The truth behind Gmail tabs revealed

Gmail launched its tab feature in the summer of 2013, which distinguishes between a regular inbox and the promotions tab. Now, some concrete statistics have emerged regarding the promotions tab that debunk certain myths and confirm certain suspicions.

1 in 5 Gmail users has the 'Promotions' tab enabled.

This number is constantly decreasing because the number of people disabling the 'Promotions' tab far outweighs the number enabling it. It is enabled by default, but many users simply turn it off.

Of those few users who have it enabled, 45% check it daily.

In other words, they treat it as an extension of their inbox. There is a misconception among many email marketers that the 'Promotions' tab is actually the spam folder, but that is simply not true. The average Gmail user appreciates having their valuable promotional offers neatly sorted into a different folder. In fact, users who check the 'Promotions' tab have a greater tendency to make purchases.

On average, the 'Promotions' tab has a slightly lower open rate.

Although some sectors actually see a higher open rate in the 'Promotions' tab, the 'Promotions' tab generally has a lower open rate, albeit not by much.

But consider this; only 1 in 5 Gmail users has the 'Promotions' tab enabled, and 22% of addresses on a standard email list are Gmail users. This means that only about 5% of the MailBlue user's normal contacts have the 'Promotions' tab enabled. Therefore, promotion placement would only slightly decrease the open rate on average by about half a percentage point.


The 'Promotions' tab is not worth fighting against. It generally has a minimal impact on your overall open rate. And even if you wanted to fight it, there is simply no way to deceive Gmail into sorting your messages differently.

This last point is perhaps the most important. Taking all these statistics together, Gmail tabs would never cause a significant drop in open rate. Even under the most drastic circumstances, it could potentially harm your open rate by 1 or 2 percentage points, but that would be extremely rare. So, it is important to keep in mind that if you have seen a decrease in open rate, the cause is likely not related to an issue with Gmail tabs. It is more likely due to other causes that we discuss in this article.

Is there anything I can do to land in the primary inbox?

The best thing you can do is send engaging, well-timed, valuable content to a clean list of contacts who want to receive the mail. If these users truly want to receive your messages, Gmail will take notice and place your emails in the right tab.

While there is no way to force yourself into the primary inbox, you can try to get there by following some basic principles, but there is no guarantee that these will work:

  • Remove images and use text only.
  • Personalise the message as much as possible using automation, conditional content, and timed sending. Bulk campaigns have almost a 0% chance of going to the primary tab.
  • Remove promotional language.
  • Ensure that the sender address and reply-to address match.

You can also advise your contacts to easily disable the 'Promotions' tab for their account here.

Also, keep in mind that when sending commercial emails, it is normal to end up in the 'Promotions' tab.

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