Gmail: Talkin' Tabs in 2023

It's crazy to realize that Gmail released tabs back in May 2013, so we're just shy of a ten year anniversary of this functionality. A functionality that often confounds and annoys marketers. And it might even be crazier to recall that the guidance of the time (here's Ken Magill) was essentially send wanted content and you'll be just fine.

Ultimately, that's still true today, just about ten years later. Gmail's attempt to categorize messages into the primary, social, promotions, updates or the forums tab isn't an attempt to marginalize senders, but is instead meant to help both email senders and their recipients. Sender email messages are easily found by those most interested in them, and recipients benefit based on a categorized inbox that organizes inbound messages into coherent and easily-navigated groupings.

In the past, I've collected and shared guidance from across the Internet on how best to "escape" the Gmail promotions tab. That guidance is still worth reading, but I feel I must preface by warning you that it might not be easy, or even desirable, to fight against promotions tab placement:

  • Gmail ultimately wants promotional messages in the promotions tab. Content-related changes to get out of the promotions tab mean lessening the promotional impact of your email message. If you desired outcome is that the recipient purchases something from you, you're going to undermine your own sales efforts. In other words, you essentially have to shoot yourself in the foot to "fix" this "problem."
  • There are people out there who say they have code fixes or little tricks to help you avoid the promotions tab. These people are often lying. Sometimes they're not lying, but instead, they're involved in an arms race with Google. Gmail filters are constantly updating and some clever hack that might keep email out of the promotions tab today will likely not work tomorrow. There is no magic, forever fix here.
  • Gmail tabs are friend, not foe. As Lauren Meyer from Socketlabs points out, the promotions tab is NOT the spam folder. And it is worth nothing that Apple's iOS mail client leads the way in mobile mailbox management, its lack of tabs means that your "promotions" mail will land in the main inbox, regardless of Gmail's settings.
  • But if you really want your mail to land in a certain tab, ask your subscribers to move your messages to that specific tab. Gmail is highly sensitive to user feedback and if enough people do that, it will tip things in your favor -- there's a good chance it could result in Gmail place your future sends into the desired tab by default.

And finally, remember that many, if not most, successful marketers do just fine with their email ROI, even with their mail in that promotions tab. If your mail is indeed truly wanted (bring it full circle to Ken's guidance from ten years ago), you'll see good engagement and sales.



  1. Thanks for calling it like you see it. I conned myself into thinking it was a big deal back in 2013. And I've noticed a tread from the used car salesman conning people into purchasing their fake Gmail Promotions Tab services (only to remain in the promo tab, and in many cases, the spam folder)... Whenever they discuss deliverability, they love to make it seem like which tab Gmail places you in is part of email deliverability. They will then perform x number of deliverability services and then claim their Gmail Promo tab scam was the only thing that produced results. Sickening.


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