No, Gmail's Promotions Tab Didn't Just Kill Email Marketing
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Editor's Note: A version of this article previously appeared at WaldowSocial.com.
Short answer: No.
Longer answer: It's way too early to tell.
Even longer answer: Keep reading.
There's been a lot of chatter online ever since Google unveiled it's new "social," "promotions" and updates tabs for Gmail earlier this summer. Especially about the promotions tab. Emails that people often receive from businesses -- like promotions and special offers -- are now being filtered into the tab, which is separate from a user's primary email stream.
Since then, the web has errupted with marketers crying foul. In an amount of several hours, for instance, I've received about a half dozen emails -- from newsletters that I've subscribed to -- providing instructions on how to ensure their emails land in my "primary" tab. Some of those emails are referencing this "How to Disable Gmail Tabs" video from Michael Stelzner of Social Media Examiner. Others are just providing some steps to "deal" with Gmail's new tabbed inbox.
Of the change, Derek Halpern of Social Triggers wrote: "In a lot of cases, Gmail labels content-filled emails as 'Promotions.' That means, if you send content to your list (like I do), your content will be featured alongside spammy Promotional emails. Not only does this negatively affect your brand, but it also puts people are at risk of NOT getting your emails. The emails they signed up for. The emails they WANT."
While I agree that having your emails land next to "spammy Promotional emails" is not a good thing, I'd argue that if you have "spammy Promotional emails" in your inbox, you need to start unsubscribing or marking them as spam. There is no reason to be getting unwanted emails anymore.
To be clear, I think it's smart to alert your loyal email subscribers about Gmail's changes. I've even considered doing the same for my audience. However, I think it's way too early to panic. No one yet understands the impact of Gmail's new tabbed inbox on their marketing campaigns.
And before you get all fired up and lash out at Gmail, remember that its focus has always been and most likely always will be on the user experience. It's not about you, the email marketer. It's about you -- and your audience -- the consumer.
If you are legitimately worried about the recent Gmail changes, here is what I recommend:
1. Don't panic. Take a deep breath. Chug some water. Walk around the block.
2. Create a segment of your email list showing only subscribers with a Gmail address.
3. Run some reports to see what the historic open, click, and (most importantly) conversion rate is of your Gmail subscribers.
4. Run that same report but change the start date to May 29th, when Gmail first announced these changes. Keep in mind that the May 29th date was when it was announced. Gmail has slowly been rolling it out ever since. It would seem quite a few folks are getting it this week.
5. Finally, compare your historic metrics for Gmail subscribers (No. 3) to the new report (No. 4).
My bet is that your open rates may be down. And that's okay. The open rate has always been a proxy for engagement, but for most marketers, clicks and conversions are the metrics that matter more.
My other bet is that your click to open rates are up. And that's good. Click to open is the number of subscribers who click on at least one link after opening your email. Click to open tells you how compelling you email actually is, assuming you have calls to action that make people want to click.
I predict this metric will increase as those people who have taken the time to "find" your email in the "promotions" or "updates" tab in Gmail or have proactively moved your email to the "primary" tab will now be more engaged with your emails and more likely to click.
My final bet is that if you send timely, targeted, valuable, human emails to people who want them, the Gmail changes will have little impact.
If you notice your conversions (webinar registrations, eBook or whitepaper downloads, sales and so on) for Gmail subscribers have decreased, then you can get upset. I'd be willing to bet this will not be the case.
If I'm wrong, let me know in the comments section below.
Related: 7 Ways to Make Gmail Faster