How Gmail’s Priority Inbox Feature Can Get You Higher Open Rates

One of the biggest challenges in email marketing is ensuring that your emails actually get opened by the recipient.

With more spam and noise finding their way into inboxes every day, getting someone’s attention in their inbox is no easy feat. Although at first glance, Gmail’s priority inbox feature appears to be yet another blow to email marketers, it actually allows savvy marketers to stand out from the noise. For those marketing through email newsletters, Gmail’s priority inbox feature can actually help your content stand out if your campaigns are optimized correctly.

Gmail’s Priority Inbox Feature

On the user side, e-mail is becoming more and more cluttered by marketers trying to gain user’s attention. Google’s solution to this problem is the priority inbox feature. Gmail’s priority inbox feature is designed to help filter emails that are not spam, but are generally less important to the reader. Gmail’s priority inbox feature utilizes a variety of different signals to automatically sort emails, including examining the messages a user opens and the messages the user replies to.

In some ways, the priority inbox feature certainly does make the email marketer’s task more challenging. On the other hand, a skilled marketer may actually find it easier to reach their audience, as marketers who place a focus on engaging the reader will have their emails classified as “priority” emails, separating their emails from the hundreds of other unread emails in a user’s inbox. Shockingly, a recent survey showed that only 3% of companies have optimized their strategy for the priority inbox algorithm. This lack of adaptation by most companies will allow savvy marketers a chance to gain an advantage. Here are some ways email marketers can engage users and ensure that the priority inbox feature is a benefit, rather than a detriment.

Send a Welcome Email

In order to have your emails classified as a priority and sent to the top of a Gmail user’s inbox, maximizing reader engagement is vital. One of the simple ways to do this is to send a welcome email. Welcome emails are often the most frequently read email in a series, since the user just signed up. Having a reader open the initial email ensures that the next few emails in your mailing series will be delivered at the top of the new reader’s inbox.

To ensure that the welcome email gets read, be sure to offer something valuable to the reader, whether it’s a free e-book, a useful tip, or free access to a member’s only area etc. Not only does this ensure that your user will open and read your email, but they’ll click through to your website or offer, further signaling to the priority inbox algorithm that your emails are valuable. This step is so simple and easily automated, yet so important.

Email Marketing Best Practices


In many ways, the priority inbox algorithm simply rewards the best practices that skilled email marketers have been following all along. Except now, email newsletters that can engage readers and have high open rates will be rewarded by priority placement over newsletters and marketing emails that haven’t discovered the importance of reader engagement. Companies must focus on sending out quality, engaging emails rather than focusing on a quantity/hard sales approach. Below are a few best practices that are especially important when it comes to pleasing the priority inbox algorithm:

  • Keep writing great headlines: With the priority inbox feature, it’s more important than ever to write great headlines that draw in the reader. Your headlines should be crafted by experienced marketers or copywriters in a manner that entices readership.
  • Segment your emails: If you have a large email list with a diverse audience, it’s more important than ever to ensure that every email you send is relevant to your audience. Segmenting emails by interest can help increase your open rate %, which not only benefits your marketing campaign directly, but it helps increase your email’s value in the eyes of the priority inbox algorithm.
  • Give your readers valuable, relevant content: Delivering value to your readers with your email content has always been a critical factor to reader engagement, but priority inbox makes this more important than ever. If you attempt to constantly sell to your reader without offering value in return, your open rates will drop to a point where the priority inbox algorithm will banish your emails to the bottom of the pile. Once this occurs, all the valuable content you can offer your reader will go unread. Avoiding this by offering value right from the start and keeping your direct sales pitches scarce will enable you to focus on building better email campaign content, which will ultimately affect the bottom line performance of your business, no matter what industry you are in.

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