Trouble at Gmail? Humanize Before You Optimize
If you’ve noticed declining performance from your Gmail audience or have seen poor placement at Gmail, you are not alone. Gmail’s highly sophisticated filtering algorithm has been responsible for more than a few email marketers’ sleepless nights. In a matter of days, opens and clicks can decline 25 percent or more, and inbox placement can plummet from the 90 percent range into the 40s.
Unfortunately, troubled performance with Gmail is often pronounced, in both severity and scope. In February of 2016, Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, announced that Gmail had one billion active monthly users. Over the past several years, I’ve seen this reflected across our B-to-C client base with email lists skewing more heavily towards Gmail subscribers. When performance at Gmail tanks, it is not a problem that can be ignored.
With their large user base, limited transparency and discerning filtering technology, it’s easy to portray Gmail in the role of the villain or the obstruction to work around. While tempting, this mindset and approach for optimizing placement at Gmail is ultimately self-defeating. Rather than trying to work around Gmail’s filters, it’s important to understand their objectives and expectations for mailers. Not only does this put marketers in a better position to get their messages through, it can actually help those messages be more effective among subscribers.
Gmail’s Two Primary Objectives
If we distill the goals and requirements of a mailbox provider into key themes, we end up with two primary objectives. Both are straightforward and relatively obvious but taking a moment to verbalize them can help put their intense filtering and high standards into perspective.
First, Gmail needs to protect the security of its users.
While overall spam rates have declined, according to Talos, a digital threat research division of Cisco Systems, 86 percent of all email traffic is unsolicited or malicious mail. A top priority for Gmail is to keep malicious or unwanted mail out of the inbox. Spam in the inbox not only results in a frustrating experience, but phishing and spoofing emails may actively seek to recover passwords and account information that puts recipients at risk.
With nine years of experience in email, a knack for problem solving, and a love of consumer psychology and UX, Casey understands the email space and sees its potential. As a Senior Email Strategist with Return Path, Casey specializes in driving increased engagement and boosting deliverability. Whether working with niche brands on a Cinderella story or Fortune 100 companies that want to take their program to the next level, Casey helps craft email experiences that are more rewarding for businesses and recipients.