How can marketers achieve better inbox placement rates?

By Andrew Bonar

This article discusses the factors which determine whether an email will reach an inbox, and how marketers can tailor emails to ensure they are not left in the spam folder.

What makes Gmail and Google different?

More than any other provider, Google relies heavily on what recipients do with their emails and how they manage mail from senders. Working on an individual basis, Google changes inbox placements for each individual according to how they behave – what reaches an inbox for one user will not be the same for another.

When a Gmail user reports a message as spam, neither email service providers nor marketers receive insight into this. Unlike other providers that inform marketers on how many complaints have been generated, Google, in its wisdom, chooses not to share this information. The lack of feedback loops is another element that sets Google apart from other major mailbox providers.

Why is my message in the spam folder?

Although Google offers limited insight, some clues can be found to help identify what caused a message to get directed to the spam filter, rather than to the Inbox.

The key to these clues are contained in the actual message itself when it is in the spam folder. Below are some common reasons users will find messages in Gmail’s spam folder:

1) Similar to other messages 

2) Strange language

3) Other people marked message as spam

4) Too many complaints from your email programme

Automated spam detection

Gmail also uses automated spam detection systems to analyse patterns and predict what types of messages are likely to be spam.

Some of the primary factors include:

1) Mature/adult content and "get rich quick" schemes

2) Messages sent from accounts that have sent other spam messages

3) Reputation of the DKIM signing domain

4) The number of unread email sent by the sender

What do I need to avoid?

Affiliate marketing programmes that reward third-parties for bringing visitors to your site can typically create more risk than reward. Unfortunately, these programmes are attractive to hard-core spammers. If a brand becomes associated with affiliate spam, the email channels will be disrupted when sent from multiple senders, platforms, ESP’s or IP ranges – which in turn can gravely damage a brand’s reputation.

What factors determine whether an email arrives in a Gmail user’s inbox?

There are two important factors that, under normal circumstances, will help messages to arrive in a Gmail user’s inbox – the first one being that the ‘from’ address is listed in the user’s contact list. This sometimes creates problems as it requires the user to opt to put the sender in their contact list, which they will only do if they consider the information to be relevant. The subject line and content must also be similar to that of previously read emails to make it successfully into the inbox. Marketers must therefore choose the subject lines of emails extremely carefully.

Top 8 tips for better email placement

1) Ask users to add you to their address book as a contact

2) Remind users to mark messages that are not spam

3) If your organisation uses Google Apps, ensure there are no dummy accounts signed up to the programme and ensure staff who have signed up to the programme regularly use it

4) Encourage users to engage with your newsletters by doing: “star our mail”, “turn on images by default”, “mark as priority”, or reply to your emails – and potentially incentivise customers to take these actions

5) Mail your less engaged users less often. If necessary, grade the level of engagement beyond active and inactive

6) Look at the level of engagement from different data sources and focus on acquisition sources that provide highest quality data

7) Use welcome campaigns with reasons to click besides purchase and then take action on addresses that have taken no open or click action in the first 10 campaigns – don’t wait six months

8) Target Gmail users with very specific campaigns aimed at increasing engagement.

About the author and Emailvision

Andrew Bonar is a Deliverability Expert at Emailvision. The smartest relationship marketing is powered by Emailvision. With more than 13 years of research and development, Emailvision is delivering pioneering marketing software with built-in customer intelligence. Every month Emailvision’s marketing cloud platform delivers 600,000 campaigns on behalf of 3,300 clients worldwide. In 2012 Emailvision was recognised by Inc. Magazine as one of the fastest growing privately-held software companies. To learn more, visit us at

Relevant links

Gmail can be Tamed  

Gmail Bulk Sender Guidelines  

The Priority Inbox for Email Marketers   

How to Clear the Gmail Hurdles  

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