Gmail is the proverbial 800-pound gorilla resting on the back of the modern email marketer. Many of us struggle with this immensely popular medium and naturally become frustrated when we fail to hit the inbox consistently. In this blog, we’re going to examine numerous best practices for email marketing success with Gmail and discuss how to increase inboxing and engagement.
Not only is Gmail one of the largest B2C inbox providers, but it also has an especially strict spam algorithm that grades emails based on several critical parameters. Whether or not your messages arrive in your targets’ inboxes is based on your adherence to these parameters. So what are these marketing criteria and how do we meet and exceed Gmail’s requirements for sustained email success?
Let’s find out!
Technical Configurations for Gmail Inboxing
First and foremost, Gmail wants every email to be sent from a verifiable and authentic source. This includes standard technical specifications, such as:
Let’s think about it through the lens of, ummm… pizza!
When you order a pizza and see the delivery driver walking up to your door, you’re subconsciously looking for a number of different (but equally important) things. And if any of those things were missing or seemed out of place, you might become suspicious. So, if the driver was barefoot or wearing a tuxedo or carrying the pizza in a suitcase, that might seem off, and you might wonder whether or not you should open the door.
Similarly, Gmail expects your emails to include the requisite technical configurations that prove you are who you say you are and that your message is a legitimate communication. Gmail expects this every time, and the more often it sees missing items, the more suspicious it becomes. And the more suspicious it becomes, the more it will reject your emails.
Driving engagement is a critical aspect of email marketing. Gmail tracks how and to what extent your contacts interact with your emails.
Did they open the email?
How long was it open?
Did the user click on any links?
Did they mark the message as important?
Did they add your address to their address book?
Gmail tracks these metrics to determine if you’re a conscientious sender and then weighs those determinations against the number of contacts who don’t engage with your emails — or worse, immediately delete your emails, unsubscribe, or mark your messages as spam.
Engagement (or the lack thereof) is the defining measure by which Gmail determines whether your email will be delivered and inboxed or sent straight to the spam folder. So it’s imperative that you send emails to engaged Gmail users. Obviously, this means you’ll be sending fewer emails to fewer contacts, but you shouldn’t care about the number of emails you send; you should care about the total number of conversions you generate, which means you should always follow this best practice for inbox delivery.
The fact is that Gmail (and other ISPs) have effectively created a system that punishes batch-and-blast, mass-sending tactics, so we need to adapt to the evolving algorithms they’ve developed to enforce better experiences for email recipients. For example, with Act-On, you can segment your email marketing lists based on user engagement and behavior. This way, you can send regularly to your most engaged recipients, less frequently to less engaged recipients, and even less frequently to your least engaged recipients — and all of this through an automated, accurate, and effective system.
What Is Email Deliverability and Why Should You Care?
For those recipients who’ve stopped engaging or who never engaged in the first place, sunset those contacts to avoid negative engagement metrics, which damage your email reputation and deliverability with Gmail.
Email marketers who ignore this essential best practice and continue their batch-and-blast tactics targeting unengaged recipients will be left to face the consequences. To keep your inboxing and engagement rates high, send to audiences who regularly interact with your messaging and content — it’s always more difficult and more time-consuming to rebuild a poor reputation than to establish and maintain a good one.
Determining a Good Email Marketing Cadence for Sending to Gmail Users
If this is your first marketing email send, or if you haven’t sent marketing emails in a while, you’ll want to ramp up slowly. Gmail is suspicious of senders who suddenly begin sending thousands of emails at once. So start gradually by sending to friends, family, and other close contacts who you know will engage with your messages. Slowly increase from there, closely reviewing key metrics to determine a good sending cadence until you reach a comfortable send rate.
You can also use Act-On’s Send-Over-Time feature to increase Gmail inboxing effectiveness. This allows you to equally distribute your sends in 15-minute intervals over the span of twelve hours, an entire day, or even multiple days — whatever best suits your organization and your email marketing goals.
Listen to Google to Ensure Gmail Inboxing
Always listen to what Google has to say. Work within their parameters, and leverage your success over time. For example, Google provides “Bulk Sender Guidelines,” which explain what Gmail expects to see and how you can conform to those expectations. Understanding the challenge ahead will help you overcome any obstacles in your way.
You should also sign up for Google Postmaster Tools, a free Google feature that keeps email marketers apprised of their domain reputation, Gmail sending metrics, and troubleshooting options. Click here to access Postmaster Tools.
Here are just a few common questions that Google Postmaster can help answer:
Can you help solve my authentication issue?
Why did I see a spike in spam on a particular day?
My Gmail reputation has been damaged – what caused this?
Act-On Is Here to Help You Achieve Email Marketing Success With Gmail
If you need additional guidance to achieve email marketing success through Gmail (or any other ISP), Act-On is here to help you become an inboxing pro! Our Email Deliverability Team has years of experience and a mountain of knowledge that we use to identify effective strategies for sustained email marketing success.