Gmail rolled out the Promotions tab in 2013 and many predicted that it would be the end of email marketing. It has been seven years since then and the ROI of email marketing has only increased. A study by ReturnPath says that more than 90% of all email messages end up in the promotions tab and only 0.3% of all the emails make it to the primary tab. 

If your emails end up in the promotions tab, the open rates are likely to be low. But the only upside to it is that the ones who open your emails in the promotions tab do so because they know where to find you and what to expect from you. Getting your emails delivered to the recipient’s primary inbox has bigger benefits. 

For businesses that do not want their emails to end up in promotions tab, here is what you can do:

#1 Write simple emails:

Why do some emails never get flagged for the promotions tab? You’d have noticed that text-based emails, maybe with a few attachments, always reach the intended recipient’s primary email. That’s because text-only emails seem personal. 

Do not include more than one or two links, avoid pictures as much as possible. In short, ensure that your emails look as if they are being written for a friend. If you make it ‘promotional’, then there are no prizes for guessing which tab the email will end up in. 

HTML-heavy emails are also usually tagged as promotional. If there is a lot of coding, the email service provider will assume that the email was automated and promptly direct it to the promotions inbox. 

#2 Do not sound salesy:

If your email subject line sounds like a marketing campaign, they will be duly sent to the promotions tab. Even something as simple as a dollar sign on the subject line is enough for Gmail to push it to the promotions tab. If you want your emails to give the promotions tab a miss, then there are some words that you should not use. Subject lines like ‘Free investment’, ‘Free installation’, ‘Act now’, ‘Cancel at any time,’ are some of the trigger phrases that the anti-spam filters  will not take a liking to. 

#3 Personalization:

Personalized emails have 50% higher open rates. But did you know that personalizing the emails you send also improves your chances of hitting the primary inbox of your recipients. 

Here is how you can personalize your email:

  1. Address the recipient by their names. Most email providers allow for this option.
  2. Do not send bulk emails to your email list. 
  3. Segment your list- Divide your customers based on demographic factors and other behaviour, By doing so, you will be able to target them better.
  4. Make it look as if the email is personal- use only text.

#4 Warm-up your list after switching providers:

When you are switching your email service providers (ESP), you need to build your sender reputation before you expect to see the same kind of open rates as earlier. With your new email service provider, send emails only to users who usually engage the most with your messages. When there is engagement, it sends a positive signal to your ESP, which will increase your deliverability.

#5 Tell your customers:

Easily one of the best ways to ensure that your emails don’t end in the promotions tab is to ask your customers to move your emails from the promotions tab to their main inbox. When your recipient moves your emails to the primary box, then automatically all the emails in the future land there. Another method is to ask your subscribers to save your contact, it will also help your emails land in the primary tab. 

#6 Time your emails:

The timing of your email also has a bearing on where your emails land. If a majority of the recipients open your email and click on your links, then it has a better chance of being sent to the primary tab in the future. It is exactly why you need to send emails to your subscribers at a time when most of them will be available. It is also best advised to split test the emails to find out the most ideal time to email your audience. 

#7 Use correct formatting:

Do not use a variety of fonts in your emails. Nor should you use improper formatting everywhere, it will be an eye-sore for your recipient. There are high chances that the filters will identify such emails as spam. Ensure that your emails sound and look professional. Use only what is necessary. 


Email marketing, while being effective, also requires highly effective skills to succeed. Getting into your subscriber’s primary inbox is a worthy goal to pursue, but your main objective as a business should be to provide value to your customers. Follow the above steps to route most of your emails to the primary inbox of your recipients.