Email deliverability and Gmail’s infamous tabs

By Sophia Skinbjerg |

When you work with email deliverability of your campaigns, one of the things that probably cause you to pull your hair out on a regular basis is Gmail’s infamous inbox tabs.

Ever since their inception a few years ago, tabs have brought sever frustration to marketers, ESPs, and email deliverability experts the world over. With rules that seemed to be constantly changing, it has become next to impossible to know exactly what a campaign needs to land it in the inbox.

However, it seems the tables are turning with a recent study showing a drop in the number of Gmail users that make use of tabs.


About the study

The study was conducted in December 2016 and consisted of two main data points;

  • a survey given to 1,628 Gmail
  • an analysis using an inbox monitoring tool that looked at the email deliverability of 6 billion messages sent to Gmail users in October 2016

The full report is available for download over here.


What behavior was analyzed?

The researchers examined how consumers are using Gmail’s tabs, a feature that automatically sorts emails into different categories. The same study was conducted when Gmail first introduced Tabs back in 2013.

Related: How does email list segmentation affect engagement?


Do you currently use Gmail tabs to sort your email?

When this question was asked back in 2013, nearly 100% of users said that they used the tabs. Surprisingly, just 4 years on, that number has slid down to just 34%.

Email deliverability and Gmail's infamous tabs

Of those that are using the tabs, around 68% have the Social tab enabled, and 60% have the Promotions tab enabled.

Related: 52% of marketers rank email in most effective digital channels


How often do you check your promotions tab in Gmail?

This is a pretty key question for marketers that want to improve their email deliverability. Since a lot of marketers are finding that their email campaigns are ending up under the promotions tab, we need to ascertain how critical that is on open rates and engagement in comparison with emails that end up in the inbox and prioritized tabs.

Email deliverability and Gmail's infamous tabs

Gmail users that use the promotion tab, 71% check it at least once a week. Forty-five percent of those are checking the promotions tab at least once a day.


Inbox placement rate

Emails that are being sorted as Social have the highest placement rate and are the least likely to be lost or categorized as spam. Conversely, emails marked as updates have the highest read rate. Just over half of those emails with no classification end up in the inbox at all.

Email deliverability and Gmail's infamous tabs

Related: How to write headings and subject lines that are seriously compelling


Email deliverability varies greatly on industry

Most retailers see their emails filed under the promotions tab. pets, sporting goods, and deals & rewards were the industries most likely to have their emails delivered to the promotions tab.

Comparatively, industries that had users who were also Gmail users, were more likely to be marked as Updates. That includes banking, finance and insurance.

Email deliverability and Gmail's infamous tabs

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