Getting in the Inbox on Gmail, the World’s Most Popular Email Provider

Gmail has surpassed Hotmail as the world’s most popular email provider. Although it’s not the most popular way to view email (that distinction goes to the iPhone’s email client), it’s still vital to understand the unique ways that Gmail manages spam and junk mail. Gmail has a notorious reputation as being a difficult provider for marketers, with some very marked differences from the other major players. For instance, Gmail doesn’t partner with any deliverability services, provide a feedback loop, or disclose their whitelists or blacklists.

Image courtesy of: AgBeat
Image courtesy of: AgBeat

One of the first mistakes you can make is not properly authenticating your messages to Gmail recipients. Gmail makes sure that you are properly authenticated using SPF, and many marketers have found that properly configured DKIM increases deliverability as well. Luckily for marketers using ExpertSender, that authentication is configured during your set up process. Gmail also recently went through a debacle where DKIM keys were unsecure due to being only 512-bit, and will soon be rejecting mail without a 1024-bit key.

The authentication checks that Gmail does are already the standard with most major mail providers, but Gmail differs greatly by not providing a complaint feedback loop. Instead of a feedback loop, Gmail relies on the List-Unsubscribe header to provide unsubscription functionality. You need to make sure that your messages are utilizing this in the header, otherwise you risk being flagged as a spammer by Gmail. Gmail subscribers won’t have an easy, one-click, method to unsubscribe without this header and many more will just report your message as spam. Again, this is a feature that ExpertSender uses and inserts into every header because both Gmail and Hotmail subscribers are able to use it.

Google manages Gmail in many ways much like their search service. Google of course uses an algorithm to determine PageRank, and search results, and uses many similar algorithms to determine inbox placement. To determine this, Gmail looks at engagement to see how responsive your subscribers are. Your goal as a marketer is to engage as many of your Gmail subscribers as possible, persuading recipients to open, click, star, whitelist, and forward your message. Whitelisting in this case refers to Gmail users adding your address to their contacts list. Taking the time to explain how to do this can be very advantageous, because once a subscriber adds you, you’ll be getting into their inbox (and most likely the inboxes of other subscribers) with ease.

Since Gmail relies so heavily on engagement metrics to determine inboxing, there are a number of ways you can use this in case you are having delivery troubles. With ExpertSender, you can easily use the segmentation function to find your most active Gmail subscribers. Including these engaged subscribers in your sends can help cure delivery problems as Gmail will detect a larger than normal amount of opens and clicks. This can be enough to swing the momentum back in your favor, helping you achieve greater results with your Gmail subscribers.

Written by
Marcin Chruszcz
Account Manager at ExpertSender
Email and marketing geek. Specializes in email deliverability, strategy and design. Basketball and MTB riding enthusiast.
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