How to Make Sure Your Emails Land in Gmail’s Primary Inbox

badge-guest-post-FLATTERIt’s amazing how fads come in go when it comes to methods in bringing in traffic to your site. With social media at it’s peak, the hype has gone wild about how social media determines traffic now days. But you’re smarter than that, and we know where it’s truly at, and that’s your email list. The money is in the list.

Unfortunately, there are some challenges with making sure your emails reach your intended recipient.

Guess what the number one email provider has done to make things interesting? Google has built an “organizer” within your Gmail to determine which messages go where. You’ve probably experienced this first hand – the website you signed up to receive updates for is now considered junk and lands in the “Promotion” tab, which in reality is junk mail.

This is definitely not good for the marketer whose livelihood depends on traffic.

If you have been looking for answers in how to get around this and you’re wanting to see your open rates increase, take a look at some of these tricks from fellow bloggers and marketers. I have also put together some examples of perfect newsletters here.

1. Mention the Reader By Name

Address the reader by their first name using Merge Tag tool within your email marketing program. This makes things more personal, and the person feels more connected to you and your story. This is possible within many popular email marketing tools, but Mailchimp is great for beginners and is free to start.

Pat Flynn lands in my Gmail inbox about 95% of time due to this amazing name trick.


2. Write in Traditional Letter Form

In email marketing, personal touch wins. By keeping your message simple and natural, it makes the reader feel like you are writing directly to them. It also fools Google.

3. Lose the Images

Contrary to social media best practices, Gmail has its own rules. For whatever reason, Google sees images as a sign of a promotion or spam message. You will increase your readership by not having pictures.

Here’s what my “Promotions” folder looks like inside. People like Michael Hyatt, Amy Porterfield, and Stan (Pushing Social) land in this tab.



We’re talking million-dollar bloggers landing here now that Google has changed. The Promotions inbox is affecting everyone, especially since the old ways of developing email newsletters go against Google’s new rules.

4. Include No More Than One Link

The point of the email is usually to drive traffic to your website, right? So, the prudent thing to do is write an exclusive email and give the reader reasons why they should click that link. Make it all natural and smooth of course. Now don’t get me wrong, you can get away with more than 1 link, but it’s not guaranteed you will survive the Google filter.


Michael Hyatt hardly ever lands the Primary Tab. In this example above, you’ll notice 3 links within the first section of his email, and some of his emails contain up to 20 links. This definitely affects his open rates.

5. Avoid RSS

In my experience, almost every RSS feeds lands in my Promotions tab. Because RSS is automated, Google can surmise that it’s not being sent by a real person, so it doesn’t belong in Gmail Primary (even though I subscribed to it).

6. Keep It Short

This is a new trend that I’ve noticed in my research. The longer your email is, the less likely it makes it to Primary.


Here’s a great example of a short email. Another great reason why Pat lands in my inbox.

7. Ditch the Pitch

Trying to blatantly sell products or services will decrease the likelihood of landing in the Primary inbox.


Lowe’s is a good example of this. Every time they try to sell something, it lands in my Promotions Tab.

I understand that many people use third party email applications, and that they get every email sent to them because there are no filters involved. But as things get more crowded (like Facebook) you will see this apply across the platforms.

It’s important to start thinking about these changes and consider some of the tips and tricks that work for landing in Gmail’s Primary Inbox. If not, you’re going to see a decline in traffic (and you may already have). So while email traffic thrives, I’d suggest you take advantage, and increase your open rates with these tips proven by popular bloggers.

Facebook Comments


  1. says

    Thanks for the advice. I hadn’t thought of how gmail would react to an RSS email people on my list would receive. I have noticed more and more emails I get from people I subscribe to (like Pat Flynn) are using plain text emails. I do like that style better, even though I fully realize it comes from his list, I see it as a bit more personal.
    thanks again,

  2. says

    I guess this is another area where Chris Brogan was ahead of the curve with his conversational, personalized weekly updates. I definitely like reading that text-based style of email, even though my marketer side always WANTS to send out “pretty” emails with images and links.

    • says

      It’s very easy to do Rosemary. As a graphic designer, I love images! But statistics wins in this situation and in order to reach more, we must stay to plain jane emails.

  3. Jen McGahan says

    See, this is a perfect example of not seeing the trees for the forest. As a marketer I LIKE my promotions tab probably more than my primary tab. Easy to forget that readers/consumers have different preferences! Thanks for the reminder, Luke.

    • says

      I like the Promotions tab too, for things that I might want to see later. But the Primary is most important to me, it’s where the important stuff belong. I think most would agree. It’s where emails go that is worth my time reading. You know Jen?

  4. says

    Regarding the one link rule, since I send my plain-text only emails using Mail Chimp —— does Google recognize the mandatory links Mail Chimp includes on the bottom of all messages? The “quick unsubscribe” and “edit my profile” links?
    So do the mandatory links count towards the “total links” count?

  5. says

    So this is basically fairly hit and miss. None of these are guaranteed to work, and I’m pretty sure that Google will eventually recognize e-mails sent via “aweber” and “mailchimp” and others are promotions/newsletters and therefore don’t belong in the primary folder.

    • says

      It will be hit and miss when it doesn’t work. But as of now they do work. I’m sure Aweber/Mailchimp would do everything to stop that also from happening.

      • says

        A lot of what you’ve mentioned is what keeps marketers going @disqus_LMtZu9h91i:disqus. Ditching links, ditching images, sticking to text – that takes away from the whole visual experience of a newsletter. Ditch RSS as well, essentially what you’re saying is that send an e-mail like a human to another human – whereas that’s not what’s happening.

        We’re sending e-mail newsletters from brands to followers, and therefore RSS feeds NEED to be incorporated, we NEED to have 4-5 links, we NEED to have a couple of images, and all of this doesn’t really equate well with a lot of marketers, including myself.

        I do a lot of splits – I still send out my RSS feed, getting open rates of north of 30% are usually something that are good in my book, and then I send out text only “updates” – which get perhaps delivered to the primary inbox, have a high open rate, but the engagement rate on those is a LOT lower.

        • says

          People want connection. Not just your RSS. RSS is good, they make great email reminders. Only thing is, Google doesn’t like it. But this article is research, not my opinion. I’m just relaying the message. So don’t shoot the messenger.

  6. Melanie Deardorff says

    Thought-provoking stuff here — so much so that you convinced (no pun intended) me at the 11th-hour to strip out the big featured image I regularly use in my blog post email that’s sent via MailChimp. And I also stripped out several links. I sent out the bare-bones and sad-looking email, but my results so far are cheering me up a bit. My last three emails that included images and links brought in 39.7%, 31.0% and 31.3% open rates … and the no image/no link email is already at 46.9%. Interesting! I will keep experimenting with this to see if it continues.

    Here’s something I don’t understand from your post: When I look at Gmail, I don’t see the Promotions and Primary tabs you’re referring to. What am I missing (besides my glasses — ha)?

      • Melanie Deardorff says

        No third-party app — just the way I have my settings in Gmail apparently (according to my live-in tech support dude, a.k.a, my husband). I will keep experimenting. Thanks for the insights, Luke!

  7. says

    Great post Luke. Given us plenty to think about in terms of testing plain text emails vs more visual emails, and open vs engagement. Would be great to hear from more people like Melanie about the results their got from doing some testing.

  8. Marion says

    I followed ALL your directions and the mail still ends up in the promotion tab….. is it because my email address has been categorised by google as promotion and there’s no way to revert that back ?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *