail subscribers, consider doing this:

1. Ask your subscribers to drag your emails to the Primary tab.

This may or may not work for you. Firstly, people may find this inconvenient, tiresome, and you can’t be sure they will do it. Secondly, there is no guarantee that if they drag your email from Promotions to Primary, all further emails from you will go to their Primary tab. So, you decide. Anyway, it’s worth trying.

Here is good case study How I Got Out Of Gmail’s “Promotions Tab Jail” written by Ian Brodie where the author tells about four potential reasons why the emails can start going into the Gmail’s Promotions tab and shares the steps he took to stay clear of the Promotions Tab Jail!

2. Re-write your email template.

Google seems to be measuring the tone you are writing in based on links, phrases, and picture count. It also can recognize an RSS feed shot out by an email service.

When it comes to email, a decoration is a bad thing. For spammers, that’s okay, but not for legitimate marketers. Possibly, after you change your email format, your emails will be seen in the Primary tab.

Consider these things to make your email Gmail-friendly:

  • Be short and straight to the point.
  • Don’t promote or sell aggressively.
  • Have no more than 1 link in your email.
  • Include no pictures.
  • Add the reader’s name using dynamic fields in EasyMail7 or Merge Tags in MailChimp or Aweber.
  • Turn off the Rss Campaign. If you want a higher open count, you must type these emails out by hand.
  • Write to the reader like he’s your friend.
  • Don’t go spammy like this: Hey!!!WANT TO MAKE MONEY FAST??!?!?!
  • Write in Traditional Letter Form.

So basically the key in the content writing is to simply get the reader’s attention by writing something exclusive, hooking them, and getting them to open the email. By doing this, your subscribers will show Gmail that your emails are engaging, important and worth to be landed under their Primary tab. Plus, you will see higher open rates.

Well, don’t give up, you can improve your email newsletter and deliverability. Even the big guys can improve, so you can, too.

4. Quick-Test of Your Deliverability and Spam Score

How to Improve Delivery to Gmail Inbox

Testing email deliverability using a testing tool such as GlockApps will help you identify potential filtering issues before you send.

Within minutes, GlockApps will show you where your email is placed at different ISPs.

To generate the report, we’ll re-send your email through our personal accounts with Amazon SES, SendGrid, and Mailgun to the control list of email addresses (seed list).

But you should be aware that the deliverability may be different when you send emails through your SMTP server, delivery service or email service provider.

To test deliverability through YOUR sending infrastructure, you’ll need to create an account on GlockApps.

In your personal account, you’ll be able to create new tests and we’ll show you in real-time if there are any problems with YOUR sending system and message.

So, quick-test your email using the live test below and you’ll find the “Create My Account” button in your quick report.


Julia Gulevich is an email marketing expert and customer support professional at GlockSoft LLC with more than 15 years of experience. Author of numerous blog posts, publications, and articles about email marketing and deliverability.